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COP26 Countdown: Reading ‘Net Positive’ by Paul Polman and Andrew Winston

The end of this month will see the UK hosting the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on 31 October–12 November 2021. The COP26 summit brings together parties to:

1. Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach

Countries are being asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets that align with reaching net zero by the middle of the century. To deliver on these stretching targets, countries will need to:
  • accelerate the phase-out of coal
  • curtail deforestation
  • speed up the switch to electric vehicles
  • encourage investment in renewables

2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats

The climate is already changing and it will continue to change even as we reduce emissions, with devastating effects. At COP26 government, civil society and businesses need to work together to enable and encourage countries affected by climate change to:

  • protect and restore ecosystems
  • build defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives


3. Mobilise finance

To deliver the first two goals, developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020.
International financial institutions must play their part and work towards unleashing the trillions in private and public sector finance required to secure global net zero.

4. Work together to deliver

We can only rise to the challenges of the climate crisis by working together.

The outcomes of COP26 must be:

  • finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational)
  • accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society.

The impacts of COP26 will be felt by businesses – and luxury is not exempt – for years to come. The decisions that are going to be made will inform legislation across the world and set the sustainability agenda. To help luxury businesses prepare for incoming change, Positive Luxury Co-Founder Diana Verde Nieto is directing businesses towards articles, books, and resources that can help them think differently about how to migrate to a low carbon economy and to truly make sustainability a competitive advantage now and in years to come.

This week we start with ‘Net Positive’, the latest book by Positive Luxury Awards Judge and former Unilever CEO Paul Polman and sustainable business guru Andrew Winston.

Positive Luxury have always believed that businesses have a crucial role to play to driving us towards a Net Zero society. In ‘Net Positive’ Paul Polman and Positive Luxury Sustainability Council member Andrew Winston explore and expand on that idea, arguing that in order to succeed businesses must become ‘net positive’ – giving more to the world than they take from it.
The book can be seen as a guidebook for businesses that are looking to deliver that kind of change, setting out a blueprint that they can use to transform themselves into a force for good. This is ambitious:
  • more big corporations actively taking carbon out of the air, or food and agriculture companies regenerating soil and restoring biodiversity.
  • tech giants promoting truth, strengthening democracy and encouraging their customers to make healthier, more sustainable and more ethical choices.
  • manufacturers paying living wages to employees around the world and investing in their communities, at home and abroad.
  • banks and hedge funds financing only clean technologies and serving the poor, not just the rich.

Speaking to Positive Luxury, Andrew Winston said, ‘If CSR, or corporate social responsibility, is about business being “less bad”, and companies trying to be “green” and having “net zero” climate targets is about being neutral and doing “no harm”, Net Positive is about being better. Specifically, leaving our planet, economy and societies in a better state for our children and grandchildren. It’s ambitious, but we know momentum is building. More and more companies see their future in fixing the world’s problems, not creating them. This is where long-term value and business success lie. A record and fast-growing number are adopting climate targets and strategies. Almost half the world’s assets under management – $43tr – are now committed to slashing emissions. More than ever, CEOs are taking stands on important issues, from living wages to immigration, racial cohesion and LGBTQ rights. Everywhere, employees and young people are increasingly demanding change and holding leaders to account. So we are accelerating in this direction – just not as fast as our challenges demand. That’s why we wrote Net Positive, to help companies and industries move at speed and with scale. Ultimately, we’re working to build a Net Positive movement.’

The world is currently confronting the massive dual challenges of the climate crisis and inequality, which are only compounded by other shifts like pandemics, dwindling resources, and shrinking biodiversity. Businesses have a moral and fiscal responsibility to help with solving these issues and support the push for a clean economy. The book’s argument aligns with Positive Luxury’s view that these are not roadblocks – instead they must be treated like the opportunities they are, as businesses can prosper by solving them.

Paul Polman was perhaps one of the most disruptive CEO’s in Unilever history. He drove sustainable change and, in this book reveals key lessons from his time there and from other pioneering companies around the world. The main argument of the book is that a net positive company ‘improves the lives of everyone it touches, from customers and suppliers to employees and communities, greatly increasing long-term shareholder returns in the process.

That goal can be achieved, broadly speaking, in one – or all – of these four ways:

  • They can choose to operate in service of multiple stakeholders instead of putting their shareholders above all others
  • They can rethink their relationship with governments and use that to tackle systemic challenges
  • They can take full ownership of all company impacts
  • And they can embrace deep partnerships, even with their critics

The good news is that addressing those challenges presents a huge economic opportunity for luxury businesses. COP26 is sure to throw up questions about the role that businesses play in society – whether they are contributing enough, the need for them to lower their greenhouse gases emissions, and it’s likely to produce legislation that will force them to act differently. Large or small, luxury organisations need to start thinking about how they can answer these questions and what role they can play in creating a Net Positive society.

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Meet The Leaders: Susie Willis, founder of Romilly Wilde

Romilly Wilde creates conscious skincare that is derived from natural, plant-based sources. Their commitment to clean, synthetic free formulas represents a new language in luxury skincare, one that redefines “clean beauty”. Romilly Wilde’s founder, Susie Willis, has been a passionate advocate of natural wellness for over a decade and aims to challenge the beliefs associating natural skincare products with ineffectiveness.

We caught up with her to find out more about her leadership style and get her advice for aspiring sustainable leaders.

What makes a great – or successful – leader?

Understanding the difference between urgency and complacency and action upon instinct.  Leading is about trusting and enabling, valuing those around you and including them in the bigger picture.  Being a leader is a lonely job sometimes, but the reward is surely in the team work ethic and response to recognising what success feels like.

What are your personal strengths as a  leader?

Perseverance and trusting the process.  Patience is not my strength, but positivity is.

What is  the toughest lesson you learned?

