Research design: comparative case study

This research adopts an exploratory multiple and comparative case study approach. To gather data, typical and exemplifying cases were selected and analysed, enabling in-depth explanations as well as cross-contextual interpretation and pattern-matching (Bryman, 2015; Corbett, Webster, & Jenkin, 2018). The procedure of theoretical sampling was used, as the purpose of the study was to contribute to theory development (Zimmerling, Purtik, & Welpe, 2017). Several general and sustainability-related criteria for case selection were defined in advance in order to ensure rigor. Those criteria, as shown in Table 6.2, were partly based on common-sense intuitive reflection and partly derived from previous publications relevant to addressing the three research questions (e.g. Allianz Nachhaltige Universitäten in Österreich, 2014).

To answer the three research questions, sub-Saharan Africa was chosen as the empirical context. This was justified given the fact that this region is severely affected by extreme poverty and other challenges hampering sustainable development (L'Huillier, 2016; Maji, 2019; Qafa, 2017; Valente & Oliver, 2018). In fact, with an average poverty rate of about 41% and comprising 27 (out of 28) of the worlds poorest countries, the area represents one of the largest BOP markets in the world (Davies & Torrents, 2017; Patel, 2018). This, in turn, provides manifold imperatives of social impacts by businesses. The preparatory work for exploring appropriate social and sustainability-oriented businesses proceeded iteratively through several steps. In line with previous qualitative research (e.g. Arnold, 2018; Rosea et al., 2017), multiple instantiations and supplementary sources were used since identifying suitable cases was accompanied by several challenges (e.g. limited number of and access to official statistics on social enterprises in Africa). This procedure for identifying relevant cases is illustrated in Figure 6.3.

In the initial phase of case sampling, nearly 70 ventures and companies were identified and documented in an Excel spreadsheet. Following several iterations of screening and refining in line with the case selection criteria as shown above, a final convenience sample was acquired consisting of 12 companies. This sample then was classified into three subgroups, comprising a first group of social enterprises, a second group of sustainability-oriented companies, and a third group of traditional companies. The latter functions as a control group in order to provide greater reliability and validity during the analysis. Furthermore, contrasting with traditional companies and, thus, eventually building on a comparison of positive and negative cases (Bryman, 2015) was considered to be useful in this explorative research approach for revealing “similarities and differences across cases towards theoretical generalizations” (Morioka & Carvalho, 2016, p. 127).

The companies selected are located in eight sub-Saharan African countries: Ghana, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, and South Africa. Inspired by common case-based research criteria (Eisenhardt, 1989), at least two sub-Saharan African countries and four companies were included per subgroup of the sample in order to preserve methodological rigor and to allow for finding cross-contextual patterns. With regard to the BOP setting in the present study, the subsample of traditional companies comprised three cases located in two of Africa’s largest BOP markets, Nigeria and South Africa (Hodgson, 2017). The case characteristics are presented in Table 6.3.

In line with previous research, content analysis of corporate websites was used (Kuhn, Stiglbauer, & Fifka, 2018; Utgard, 2018). Data gathering took place during two time periods (June—August 2018; February—April 2019). For each of the 12 cases, the corporate statements were manually traced and stored in single files. Formal differences across corporate websites prompted to exclude additional material such as magazine interviews with founders of social enterprises, thereby seeking rigor and consistency.

Data analysis was based on a hybrid approach involving inductive and deductive techniques for qualitative content analysis, thereby following a detailed coding process (Lock & Seele, 2015; Mayring, 2015). The analysis was conducted in four steps: First, by using open coding, single statements and meaning units were inductively aligned with each business model component from the framework, as shown in Figure 6.2, thereby developing a code category system (Corbett et al., 2018; Fichter & Tiemann, 2018). Highlighting major themes and patterns in main business model components, a comparative theoretical synthesis across the sample was drawn for each component of business model innovation for sustainability in a second step. Thereafter, in the third step, the business model components for sustainability for each company were aligned to the trends and drivers of the fashion industry, as outlined by Todeschini et al. (2017). Thus, during this methodological step, literature-based deductive coding was applied and conceptual generalizations formed. Based on this, the fourth step comprised a summary of business model components affected for each subgroup of the sample. This again involved cross- and

Table 6.3 Overview of sample subgroups and company cases included in this research*

№.

