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Is sustainability in luxury beyond fashion needed more than ever?

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Is sustainability in luxury beyond fashion needed more than ever?

When news of big-name brands cancelling multimillion-pound factory orders came to light during the Covid-19 outbreak, it was a stark wake-up call for the fashion industry. Almost overnight, thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers were left jobless, highlighting the cracks in a flawed and unsustainable supply chain that puts profits ahead of people.

But it seems the need for a more sustainable and ethical business model goes far beyond the fashion industry. In a recent survey by Edelmen, 81% of respondents said that trust in a brand to do what’s right in relation to Covid-19 is a deciding factor when it comes to their buying decisions. Pre-pandemic, Good.Must.Grow.’s 2019 Conscious Consumer Spending Index highlighted that one-third of Americans plan to increase the amount they spend on “good” products and services in the next year.

While the tide in sustainability was gradually changing prior to the pandemic, the fragility and uncertainty brought by the global health crises could act as a catalyst to a more ethical and sustainable future. As consumers become more aware of what’s going on behind brands’ doors, the call for transparent business practices that protect workers and the planet is needed now more than ever.

There’s also the unprecedented pause. With many aspects of everyday life – from shopping to eating out – grounding to a halt, its effect could see changes in the way we consume post-lockdown. Will we buy less but better? Will we favour brands that have more of a positive impact in light of the recent issues exposed by the pandemic? The research suggests we will, but only time will tell.
The slowing of our lifestyles, together with shifting consumer values, could ultimately be the driving force to change, where brands that put social and environmental responsibility at the forefront will thrive.
We look at some of the strategies brands from different industries are taking in order to navigate them through the impact of the pandemic.

Travel and Hospitality

As countries across the world start to reopen their borders, sustainability will be key to recovering travel and tourism. At the beginning of June 2020, the Guardian reported that global daily emissions of carbon dioxide fell by an average of 17% in early April when compared with 2019 levels – mostly due to a significant reduction in flights. And while the desire to travel abroad may not change in a post-pandemic world, the way we travel might.
Experts have expressed that people “will see this pandemic as a forecast of what’s to come from the climate crisis,” meaning that travellers could adopt slower, more sustainable ways to travel in an effort to reduce emissions. Travel companies and resorts that prioritise environmental issues, as well as support local communities, will become more appealing in a post-lockdown world.
One such brand is Butterfly Mark certified boutique hotel SALT of Palmar, bBased in Mauritius, the hotel puts people and the local community at the core of its values. Chief Operating Officer of The Lux Collective (the group the hotel is part of) Nitesh Pandey explains that employing, sourcing and collaborating locally “has proven to be very beneficial during this unprecedented time to procure the essentials.”
“We are working on more initiatives that will connect guests through immersive experiences on a deeper level to impact the local community positively,” Pandey added. It’s a business model that could set a precedent for brands of the future – one that supports luxury eco-tourism and local communities.

Luxury Goods and Living

While the pandemic has caused an inevitable slowdown in luxury goods sales, some experts believe the industry could bounce back stronger than before. When Hermès – a brand that produced hydroalcoholic gels during the outbreak – opened its flagship store in Guangzhou, it reportedly took $2.7 million in one day. Could this be attributed to the ethical measures the label took during the health crisis?
The luxury industries could also benefit from the new generation of consumers that prefer socially and environmentally responsible products to help them recover in the aftermath of the Covid-19. According to a 2020 study by First Insight, Gen-Z is the most willing of all generations to pay more for sustainable goods. With this changing landscape, it’s essential that brands strive to put sustainability initiatives at the forefront of their business structures in order to appeal to the consumers who are actively seeking them.
“We will focus on understanding what our customers’ needs are and continue to introduce ways they can interact with our brand,” reveals Almira Armstrong, founder and Creative Director of luxury fragrance brand and Butterfly Mark certified, Lumira. The brand, which creates 100% recyclable and/or reusable candles and fragrances, has refocused its strategy in recent months to build a community. “As more people continue to work from home, the community element has grown even more,” Armstrong explains. It’s that sense of togetherness and purpose-driven initiatives that will help luxury brands stand out.

Beauty and Wellness

When shortages of basic household items and face masks were seen during the initial outbreak of Covid-19, it highlighted that such commodities are not in infinite supply. This unprecedented event could see changes to the way consumers buy not only basic items but beauty and wellness products, too. Instead of choosing single-use plastics and throw-away items, consumers may look towards more sustainable options such as refillable lotions or washable cotton pads.

One brand leading the way is One Ocean Beauty. As part of our Butterfly Mark certified brand community, this beauty label uses biodegradable bags, 100% Organic GOTS-certified cotton and shipping boxes made from sustainable forestry. They also focus on powerful natural ingredients harvested responsibly – something which will be essential to the success of luxury brands in a post-Covid environment.

A study carried out by Ecovia Intelligence in June 2020 predicted that the demand for natural and organic ingredients in the Nordic cosmetics market is set to “remain robust.” Growing health awareness as a consequence of the pandemic coupled with the fact that people are spending more time at home could be accelerating this trend. As a result, luxury skincare and premium grooming products that cater to this will have a unique selling point.

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Written by - Ashlie Brombley

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