That you can never fully rely on anybody to care as much as you do, and to grasp that everybody else has their own set of values and motivations.  People are rarely what they present as in business.

And the most rewarding?

That Christmas party when everybody is rewarded, celebrated and a good old knees-up.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring  leader?

Be single minded, do your research, then some more.

Why should people be positive about the future?

Humans are remarkable.  We mess up the environment, then create a new one, then mess that one up and it goes on.  We keep on evolving but at the core, we are learning and valuing the impermanence of everything.

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How do you plan to reduce damage to biodiversity over the next 5 years?

Biodiversity is now central to any holistic sustainability strategy. This October, Positive Luxury publishes Understanding Biodiversity, a new report that demystifies the topic of biodiversity and offers key actions for luxury business leaders. To help inspire other luxury businesses, we asked our Butterfly Mark brands about their efforts to build a better future in harmony with nature, and how they plan to reduce damage to biodiversity over the next five years.

 

“From the beginning we have taken steps to use materials that have as little of an impact on the environment as possible. This is precisely why we work with a select pool of suppliers and a small number of hand-picked factories that comply with the European Union’s REACH regulation. In addition, to reduce environmental pollution, we use packaging that is fully compostable and have a zero plastic bag policy.”

Monica Magdas Miller, CEO and Founder, Santicler

 

Romilly Wilde plans to work alongside our suppliers to really evaluate and understand the culture within the business and see where we can share common goals. It is useless if we all work in isolation, but can learn and grow efforts if we understand how other practices can positively influence any progress. This conversation starts with our packaging suppliers who are often the hardest to persuade to adopt sustainable practices across all areas. There are so many layers to being ‘awake to change’ and having a Biodiversity agenda is multi-faceted.

Susie Willis, CEO and Founder, Romilly Wilde

 

“Caring for Mother Nature, preserving its beauty and protecting its gifts are regarded as much as a guest’s individual wellbeing needs on a Balance Holidays-designed program. From choosing partner properties with rigour, based on their sustainability principles and agenda, to only using fresh ingredients sourced from native soils in the kitchens to ensure zero-kilometre meals. For the next five years, Balance Holidays will continue persisting forward with these elements, while simultaneously exploring, innovating and learning new working means to ease the damage on biodiversity together as a community.”

Balance Holidays

 

Our five-year biodiversity strategy is focused on habitat creation and connectivity. For every order, we plant two mangrove trees. Mangrove forests are one of the planet’s most important ecosystems, providing biodiversity-rich nurseries for the world’s sea life. Closer to home, we work with local communities and partners to transform areas into close-proximity wildlife hotspots, planting gardens, raising awareness and creating homes for bees. We are investing in finding the lowest possible impact bio-fertilisers and bio-pesticides.

John Hackett, CEO, Arena Flowers

 

“Respect, gratitude, and love for nature have been part of Inlight’s mission statement from day one. One of our goals was –  and still is – not to damage biodiversity, but to help it thrive within our business and personal lives. Choosing to be 100% certified organic is in itself a commitment to biodiversity. We are proud sponsors of Wildlife Trust and contribute to the upkeep of local bee colonies. We’ll remain anchored to our mission, working in harmony with nature and supporting fellow businesses who help safeguard it.”

Inlight Beauty

 

“To ensure a sustainable future, it is essential to protect and preserve our marine ecosystems. We are currently exploring opportunities to support initiatives that help restore coral reefs in the Indian Ocean. Coral reefs are vital habitats for thousands of species of fish, invertebrates, and mammals. Without them, many marine animals would not be able to survive, and this would have devastating effects on the ocean ecosystem and our planet.”

Alessandro Vergano, Founder and CEO of KAMPOS

 

We are already using more and more ingredients on our products that are eco-designed to avoid intensive cropping and biodiversity endangering. As an example, we are using Plant Cell Culture (PCC) derived ingredients which allows us to have a plant extract with a drastically reduced water consumption, without the use of pesticides and a negligible soil occupancy. Moreover, this eco-designed extraction method gives us access to rare, endangered, and slow-growing plants without endangering biodiversity.

Mar Arasa, R&D Director, Sepai Laboratories

 

“Sustainability has always been important to Iles Formula, providing our customers with a performance that makes them fall in love with their hair from the very first use. This is achieved by putting biodiversity protection at the centre. From planting trees every month in the Amazon to an ambitious sustainability program spanning from suppliers to customers. As a part of the program, we are pioneering the move to biodegradable packaging, aiming for carbon neutrality by 2030.”

Wendy Iles, Founder, Iles Formula

 

“Godavari Diamonds incorporates sustainable processes into every aspect of its business practices from the very outset. Godavari doesn’t stop there, we ensure all supplies are sourced from entities that also commit to sustainable environmental practices. Godavari has proactively supported local projects that are planting native plants and trapping pests to enhance the habitat for native birds and flora to flourish. At Godavari Diamonds we intend to continue to seek out and support such opportunities.”

Jane Bell, Founder,  Godavari Diamonds

 

BAV TAiLOR continues to source new bio-based materials to incorporate into the collections. Our minimal packaging policy incorporates bio-based materials to ensure they remain benign when returned to earth. In addition, the brand endeavours to support non-profit foundations to protect underwater life, replenish trees in much-needed locations around the globe, whilst making positive steps towards inspiring conscious living through launching joint collaboration initiatives which incentivise clients to make greener choices – and adopt sustainable behaviours in their everyday living.

Bav Tailor, Founder, BAV TAiLOR  

 

“Biodiversity has always been a key concern for us as a brand. We are part of an initiative to plant more trees where they’re most needed globally. This is a key part of our strategy to offset the paper/card we use in our products. We also use many biotech ingredients in our products which are far more sustainable with a low carbon footprint.”