Company

Corporate website

Country

Region

Year of inception

Employees

Primary textile fibres, fabrics, ami materials**

Main product focus

Awards, accolades, and events illustrating local and international recognition

Social enterprises

1

YEVU

https://yevu clothing.

coni

Ghana

Western

Africa

2012

30

Cotton

Wearing apparel (Womens- and menswear)

2017 winner of InStyle and Audi Women of Style scholarship

2

Kitenge

https://kitengestore.com

Tanzania

Eastern

Africa

2014

6

Wearing apparel (Womens- and menswear)

2019 showcasing at Bristol's Fabric Africa Fashion Show in the UK

3

KoliKo

Wear

https://kolikowear.com/

index.html

Ghana

Western

Africa

2017

No data available

Leather; rubber;

cotton

Footwear

Supported by Managers without Borders, Ghana Climate Innovation Center, and iN4iN (Intelligence for Innovation)

4

Fairsole

https://fairsole.com/

Uganda

Eastern

Africa

2017

No data available

Leather; rubber;

banana fibres

Footwear

Appreciation by the Fair Fashion Blog as a sustainable crowdfunding project worth supporting

Sustainability-oriented companies

5

Xoomba

www.xoomba.

com

Burkina

Faso

Western

Africa

2010

No data available

Organic cotton

Wearing apparel (Womens- and menswear)

2019 organizer of the ethical fashion project Future Fashion: For People Who Love Life On Earth; Repeated media coverage (e.g. OurGoodBrands, CNY Woman Magazine. The Afropolitan)

6

Mayamiko

www.maya

miko.com/

Malawi

Eastern

Africa

2013

No data available

(Organic)

Cotton

Wearing apparel (Womenswear)

2019 winner of the

CO 10 Leadership Awards; Repeated media coverage (e.g. Cosmopolitan Conscious Issue,Vogue USA. Die Zeit)

7

soleRebels

www. sole rebels.com/

Ethiopia

Eastern

Africa

2004

3.000

Leather;

(organic) cotton; koba;

jute; rubber

Footwear

2016 winner of Business Women of the Year Award; Repeated media coverage (e.g. Forbes, CNN)'; Key Note at 2018 Swiss Economic Forum

8

Wazi Shoes

www.wazi shoes, com/

Tanzania

Eastern

Africa

2017

120

Leather

Footwear

Repeated media coverage (e.g. Outside Magazine, Santa Barbara Magazine)

(continued)

Table 6.3 Cont.

No.

Company

Corporate website

Country

Region

Year of inception

Employees

Primary textile fibres, fabrics, and materials**

Main product focus

Awards, accolades, and events illustrating local and international recognition

Traditional companies

9

Loin Cloth

& Ashes

https://loin cloth and

ashes.my shopify.com

South

Africa

Southern

Africa

2008

No data available

Cotton; silk; synthetic fibres

Wearing apparel (Womens- and menswear)

2013 winner Emerging Designer of the Year by Africa Fashion International; Repeated media coverage (e.g. Entrepreneur Magazine. Daily Sun)

10

KIKI

Clothing

https://kiki clothing, com/

Ghana

Western

Africa

2002

No data available

No data available

Wearing apparel (Womenswear)

Repeated media coverage (e.g. CNN,Vogue US); part of the 2017 African Prints Fashion Now exhibition at the Fowler Museum in the US

11

Hesey

Designs

www.hesey designs.

com/

Nigeria

Western

Africa

2012

No data available

No data available

Footwear

2013 winner of the Google Africa Connected Competition, Repeated media coverage (e.g. British Vogue, CNBC Africa)

12

T songa

www.tsonga. com/

South

Africa

Southern

Africa

1999

250

Leather;

rubbers;

polyurethane;

microfibers;

thermoplastic

Footwear

Repeated media coverage (e.g. BBC, Entrepreneur Magazine)

Note: * selection of data as emphasized by the author (as of April 30,2019); this collection makes no claim to completeness. ** Based on selected product descriptions and product images at corporate websites.

Social sustainability in BOP markets 141 within-case examination for and within each subgroup in the sample, thus enabling identifying similarities and differences as to the question of whether — if at all — single trends and drivers influence business model components as verbally communicated on corporate websites. The results of this approach are shown in the section on findings. Given the fact that — to the best of the authors knowledge — the focus of the present research is quite new to the African context, and previous studies on business model innovations for sustainability in the African fashion industry are largely absent, the overall methodological approach was considered appropriate.

In order to seek construct validity, the study is grounded in theoretical and conceptual constructs from the literature (e.g. BOP, business model innovations for sustainability). Internal or logical validity was ensured by defining three clear research questions as well as by using both inductive and deductive content analysis techniques. Moreover, data analysis for each company was carried out within the same time periods, thereby limiting potential biases in the coding of relevant meaning units. The approach of cross- and within-case analysis as well as including a subgroup of negative cases (traditional companies in the African fashion industry) further supported internal validity. Furthermore, presenting the research context of the African fashion industry as well as the selection criteria and characteristics of case companies (Tables 6.2 and 6.3) provided for external validity. Reliability was established by uncovering the methodological design, the data analysed (e.g. quotes of corporate websites), and the comprehensive coding material during the review and publication process.

 
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