How Luxury Brands Are Embracing Sustainability
Luxury brands aren’t often associated with environmental conservation. In an industry defined by excess, responsible resource consumption seems like it would be an afterthought, and for years it was. That trend is beginning to change.
Sustainability is at the forefront of social discourse, and luxury brands have taken notice. Many of the world’s largest and most established companies are starting to embrace environmental stewardship. Environmentalism isn’t just for startups and small businesses anymore.
For many of these brands, the transition to sustainability hasn’t been an easy one. Balancing luxury and tradition with environmental needs has led to some innovative solutions.
Driving Factors Behind the Sustainable Revolution
Nothing happens in a vacuum, and the shift to sustainability didn’t come out of thin air. The most influential factor behind this change might have been the shifting opinions of consumers. According to a 2015 report, 66% of global consumers said they’d pay more for sustainable products.
Millennials, who make up a considerable portion of today’s markets, are even more likely to favor environmentally conscious companies. Environmental issues matter more to younger consumers, who are populating the market and buying high-end goods. This trend has continued as celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Downey Jr. bring awareness to climate change.
As worries over climate change increase, preserving the environment makes a brand seem more trustworthy and enticing. Since luxury brands operate in the public spotlight, they can’t afford to ignore that. They want to show customers that their money is going toward a noble cause. Here are a few examples.
Sustainability has been a powerful force in the automotive industry, and it makes sense. Luxury cars have a reputation for being fast, and with a standard combustion engine, that speed translates to emissions. Some automakers, such as Chevrolet’s Corvette, are working to change this.
Tadge Juechter, executive chief engineer for Corvette, said the brand is pursuing zero emissions in the future. While the carmaker has remained secretive about the specifics, signs point towards a hybrid or electric Corvette coming soon. General Motors, Chevrolet’s parent company, has trademarked the names “E-Ray” and “Corvette E-Ray.”
Bringing an electric motor to the iconic Corvette Stingray is a bold statement. Few American cars have a legacy like the Stingray. But by creating an electric or hybrid version, Chevrolet would set a sustainable precedent for American luxury carmakers.
2. The Kering Group
The Kering Group is a powerhouse of luxury brands, owning Gucci, Yves St Laurent, and more. The conglomerate has also been a leader in sustainability, opting for transparency about where it sources its materials. Kering even made these efforts open-source so that other companies could follow suit.
Stella McCartney, part of the Kering Group, makes clothes out of materials such as recycled nylon, avoiding fur. Gucci has also announced plans to abandon fur, even after sustainably sourcing it. Many Kering Group brands have shifted to using recycled packaging materials to make shipping more eco-friendly.
The Kering Group’s Environmental Profit and Loss initiative gathers data to translate their environmental efforts into monetary figures. The company can then find areas that simultaneously offer the most profit and sustainability. By framing environmentalism in an economic light, brands can better understand their impact.
The Kering Group isn’t the only luxury conglomerate deciding to shift toward sustainability. LVMH, which owns Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, has made environmentalism a central part of their business model. Every brand under the LVMH umbrella pays into a carbon fund, supporting renewable energy efforts equal to their carbon emissions.
LVMH’s environmental initiative focuses on nine different sustainability issues within its operations. From material sourcing to eco-conscious design, the fashion powerhouse applies sustainability to nearly every part of its process. Like the Kering Group, LVMH has also committed to remaining transparent in their environmental impact.
LVMH manages its supply chain with a high degree of visibility. In doing so, they’re able to take greater control over their processes, making them more sustainable. By remaining transparent about their operations with customers and investors, they also bring an air of authenticity to their environmental claims.
Some brands have taken a different approach to sustainability. Luxury watch brand Rolex offers cash prizes to young, socially minded entrepreneurs through the Rolex Award for Enterprise. This program rewards a range of efforts, but sustainability initiatives are a frequent appearance.
In 2019, three of the five laureates presented projects centered on environmentalism. These included conserving an endangered fish species in Brazil and an eco-friendly plastic composting method. By offering cash prizes, along with new timepieces, Rolex inspires and funds the next generation of environmental leaders.
Rolex’s founder, Hans Wilsdorf, had a passion for nature and the outdoors. By funneling money into environmental projects, the brand is continuing his legacy on a new scale. This method of awarding five entrepreneurs a year also ensures that their sustainability activities stay varied.
5. Michael Kors
After coming under fire for its use of fur, Michael Kors has committed to going fur-free. Abandoning animal products isn’t the only step the fashion brand is taking toward sustainability, either. This year, they’ve joined the trend of recycling old clothes, reducing their resource consumption and factory emissions.
More significantly, Capri Holdings Limited, Michael Kors’ parent company, announced plans for 100% carbon neutrality. The company hopes to rely entirely on renewable energy by 2025 and start reducing logistics emissions next year. Those are some lofty goals, and they’re not the end of the brand’s environmental push, either.
Capri Holdings intends to make all its packaging materials either recycled, recyclable, or compostable by 2025. In the same timeframe, they hope to source 95% of their leather from certified tanneries.
The Intersection of Luxury and Sustainability
Luxury brands have an air of excess about them, and that’s been the case for generations. Now, as environmental stewardship is becoming a more prominent cause, high-end companies are working to improve their image. Products across a broad spectrum of industries are becoming increasingly sustainable.
In short, luxury brands have their eyes on environmentalism, and they’re pursuing it through initiatives that inspire and uplift. While the luxury goods industry has never been a stranger to trends, this particular one stands out.