Lisa Franklin, Founder, Lisa Franklin

 

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Sustainability Spotlight: talking packaging, plastic, and more with Object

The journey to net zero is a collective one, with the destination out of reach without the open sharing of information and collaboration between brands. To help facilitate that process, we recently spoke to the Butterfly Mark-certified natural beauty brand object, whose approach to plastic and packaging, social issues, and carbon is an inspiration. We caught up with co-founders Hugo Tylor and Jack Wolton for an interview that’s essential reading for any brand looking to operate more sustainably.

You don’t use any plastic in your products or packaging. What was this process like? Did you come up against any unexpected roadblocks and do you have any advice for brands looking to cut plastic out of their supply chain?

Eliminating plastic from bathrooms was the original goal that kickstarted object. So right from the start it was ingrained in everything we did – there were no adjustments we had to make to our practices. Our bars were specifically designed so that they didn’t require plastic packaging. Depending on what your products are, there are lots of plastic free packaging alternatives and there’s lots of information available online, so we did lots of research ourselves to find the best, most sustainable solution.

Along the way we discovered lots of interesting packaging options that, although not right for our current product range, may work for future products we release. There are new plastic free solutions coming on to the market all the time, it’s very exciting.

As far as roadblocks, we found it difficult to get some of our suppliers on board with not using plastic because it’s often a cheaper option. However, as time has gone by, they have become more aware of the issues and we’ve been able to educate them to an extent.

One significant issue with going plastic free is the cost. As well as our products and packaging, all our accessories are also plastic free. For example, our aluminum travel tins and concrete shower dishes would be cheaper to make if they were plastic – but it’s a cost worth absorbing to meet our company’s sustainability goals.

Our advice would be to look far and wide, there are so many plastic alternatives out there, and be prepared to pay a little more. Speak to your suppliers and suggest plastic free alternatives that they can use (for example packaging filler) – they’ll generally be open to ideas. Finally, find a great packaging manufacturer who is also passionate about sustainability, they will be able to provide lots of advice and support.

“we found it difficult to get some of our suppliers on board with not using plastic because it’s often a cheaper option. However, as time has gone by, they have become more aware of the issues and we’ve been able to educate them to an extent.”

You’re currently working towards reducing your carbon footprint. How are you finding that process?

As a small start-up we have a low primary carbon footprint ourselves – the main challenge is reducing the carbon footprint of our suppliers and from shipping. The first steps we’ve taken are to try to estimate our emissions and to offset them – but the only real solution is to reduce or eliminate them altogether. To truly understand our carbon footprint will require buy-in from our suppliers which is not always easy – it’s an ongoing process.

“The first steps we’ve taken are to try to estimate our emissions and to offset them – but the only real solution is to reduce or eliminate them altogether”

You have a strong social side to your sustainability strategy. How did you weave it into your business? What was the process of educating your customers and team members like? Do you have any advice for brands looking to replicate your success?

It was relatively straightforward for us because from the outset we wanted to create a business that gave back to people and the planet so we built everything around those principles. We implemented a range of policies which gave us a framework within which to operate and we came up with a list of key action points. Some of the steps we’ve taken include giving a percentage of our sales to charities that work in our local community and actively promoting diversity, equality and inclusivity in everything we do, from the models we use, the staff we hire and by using our voice on social media.

How do you manage relationships with your suppliers and encourage ethical behaviour?

We require all our suppliers to sign up to our Suppliers Code of Conduct which covers all aspects of ethical behaviour – from paying workers a living wage to conforming with all environmental regulations. If they fall short in any areas we work with them to help bring them in line with our standards. But it’s not always easy – we are a relatively small business so we don’t always have a strong bargaining position when it comes to suppliers. We have to adopt a very diplomatic approach and try to educate them on why adopting ethical practices is also in their interests.

You amended your constitution so you have to consider the social and environmental impact of every decision you make. Was that a difficult process? Has it complicated your relationship with investors?

From a practical perspective it was an easy process for us, luckily Jack is a lawyer so quite good at drafting legal documents! We haven’t yet taken on external investment so it hasn’t been too much of an issue. In any event, we would only seek investment from an investor that shared our vision and that also believed in giving back to society and the environment. Hopefully more companies will follow suit and considering the environment and society in decision making will become the norm.

To discover more about object’s sustainability actions, read their Positive Luxury brand page.

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Making a Difference: Meet Samantha Chapman, Global Head of Marketing & Sustainability at Stephen Webster

As part of our ongoing commitment to sharing positive brand stories and actions from our community, Making a Difference highlights the often unsung individuals across the luxury industry making a positive impact. It is our hope that this series will be an inspiration to people working in sustainability and show professionals – particularly at the start of their career journey – the many routes there are to making a difference.

This month the spotlight is on Stephen Webster’s Global Head of Marketing & Sustainability, Samantha Chapman.

Sustainability is part of my day-to-day role, leading our goals and future steps. I am so proud of what our team has already accomplished and look forward to progressing forward in our sustainable journey

What qualifications do you have? Did they play a role in getting you where you are today?

I studied Fashion Promotion at the UCA (University for the Creative Arts) graduating with a BA (Hons). Ironically at Rochester, the same University campus as Stephen Webster. I was fortunate that my course was a huge advocate for gaining work experience in our chosen industry. I subsequently started my first placement just two weeks after joining my course. From then, I completed two further long-term placements alongside my degree, which absolutely supported me in gaining my first marketing position and future roles.

Have you always worked in sustainability? If not, what did you do before?

My prior roles have focused on marketing and communications. Since joining the Stephen Webster team four years ago, I have been privileged to work for a brand who really cares about our communities and planet, with sustainability deeply embedded within the brand DNA and company culture. It is here I have gained considerable knowledge in sustainable practices and ethical sourcing, from Stephen directly, our incredible team, and working alongside the Positive Luxury team.

