Buying a Gucci bag or Louis Vuitton dress used to have snob value. Now well-heeled millennials increasingly want to know that they have social and environmental value too
There was a time in the not-too-distant past when luxury goods were associated with excess and conspicuous consumption, bringing to mind images of pin-striped currency dealers racing through the streets in bonus-fuelled Porsches and billionaires entertaining supermodels on superyachts.
One thing it definitely was not about was sustainability. As sustainability expert Andrew Winston wrote in the Harvard Business Review recently: “With a few exceptions, it’s been an industry not traditionally associated with concerns about environmental impacts, human rights, and wellness, even while those trends have been sweeping through the mainstream consumer products sector.”
But many in the sector say that is now changing. “Old luxury was about opulence, excess and bling – and it was very individual,” says Diana Verde Nieto, founder of Positive Luxury, a luxury brand consultancy that highlights sustainability initiatives in the sector through its Butterfly Mark. “But times have changed. It is more inclusive. It is about being part of a community while at the same time retaining a sense of the individual.”
Sustainability is now a major part of the luxury brand proposition, says Verde Nieto. There are a few key reasons for this. First, luxury brands are facing the same...