Usually, when we think about luxury we think about waste, lots of ridiculous and unnecessary things just to show off. Private planes, huge collections of cars, and leather clothing. I bet sustainability is the last thing you’ll think about when talking about luxury.
Luxury brands are more sustainable than you may think. They need to build things to last or else their reputation will suffer. Those brands have more cash flow to spend on R&D to use sustainable materials. So it’s easier for them to be environmentally friendly when comparing to cheaper brands.
But there may have some luxury brands that are also sustainable. Let’s find out if it is possible to be both things at the same time. I’ll dissect both luxury and sustainable brands and see if there is anyone doing high prices business that is also environmentally friendly.
What makes a brand sustainable?
A sustainable brand is a brand that is aware of its impact on Earth. Is a brand that uses renewable energy, like solar or wind power since its supply chain down to their stores. They provide good conditions to its employees and the community they do business with. A sustainable company is a company that worries about their customer needs but also provide good products that will last a lifetime. Products that come from eco-friendly sources, products that won’t pollute from their manufacturing until their consumption.
Being sustainable is way more than being green, is about providing value to society and solve a problem. I know that a company needs to make a profit, but there are so many ways to gain money in a way that won’t affect the planet, the society and that will keep the company growing. It’s about mentally. That is what makes a brand sustainable, and fortunately, people are asking for that more and more. And brands are aware of this and some are changing their operations to meet those requirements.
What makes a luxury brand?
Luxury is linked to expensive and exclusive things. But it’s not only about being expensive, it’s about providing value and status at the same time. For example, when you think about luxury cars you think about Lamborghini or Rolls Royce. What those brands provide that a Toyota won’t?
All brands are car makers, all their cars provide good value and all their cars will last you a long time. But, what makes a Toyota a common car and a Rolls Royce a luxury car is the attention to detail, quality, comfort, power. Hence the high price difference between a Toyota and a Rolls Royce. Both cars will get you from point A to point B without any problem, but only one will get you there in style and with comfort that no other car could provide. Rolls Royce cars are made by hand while Toyota has its manufacturing process almost fully automated.
Luxury brands are about exclusivity, value, and fortunately, more and more brands are getting sustainable even on the luxury side of things.
Can a brand be both sustainable and luxury?
Being a luxury brand doesn’t mean that isn’t sustainable, there are lots of brands that provide pretty exclusive products that are fully sustainable since the production of the raw materials up to the consumer’s house. And the list is getting bigger each year.
So let’s see some examples by product category on luxury brands:
- Clothing: Brands like Gucci are contributing to Corporate Social Responsibility that is a business model that helps a company to be socially accountable. That means that a company responds to the public and its stakeholders for their actions. Gucci is one great example of this, Gucci donates every year to UNICEF, they use leather from sustainable Amazonian sources. That’s a brand that works hard to stay green.
It’s a brand that promotes equality and diversity. They are committed to reduce by 50% of their greenhouse emission by and to use 100% renewable energy. And of course, Gucci is committed to using raw materials that come from sustainable sources.
- Cars: All the luxury car companies are committed to producing electric cars, or cars that are more environmentally friendly while they can’t make the full switch to electric. Brands like BMW or Audi already have luxury cars on the market like the super futuristic-looking BMW i8 or the Audi E-Tron for those businessmen that want to get to meetings in style but also want to preserve the planet. Let’s not forget the company that started the electric car revolution: Tesla! They make cars that are way beyond their competition when it comes to electric and A.I. self-driving technologies.
And what about other really luxury car brands? Bentley, Porsche, Mercedes, Lexus, or Austin Martin already have electric cars on the market or at least they announced some electric models. Rolls Royce or Lamborghini that I mentioned before as supercar brands, also are joining the electric car party but sometime in the next decade for Rolls Royce, and Lamborghini unveiled last year their first electric car: Lamborghini Terzo but it’s not on the market at the time of writing.
- Watches: You can’t talk about luxury without mentioning Rolex. Rolex is the most sustainable brand I talked about so far. They have multiple partnerships with brands like National Geographic, CNN, or Tatler Asia. Rolex has an initiative called Perpetual Planet that aims to drive awareness of climate changes around the planet, and they help communities fight those changes by giving education and sponsor projects that will protect the Earth.
- Jewels: The first product that comes to mind when talking about luxury is a jewel and for a simple reason: it is freaking expensive to buy a real diamond that has no purpose that shows everyone that you made it and you can pay for it. Yet, there are brands in this department that can sell jewelry and be sustainable at the same time as Cartier. Cartier also has a business model based on Corporate Social Responsibility. Its commitments fall into three major categories: business ethics, social and environmental performance. It is great for a luxury company to be so responsible when it comes to those aspects of doing business.
As you can see a brand can sell luxury items and be sustainable at the same time. When buying a luxury product people are also thinking of a product that will last a lifetime like a really good knife for example. So luxury brand status is earned by public opinion, not labeled by some marketing department just for making expensive products and I’m sure those brands have the most difficult clients to please in the world so they need to be on top of their game constantly.
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