How did you end up in your current role?

Just over one year ago after returning from maternity leave, we formed an independent in-house ‘Green Team’ at Stephen Webster comprising of 10 members across various departments within the business. Each member was assigned a role and set specific goals designed to enable the brand to proactively move forward in our sustainable mission, supporting both people and planet.

Known within the business for my organisation skills and passion for sustainability, I was elected as Chair of the ‘Green Team’, responsible for setting our sustainable goals, ensure these stayed on track, and providing support to the team through research and training to allow us to achieve our targets. Since then, sustainability is part of my day-to-day role, leading our goals and future steps. I am so proud of what our team has already accomplished and look forward to progressing forward in our sustainable journey.

What made you fall in love with sustainability?

I love that I work alongside a team who isn’t afraid to challenge practices and strive to always do better, and knowing that the actions we implement can support for a more sustainable future for our generations to come and our environment. Additionally, seeing first-hand how we have avoided or reduced our impacts as a business, how we have supported our communities (both internal and external), and how we are providing the tools to equip our staff and suppliers to make better choices; it provides great job satisfaction.

What does your day-to-day look like?

No two days at Stephen Webster are the same, it’s one of the aspects I love about my role. Due to being a small team and executing large volumes of work, we work very closely together to achieve a collective goal and vision for the brand. A typical day could be anything from overseeing a shoot, preparing for upcoming events and launches, internal meetings to discuss brand strategy, budget management, or working on our current certification assessments. It’s a busy role, that requires a lot of planning and organisation, but it keeps things interesting.

What challenges have you faced?

There have been various challenges along the way. No one said it would be easy, however, when a goal has been achieved it makes it that much more rewarding.

I have been required to expand my knowledge, and to do so quickly. Luckily there is so much information available, along with Positive Luxury’s incredibly informative webinars, that have helped to bring me more up to speed. The challenge I face is things are constantly evolving with new and exciting innovations, it’s a case of dedicating time to continuously learn and further improve practices.

What are you most proud of?

Releasing our first sustainability report is something I’m very proud of. The report really showcases our progress as a company and the incredible work our team has accomplished to date. We’re excited to share this journey with our stakeholders and hopefully inspire others on what can be achieved.

What advice would you have for anyone looking to contribute to their company’s sustainability goals?

Sustainability is a marathon, not a sprint, you don’t want to fall short by setting targets you are not able to accomplish in the short term

Be realistic on what you can achieve. Sustainability is a marathon, not a sprint, you don’t want to fall short by setting targets you are not able to accomplish in the short term. Speak up if you have an idea, no matter how ‘out there’ it may seem. An idea to install beehives on our building roof are now in place as a result. Know that approaching sustainability can be overwhelming at first, but if you approach as ‘bite-sized’ projects, it will all come together in the end. Lastly, always remember no matter how small, each project or new practice you put into place makes a positive impact for people, our ecosystems, and planet.

What’s next for you?

We are currently working towards our re-certification for Positive Luxury, and accreditation for Responsible Jewellery Council’s Code of Practices. This is a new area for me, but I like a challenge and know that working as a team we can achieve anything we put our minds too. I have been lucky to have the support of Stephen and our Managing Director, Kate Jarvis, and the guidance and advice of Diana Verde Nieto and Nina Timms from the Positive Luxury team, throughout my journey so far. I hope in the future to be able to share the knowledge acquired, to support smaller businesses on how to approach sustainability and positive practices.

 

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Webinars, goal setting and zines: how certified brands keep team members engaged with sustainability

At Positive Luxury we believe that your sustainability journey should be driven at every level of your business, engaging teams, partners and stakeholders. We recently asked our Butterfly Mark-certified community about the challenges of engaging team members in their sustainability strategy, and to share what they have found to be most effective.

From webinars and e-zines to setting clear goals and collaborating with suppliers, Butterfly Mark certified businesses offer inspirational ideas, leadership and insight into how your business can best engage teams.

At The Macallan we place a great deal of emphasis on engaging our teams in our sustainability strategy.  Our first step was to host a series of global internal webinars to introduce our strategy to our team members. We did this back in October 2019. This was followed quickly by the launch of a dedicated Sustainability Learning Module hosted on The Macallan Academy – our digital educational platform. On an ongoing basis we also engage our people through regular status reports, presentations and a quarterly informational e-zine titled Sustainability News. Sustainability News is a 30 page interactive, multi-media ‘publication’ which curates news and initiatives from luxury peer brands and brands innovating in areas of particular relevance to our own strategy, plans and targets. It’s intended to stimulate, inspire and motivate our people and it keeps us all informed of the fast-paced innovations happening around us. We are definitely on our way towards embedding a natural sustainability mindset in our people and our subsequent decision making processes through these forms of engagement with the objective that, over time, it becomes a ‘lived’ way of thinking that comes as second nature to us all.

Elizabeth McMillan, Head of Sustainability, The Macallan 

At Santicler, we are a very small, passionate team of professionals that want to change the apparel industry practices for the better. We always focus on implementable goals and small incremental improvements. This approach makes the progress measurable and keeps everyone engaged and focussed on the long term goal of becoming a circular company.

Monica Magdas Miller, CEO,  Santicler

As a start-up, it is crucial that every employee cares about the brand’s mission. We have been recruiting individuals who believe in sustainability and understand the social and environmental issues that we are committed to tackling as a business.

Alessandro Vergano, Founder and CEO of KAMPOS

As a small team it is really important that everyone is completely brought into our sustainability values from the off. The most effective way to do this is via weekly calls when marketing speaks to our operations team. We then share the realities of supply chain/supplier efforts against what we aim to achieve from a brand. Often our desires for a brand do not meet our standards, so regular and collaborative calls with our suppliers is key.

