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Sustainable Luxury

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  1. Introduction
  2. Between paradox and harmony, there is just one step
    1. A paradox which fuels the debates
    2. After all, luxury and ecology can rhyme with harmony
  3. The 'boom' of the green luxury
    1. An ethical question
    2. A solution to face the economical crisis
    3. To correct mistakes of the past and temporize critics
  4. Conclusion

Until now, people have been familiar with the bio yoghurts and the bio vegetables but today it is for the luxury industry to become eco-friendly and ethical. Some big groups and companies of the sector have begun to make progress in this growing market. More than ever, the notion of the respect for the environment is developing throughout the world in people's minds. For this reason, luxury brands decided to take a stand on this concern by reviewing all their activities, from the part of supplying raw materials to the distribution of their products.

A concrete example of this growth decided the initiative taken in May 2009 by Barbara Coignet, the organizer of the 1.618 fair in Paris. She created the first sustainable luxury fair in the world. The main ambition of this fair was to combine the luxury industry with sustainable development. It also strived to increase public awareness of this new issue. This innovative exhibition had thirty luxury companies displaying their new eco-aware products at the heart of the Tokyo Palace and this allowed them to take a bigger step in the evolution of the luxury industry.

In contrast to what we think, taking care of the environment is not new for the sector. Events like corporate sponsorships and donation activities had already taken place in the 1980s. Since 1993, LVMH has been a member of the association OREE whose goal is to gather several companies together and develop a reflection about the environmental protection. More recently, PPR became the exclusive partner of the movie ?Home?, which was made by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, in order to show its social and environmental responsibility. Thus, these different kinds of corporate patronages can be defined as the first step towards sustainable luxury. The second step initiated was a change in the supply chain management. Today, luxury companies are aware that our future generations are threatened and if no action is taken then the consequences on the earth will be disastrous. For this reason, they are adopting some eco-friendly practices in their activities and trying to correct the ones that are damaging the environment. As mentioned previously, these changes are observed from the period of supplying till the distribution of the products.

However, this evolution towards the new luxury industry leads to several controversies, as many think that it is impossible to combine luxury with ecology. They underline the existence of a paradox between the two concepts. According to them, we cannot imagine a luxury, synonym of abundance, lushness and superficiality going hand in hand with sustainable development which advocates the preservation of resources.

First, we will explain the notion of paradox between luxury and ecology. However, in the same part we will see that these two concepts are not as contradictory as we thought they would be. In the second part, we will illustrate this compatibility by giving some examples of luxury companies which integrated this notion of sustainable development in different areas of their activities. We will also see that the level of commitment is not the same for all the companies and sometimes, for some of them, it is really difficult to follow. Finally, in the last part, we will try to understand the reasons that force the companies to change their behaviors and the role of this transition in our current society. We will conclude by mentioning the limits of this movement.

[...] We can say that it is the social responsibility of luxury companies. Maybe within a few years, L'Oreal, which is one of the leading brands of cosmetics, will encourage its consumers to change their behaviors just as its new slogan: ?Because I'm worth it: I respect the environment?! B. A solution face the economical crisis Another reason which pushes luxury companies to develop their activities in the green market is the financial and economical crisis of 2008. Indeed, except the Hermes group, the whole luxury industry has been strongly affected by the crisis. [...]

[...] Mata de Sesimbra's golf course is fed only by treated wastewater (grey water); Donna Karan is also in for the green movement through her Urban Zen initiative which combines a philanthropic foundation along with a retail that distributes a line of natural and organic fashions; The luxury footwear Sergio Rossi is launching a stiletto shoe called the Eco Pump, a navy stiletto created entirely from sustainable products and bio-degradable packaging, i.e., whose sole and heel are made of liquid wood; The Banana Republic has just released the ?Heritage Collection?, a range of 50 eco-pieces. [...]

[...] These two important characteristics bring luxury closer to sustainable development which shares exactly the same aspects. Customers of the luxury sector prefer quantity whereas environmentalists prefer better consumption of quality products. Obviously, here we speak about the real luxury, the one which differs from the ?mass luxury? or bling-bling luxury? and the one which is qualified by a pure handcrafted work, limited editions and low production in order to preserve its rarity as well as sustainable development with respect to the earth's resources. [...]

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