Sustainable Luxury

The luxury industry is usually associated with terms such as excessive consumerism, disposable incomes and guilty pleasures. While people already identify and associate with the idea of sustainability, the luxury industry is generally perceived to be apprehensive of sustainability. Mass movements such as ‘say no to animal testing’ and the ‘anti-fur’ have time and again reminded people of the perceived ‘negative attributes’ of the luxury industry.

However, if we closely look at the attributes of sustainable products, they share a close relationship with luxury goods – excellent craftsman, creativity, design, made from exceptional materials, great quality and focus on durability. These are common traits that are shared by both categories.

But things are changing. With millennials as the core luxury industry demographic that most strongly associate with sustainability, luxury brands are stepping up their sustainability efforts. Ethical mining and treatment of animals, organic raw materials, and fair trade practices are just some of the ways with which luxury brands are promoting their sustainable products. As per a recent Deeper Luxury WWF report, “those that provide the greatest positive contribution to all affected by their creation and that identify their consumers as having the means and motivation to respect both people and planet”.

Meet Consumer Expectations

The health impact of toxic chemical residues from textile, fashion, food and cosmetics and other products are a major cause of concern with consumers. This is why consumers are willing to pay a premium on products that are not only safe but are also environmentally responsible. Some major brands are getting the message loud and clear. Kering Group, the owner of famous luxury brands such as Gucci, Puma, Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, MORE etc., have publicly launched their sustainability campaign for all their brands. As part of its sustainability goals, the group has realigned their policies, processes and products to be more responsible towards their impact on the planet, natural resources and climate change.  

Circular Economy

Being sustainability oriented is no longer enough. Customers look forward to brands that are not only environmentally conscious but also give back to the community. The founder of the sustainable luxury movement, Stella McCartney is a pioneer in the sustainable luxury movement. All Stella McCartney luxury products are entirely made of sustainability- sourced raw materials. The company’s charity efforts are also centric to its mission, partnering with a variety of not-for-profit organization aimed at improving quality of life for communities around the world.

Another brand that is getting rave reviews in India for their sustainability focussed luxury fashion is Good Earth. Good Earth’s fashion brand Nicobar has been synonymous with stylish sustainable luxury retail. Anita Dongre’s Grassroot is another such brand which is focussing on sustainable luxury fashion. In order to promote traditional crafts and elevate local artisans and farmers from poverty, Ethicus, a fashion brand is focussing on promoting traditional textile, fabrics and artistry. Outside fashion, brands such as Forest Essentials, Gem Palace, and Bombay Perfumery are other such brands focussed on promoting Indian craftsmanship and fair trade practices, wherein a certain percentage of profits are shared with the artisans who create the products.

International brands are not far away. H&M’s sub-brand Conscious uses eco-friendly materials such as Econyl, recycled polyester and recycled cashmere for their products. Fashion Revolution plays an active role in promoting sustainability awareness, a crucial effort in marketing products for consumer awareness. The brand consistently runs  #whomademyclothes social campaigns actively promoting their sustainability efforts which include an online course that helps customers identifying the labour behind their garments.

Innovating for a better planet

Automobiles, in general, have a bad reputation of harming the planet. With a fifth of the world’s population in India, the automobile industry has a major role to play in making this planet better. Companies such as Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Porsche are all leading the way with innovations in building cars based on ‘green’ fuels. Audi’s E-Tron, BMW’s i-series based electric cars are all stellar examples of the brands’ efforts toward green technologies. Mercedes recently launched their GLC F-Cell (fuel cells) cars for customer tests. Meanwhile, the adoption of better technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and BlockChain are allowing brands to innovate and reduce wastage and improve resource utilisation. All of which helps brands become leaner, better, faster and more environmentally conscious. Promoting ‘Make In India’ and ‘Swachh Bharat’, car makers are being encouraged to set-up production factories in India and build ancillary units to support manufacturing locally. A move that is aimed at greatly reducing the overall carbon footprint, reduce costs, improve local employment and most importantly the associated pollution. With India as the biggest market for luxury automobiles after China, innovation in greener cars will help India meet its sustainability goals, pushing mass-market car brands to follow suit.

With Sustainability becoming mainstream for luxury businesses, reduction in carbon footprint is finally en vogue. Sustainable raw material sourcing, use of AI, Big Data and BlockChain technologies, and an Omnichannel approach will enable luxury brands to drive sales and growth while focussing on sustainability. This combined with a strong message of efforts put forward towards sustainability are the winning tools for success in driving growth for Luxury brands. Customers love it, millennials become loyal fans and the planet becomes better.