    Susie Willis, Founder and CEO of Romilly Wilde

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Summer Reads Week Four: Innovation with the Positive Luxury team

This summer, we have been putting the spotlight on the books that have shaped the thinking of the Positive Luxury community and can inspire you and your business. To wrap up our month of Summer Reads we turn to the Positive Luxury team plus friend of Positive Luxury Martin Townsend, Global Head of Sustainability and Circular Economy from the BSI, to reveal their recommendations on books that can inspire innovation.

Exponential: How to Bridge the Gap Between Technology and Society – Azeem Azhar

Azeem Azhar is an entrepreneur, investor and author who founded the Exponential View newsletter in 2015 to make sense of the gap between fast-evolving technologies and slow-moving social institutions and norms. He is listened to by leading investors, entrepreneurs and policy-makers around the globe. We can’t wait to read his view on how we can (or must) grab the reigns to harness technology in order to address our most pressing problems – and build a more sustainable, inclusive, equitable world. As a leading thinker, he always offers unexpected and innovative views that in turn inspire and provide a spark for new ways of thinking and action.

Anthro-Vision: How Anthropology Can Explain Business and Life – Gillian Tett

Gillian Tett is a bestselling author, Financial Times journalist, and anthropology PhD who is part of a new generation of anthropologists that are re-examining our culture through new lenses, using this to provide new perspectives on our behaviour. Anthro-Vision gives us an insight into how we can all use the tenets of anthropology to gain a far deeper understanding of cultural shifts, consumer behaviour, and the new appetite for green investment. Anybody looking to build an innovative and sustainable business can only benefit from the deep understanding of why people behave the way they do that this book imparts.

Pirates In The Navy: How Innovators Lead Transformation – Tendayi Viki

The title of this book comes from an iconic Steve Jobs quote ‘it’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy’. Most of us do not get to build our own business and instead have to ‘settle’ for being a pirate in the navy – an innovator in an established business. But that is easier said than done. Large businesses move slowly and being a maverick is just as likely to make you an outcast as it is to make you a success. In this book corporate innovation expert Tendayi Viki provides a step-by-step guide to achieving continuous innovation – essential for any member of a corporate sustainability team.

A World Without Work – Daniel Susskind

Innovation is often the art of understanding what is going to happen before it does. In this book, Daniel Susskind outlines one of the biggest cultural changes we could be headed for, one with the potential to change everything we understand about capitalism – and one that every innovator needs to prepare for. The change is the coming displacement of human work by machines, potentially stripping many of our lives of meaning and purpose. How will we fill that hole in people’s lives? What will this mean for technology and government? And how can we get ahead of this change?

ZEDlife: How to build a low-carbon society today – Bill Dunster 

In a world where we are constantly overwhelmed by negative climate news, a book like ZEDlife: How to build a low-carbon society today by Bill Dunster that imagines a low-carbon society that we could achieve today is a real breath of fresh air. British Architect Dunster focuses on how we already have the technology available to build a net-zero world on both a small and a large scale – from shelters to entire cities. Although the focus of the book is architectural, the innovation on show and the thoughtful approach to how it can be applied should inspire people in any industry.

Find all our inspiration Summer Read recommendations here:

Summer Reads Week 1

Summer Reads Week 2

Summer Reads Week 3

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Summer Reads Week Three: Building A Business with Ayotunde Rufai & Jendaya

August at Positive Luxury is about big ideas. During the scramble of the last 18 months, it has been almost impossible to come up for air and think about strategy and the long term. But now, with some semblance of normality slowly returning, we are putting the spotlight on the books that have shaped the thinking of the Positive Luxury community and can inspire you and your business.

To continue our month of Summer Reads, we turn to Ayotunde Rufai and the Jendaya leadership team for their recommendations on how to build a business. With their e-commerce site set to go live next month, the team has been hard at work building solid foundations for an innovative organisation and this is the research they found the most useful:

What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence,  Stephen A. Schwarzman 

If anybody knows how to create a successful institution, it’s the Blackstone chairman, CEO and cofounder Stephen A. Schwarzman. Of particular interest is his focus on culture, and how he hired great talent and established processes that allowed Blackstone to become the world’s premier financial institution. Schwarzman’s simple mantra ‘don’t lose money’ is typical of his relentless pursuit of excellence and this book gives any aspiring entrepreneur a new and systemic way to think about achieving the same thing.  

No Rules – Netflix and The Culture of Reinvention,  Erin Meyer and Reed Hastings 

As this book explains, the Netflix company culture is not what you would expect of a hugely successful multinational corporation. With rules like ‘hard work is irrelevant’, ‘be radically honest’, ‘adequate performance gets a generous severance’, and ‘never, ever try to please your boss’, they have completely reinvented the way we can think about building a business.  

The Lean Startup, Eric Ries 

This book is a classic of the genre for a reason. In this book American entrepreneur Eric Ries defines a startup as an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty – and that applies whether they have 5 employees or 500. In the book Ries unpacks ideas like ‘validated learning’, scientific experimentation, and accurate measurements in order to help businesses be truly agile and innovative.  

Shoe Dog, Phil Knight 

Nike Founder and CEO Phil Knight is a true visionary and this book is the first real insight into his personal history, his philosophy, and his unconventional approach to business. In Shoe Dog he takes you on the journey from selling shoes out of the back of his car to $30 billion in annual sales, introducing you to the ragtag misfits that were his first partners and employees, and the unconventional route that he took whilst building his business. Even if Nike is not your favourite brand, it is almost impossible not to be inspired by the man’s story and find an understanding of how there is no one right way to build a business.  

Am I Being Too Subtle, Sam Zell 

Sam Zell has a preternatural understanding of how to be successful in business. He is a born disruptor and entrepreneur, and his years of extensive experience prove to be invaluable for anyone looking to build a business today that is truly innovative. A self-made billionaire, Zell is the kind of unconventional thinker that can guide us through our cultural current moment and show a route to sustainable success.  

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Summer Reads Week Two: Knowledge Level Up with Diana Verde Nieto

To continue our month of Summer Reads we turn to our Co-Founder and CEO Diana Verde Nieto, who shared her insights with us this week on the theme of ‘Knowledge Level Up’. These  recommendations of inspiring books cover different aspects of ESG+, and will help equip entrepreneurs, innovators, and thinkers with the inspiration they need to take their thinking to the next level.

Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben 

In Hidden Life of Trees German forester Peter Wohlleben opens our mind to an entirely new way of looking at the forest, making the case that it is a natural social network. Asking questions like ‘how to trees live?’, ‘are trees social beings?’, and ‘Do they feel pain or have awareness of their surroundings?’, Wohlleben provides an astonishing new perspective.  

He draws on ground-breaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers.  

The Lost Art of Connecting, Susan McPherson 

At the heart of this extraordinary re-examination of how to communicate in the social media era are three simple steps: 

  1. Gather: Don’t wait for networking opportunities, instead create them yourself. Susan McPherson recommends that professionals think outside the box and host dinner parties, join local meet-up groups, or volunteer in their neighbourhood. These will generate genuine connections that can shape your life or career. 
  1. Ask: Asking for help or asking to help is far more powerful that pitching. People are tired of rehearsed elevator pitches but helping opens the door to shared resources, experience, contacts, and perspectives. 
  1. Do: This feels like common sense but turn new connections into meaningful relationships is a matter of following through on the promises you make and keeping in touch. 

If we could all learn to live by these rules, networking could become a human and enriching part of our lives, instead of something we all dread.  

Green Swans: The Coming Boom in Regenerative Capitalism, John Elkington 

Friend of Positive Luxury and the ‘Godfather of Sustainability’ John Elkington has done it again with this stunning look into the future of capitalism. Where Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s ‘Black Swans’ examines the problems that are taking us exponentially toward breakdown, Green Swans finds solutions that take us exponentially towards a new, kinder way of living in harmony with nature.  

His approach to thinking about the future of business and capitalism aligns with Positive Luxury’s and shows us ways to survive the coming shift in global priorities and expand our horizons from responsibility, through resilience, and onto regeneration. 

Friend of Positive Luxury and the ‘Godfather of Sustainability’ John Elkington has done it again with this stunning look into the future of capitalism.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Search for a Perfect Meal in a Fast Food World, Michael Pollan 

Michael Pollan is a leading light when it comes to thinking about what we eat and – most importantly – whether we should be eating it. He has spent the past twenty years writing about the places where the human and natural worlds intersect: food, agriculture, gardens, drugs, and architecture.  

In The Omnivore’s Dilemma he takes a very complete and thoughtful look at a very simple question: ‘what shall we have for dinner?’. Anyone with an interest in living sustainably has agonised over this. Organic? Local or imported? Wild fish or farmed? Pollan follows his next meal from land to table, tracing the origin of everything consumed and the implications for ourselves and our planet. A truly enlightening look into what we eat.  

Ageless: The New Science of Getting Old Without Getting Old, Andrew Steel 

In Ageless computational biologist Andrew Steele examines the science behind biology’s biggest question: why do we get old and how can we stop it? 

Ageing is the world’s leading cause of death – one that we accept as inevitable in a way that we don’t with something like cancer. Ageing is so deeply ingrained in human experience that we never think to ask whether it is even necessary. Biologists, however, are not quite so complacent. Ageless  introduces us to cutting-edge research that is paving the way for a revolution in medicine and reveals how understanding the scientific implications of ageing could lead to the greatest discovery in the history of medicine – one that has the potential to improve billions of lives. 

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Summer Reads Week One: Fiction with Amy Nelson-Bennett

August at Positive Luxury is about big ideas. During the scramble of the last 18 months, it has been almost impossible to come up for air and think about strategy and the long term. But now, with some semblance of normality slowly returning, we are putting the spotlight on the books that have shaped the thinking of the Positive Luxury community and can inspire you and your business.

Positive Luxury’s Summer Reads series is a chance to recharge your batteries, take inspiration and help you think differently about leadership, sustainability and innovation. To start this month of Summer Reads, we turn to our Managing Director Amy Nelson-Bennett.  

I cannot remember a time when I did not love a great novel. The absorbing nature of a well-told story helped me while away the long empty hours of childhood summers; pursuing a degree in literature made the rigors of academia not just bearable, but enjoyable; and in more recent years the escapist nature of fiction has enabled me to ‘turn off’ at the end of a demanding day at work and provided a coping strategy for insomnia. Writing this, I ask myself what five decades of reading has given me other than a high volume of crowded bookshelves and an iPad with little memory left? Alongside travel, reading has provided the best way for me to continue to learn about the diverse world around me. Non-fiction provides a solid, fact-led understanding of history and the present and can be an unbeatable source of coaching and advice. But to get beneath the skin of a place, a culture, a community, or a person’s experience alien to my own, only travel rivals the richness of understanding and empathy a wonderful novel can build. I’m interested in the facts, but I relate to the emotions. And so I’m sharing three novels I would recommend you immerse yourself in this summer. They are all based in reality and on facts, but are bursting with vivid characters and their emotions. In different ways, each changed me. 

I’m interested in the facts, but I relate to the emotions. And so I’m sharing three novels I would recommend you immerse yourself in this summer. 

Positive Luxury Summer Reads

The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison

I read Toni Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye, for the first time in 1990 as college coursework. My copy from the university bookstore is compact, so a bit worse-for-wear from being thrown into the suitcase for holiday reading before the advent of digital. Black, eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove is growing up in small-town Ohio in 1941, praying for blue eyes, for the perceived beauty and the privilege of the children of white America. But ‘this soil is bad for certain kinds of flowers’. The marigolds in the Breedlove’s garden don’t bloom that year. Consider yourself warned: this novel contains pain, the graphic pain of a lonely, scared child. It is not light reading, but Toni’s writing – as with all her novels – allowed me to experience the world for 160 pages through Pecola’s eyes, to feel her want, her confusion and her hurt. As well as insight into the need for role models and support for black girls like Pecola, a need which remains equally relevant today, The Bluest Eye gifted me a harsh glimpse into a time and a life so different from my own, a vivid lesson in self-awareness that remains with me more than three decades later. 

When Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison died age 88 two years ago, she was aptly described by the New York Times as a ‘towering novelist of the black experience’. She was the first African-American woman to win the Nobel prize. If you really want to try to understand the history and experience of black women in America, I’d recommend her Pulitzer-prizewinning novel Beloved as a slavery-era companion to The Bluest Eye. 

The Overstory, Richard Powers

After reading Richard Powers’ The Overstory, I never walked through a forest again in blissful ignorance. This is a novel exploring activism and protest, but it is also a love story to nature and an ode to those who study and work to protect it. At its most basic level, Powers’ novel is about trees, but its 620 pages provide an illuminating crash course on biodiversity.  It provided me with an understanding of and newfound respect for the interconnectedness of nature, the inter-dependencies of life. This is an extraordinary read, an epic novel spanning multiple generations and involving a diverse, overlapping cast of characters – human and plant. My favourite character, Patricia Westerford, is purported to be based on the highly respected forest ecologist Suzanne Simard. This character’s dedication and work in the novel ultimately convinced me to see each tree as an individual and each area of forest as a community. Every time I walk through Hyde Park and see a tree felled by man, nature or age left to be consumed by natural forces, I think of Overstory with great fondness and respect. Within what appears to be a growing genre of ‘environmental’ novels, in my view this is the best. 

Flight Behaviour, Barbara Kingsolver

Positive Luxury has its origins in the amazing story of the Large Blue Butterfly, a species which died out in these isles in 1979, the dedication of the scientist who successfully reintroduced it and his unravelling of the intricate web of interdependencies necessary for the Large Blue’s survival. And so my final recommendations continues the study of butterflies. In Flight Behaviour novelist, poet and essayist Barbara Kingsolver talks class, poverty, climate and the majestic but threatened Monarch Butterfly’s bi-annual migration. I would recommend every single one of Kingsolver’s novels; she masterfully merges discussion of social justice, biodiversity and the relationship between communities and nature. Never shying away from awkward subjects, in Flight Behaviour she addresses the seemingly conflicting relationship between faith and science, as well as the extreme poverty endured by many individuals in the Appalachian region. However it is the subject of climate change, and the empathetic landscape she paints illustrating belief in and denial of it, that is persistent throughout. A stark warning, but also a thought-provoking and beautiful novel. And an easy read.  

If you need a dose of non-fiction, but like me perhaps not a book-length dose, I recommend Emily Atkin’s Heated, “a newsletter for people who are pissed off about climate change” as well as the gorgeous and well-informed Instagram account @earthrise.studio 

To quote Barbara Kingsolver, “What keeps you going isn’t some fine destination but just the road you’re on, and the fact that you know how to drive.” Keep reading, keep exploring. It’s a joy and an education. That’s my ultimate recommendation. 

Next week: Summer Reads Part 2 – Knowledge Level Up with Positive Luxury co-founder and CEO Diana Verde Nieto 

 

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Sustainability Best Practice: KAMPOS On Innovation, Plastics and Charity

KAMPOS
KAMPOS

The journey to net zero is a collective one, with the destination out of reach without the open sharing of information and collaboration between brands. To help facilitate that process, we recently spoke to KAMPOS. During the process of earning the Butterfly Mark, we were impressed by their innovative production process, their approach to plastics and charity, and how this all ties into a holistic relationship with the ocean.

Innovation

Sustainable material innovation is at the core of KAMPOS. Every piece of swimwear they create uses either recycled PET or Econyl nylon, both of which are created from recycled materials.

Their swim shorts are made from recycled plastic bottles collected from the Mediterranean Sea, using seven recycled plastic bottles to produce each pair. 80 grams of abandoned fishing nets are used to make the regenerated nylon that goes into their swimsuits and bikinis.

Remarkably, they have extended this approach to their organic cotton and natural cashmere. When creating these fibres – in addition to organic cotton from producers who don’t use any toxic pesticides or synthetic fertilisers or natural cashmere from highly regarded suppliers who can guarantee full traceability and certifications –  PET bottles are washed and mechanically ground, then converted into flakes to be transformed into the new polymer ready for the spinning stage. The polymer is extruded, span into Newlife™ yarn, which becomes the base for the unique textile they use.

When speaking with Melanie Hiernard, KAMPOS’ Director of Marketing, she shared that ‘the luxury industry is the industry that sets the upcoming trends. There is an undeniable need to reinvent ourselves and challenge norms that are obsolete and damage our planet. Our goal is to transform marine pollution by using plastic bottles or fishing nets as our main materials to produce a high-quality and timeless range of products. Our production method guarantees the recycling of our products infinitely.’

What we found especially inspiring about this was how KAMPOS has identified that because they profit from the ocean, it is also their responsibility to preserve it. Whilst not fully circular, their production model is truly innovative and is undoing some of the damage done to nature.

Plastics & Recycling

We want to make people reflect and encourage them to take actions for the good of our planet as we tell our brand story

Alessandro Vergano, CEO and Founder

In addition to their excellent work on materials, KAMPOS have extended their progressive attitude to plastics across their entire business. As part of this work they have instituted a zero-plastic policy across all of their plastics and packaging: no single-use plastics are used anywhere in their products or packaging. The packaging itself is fully recycled, recyclable, and FSC/PEFC certified.

Impressively, KAMPOS recently launched a pop-up at Credit Suisse Europaallee 26 in Zürich that was built entirely using recycled materials, with design features like recycled PET plastic bottles trapped inside a fishing net hanging from the ceiling. Alessandro Vergano, CEO and Founder of KAMPOS had this to say about the pop-up: ‘Everything we do must be creative and impactful. We want to make people reflect and encourage them to take actions for the good of our planet as we tell our brand story’.

This is a demonstration of the brand’s genuine commitment to sustainable practice in every possible opportunity, and demonstrates that it is a genuine part of their values.

Charity

KAMPOS are an official partner of the One Ocean Foundation, a charity dedicated to the preservation of our marine environment. They donate part of their proceeds to the charity, supporting their daily activities, which include education, scientific research, communication and environmental impact. In addition, they raise awareness of environmental protection while stimulating constructive relations between all stakeholders, of varying age groups and involved on different levels, in the preservation of marine ecosystems. Its mission is to accelerate solutions to ocean issues, promoting a sustainable blue economy and enhancing knowledge through ocean literacy.

To read more about KAMPOS’ sustainability efforts, read their Positive Luxury brand page.

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Making A Difference: Meet La Perla Beauty’s Chief Scientific AND Regulatory Officer, Les Smith

As part of our ongoing commitment to sharing positive brand stories and actions from our community, Making a Difference is a new feature highlighting the often unsung individuals across the luxury industry making a positive impact. It is our hope that this series will be an inspiration to people working in sustainability and show professionals – particularly at the start of their career journey – the many routes there are to making a difference.

This month the spotlight is on La Perla Beauty’s Chief Scientific & Regulatory Officer Les Smith – accomplished chemist, sustainability expert, and rock aficionado.

What qualifications do you have? Did they play a role in getting you where you are today?

I did my undergraduate studies at the University of Stirling in Scotland. I have an Honors Degree in chemistry and a Ph.D. from the Research Institute of Medicine and Chemistry in Cambridge Massachusetts under the supervision of Sir Derek Barton, a Nobel Prize winner. I also did Post Doctoral research at the University of Geneva in Switzerland on photochemistry of organic molecules.

Clearly my academic qualifications placed me in a good spot to continue into academia or industry. However, in my post doc position in Geneva, I was given responsibility for a large group of research scientists and also had to teach undergraduate chemistry in French. I think that this was when I realized that I was a better manager than a practical chemist.

Have you always worked in sustainability? If not, what did you do before?

Believe it or not the overall topic of ‘sustainability’ in the years when I moved into industry was not a clearly defined topic. My first job was with Procter and Gamble in Brussels where I ran a large analytical team and a product development group. In those days – the (yikes!) early ’80s – there was a growing concern about the effect of detergents on the environment. Most specifically of the effect of phosphates on the environment (eutrophication of lake water).

How did you end up in your current role?

When I was with Coty I was asked to set up a global centre of excellence for fragrances in Switzerland. At the same time I maintained global responsibility for a diverse range of departments like toxicology, fragrance development, engineering, analytical, sensory testing, consumer affairs, regulatory, etc. At that time our chairman Peter Shaefer was based in Switzerland and we worked together on a number M&As and had an occasional beer. I met up with him more by accident than design in the Channel Islands back in 2019 and he proposed that I join the start-up La Perla Beauty group. I jumped at the chance since I had been reduced in retirement to studying astrophysics at Princeton University and playing with a rock band in local pubs.

What made you fall in love with sustainability?

It has become clear over recent years that the concept of sustainability goes much further than environmental issues and I’m excited by the rapid expansion of the topic into social responsibility, human safety and of course the love of our planet.

The area is still not clearly defined from a legal perspective but what is very encouraging is how the cosmetic and of course other industries are moving rapidly towards being and promoting the concept of ‘clean’ products. Regulation will inevitably come but I’m proud that our industry is leading the charge.

What does your day-to-day look like?

Being pinned down now in Princeton, New Jersey I live on Microsoft Teams. Thankfully my colleagues are very respectful and rarely schedule meetings before 8 am EST. Start of the day is usually about 5.30am and I check my e-mails from Europe. If there’s nothing urgent, roll over. Sometime later I take my bearded collie Dougal (named after Fantasia’s Dougal of Fife) for his first walk. Most of my days revolve around calls with Europe and the subsequent homework and now with our growing team in the USA I have regular meetings with our Texas and Colorado-based colleagues.

What challenges have you faced?

In the last year clearly the pandemic has been a major challenge. I have to say that our supply chain and marketing teams have done an amazing job. To move from basically a concept a year and a half ago to physical (and fantastic!) products on the shelves says a lot.

What are you most proud of?

Coming from a very working-class background in Scotland I can give myself a pat on the back as to where I’ve gone professionally. I’m also pretty proud that I’ve achieved some notable important things in my rugby career.

I think the shining star however is Coty’s global center of excellence that I built and staffed in Versoix in Switzerland. The company gave me a carte blanche to build and staff a state-of-the-art facility on the lake in Switzerland. I hired the best people and this group continues to be a major component of Coty’s success in the fragrance industry.

What advice would you have for anyone looking to contribute to their company’s sustainability goals? 

You need to be conscious of merging regulations and laws worldwide. At the same time I think it is important to work closely with industry groups to maintain and develop our industry’s contribution to sustainability and to steer authorities in the right direction.

What’s next for you?

I have to say that the La Perla Beauty group is a superbly experienced and gifted team. We have an evolving culture which will lead to success in the marketplace. I’d hope to continue to be a leader in the group. After that? Get back on a plane and meet all of my new colleagues in person.

Find out more about Butterfly Mark-certified La Perla Beauty here

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