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October 29, 2021

[SCP] Research: How to Position a Luxury Brand as Sustainable

Harvard Business Review, 08 September 2021
By: Gwarlann de Kerviler, Elodie Gentina, Nico Heuvinck

With a growing demand for companies to produce products that meet high ESG standards, luxury goods companies need to find a way to present their products as something other than markers of wealth and social status, all while preserving these cachets. This article argues that they can best square this circle by focusing on authenticity through their commitment to the craftsmanship and art of their employees in their customer engagement. The authors present French luxury goods company Hermès as a case in point.
A 2018 global survey by Accenture Strategy of 30,000 consumers in 35 countries indicated that nearly two-thirds of them (62%) find brands with high ethical values attractive. That’s potentially a problem for companies in the luxury sector, because people often see luxury goods as a wasteful self-indulgence and potentially damaging to the environment, especially if they are highly engineered or decorative.
Traditional approaches to improving a company’s ethical positioning — for instance, by adopting fair labor practices and using recycled or organic materials — may not work well for luxury brands. To begin with, marketers need to be careful to send the right signals on being eco-friendly to avoid customers interpreting sustainability messages as greenwashing. Also, past research suggests that consumers may negatively evaluate luxury brands that engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR). Other studies argue that consumers may even perceive that eco-friendly luxury products carry less status-increasing social capital than non-sustainable luxury products do. What’s more, focusing on the environment does not give luxury brands much room to differentiate themselves from non-luxury brands, which have long been active in sustainability.
We suggest a more intriguing strategy: focus on authenticity. We build our recommendation from our recent research, conducted among more than 1,900 customers for different high-end product categories (watches, perfumes and design furniture), that gives insights on how and why luxury brands can use authenticity to communicate their ethics.
Let’s begin by looking at how brands can signal authenticity before digging deeper into the results of our studies.

The Two Types of Authenticity
Consumers perceive brand and product authenticity in two ways: it is authentic if it can claim to be the “original real thing” or if it corresponds to a “genuine ideal.” This gives two sets of cues that marketers can use to signal authenticity: indexical and iconic.
Indexical cues of authenticity. Here, marketers signal a product’s authenticity by establishing direct connections with its origins and makers. The fact that a piece of luxury furniture was designed by an Italian artist, produced by local artisans in an Italian village, and made of Italian wood and silk indicate that a it is truly an authentic Italian product. Here, the perception of authenticity is based on objective information (such as certificates of origin or the nationality of the designer).Iconic cues of authenticity. In this form, the product is a reproduction or a re-edited version of a past product — a new product whose design is based on the maker’s subjective perception of the original’s defining characteristics. In other words, if your Italian furniture maker opens a branch in France, with designers and producers inspired by the creative vision of the Italian team, the products of this branch could be perceived as authentic if key elements of the marketing mix evoked the original product — for example, if the shape, color, or materials of the products in France resembled those of the original Italian products.
In our first two studies, with almost 500 consumers in the US, we showed how the two types of cues affected perceptions of whether the product was considered as ethical. Respondents were confronted with a designer chair or high-end perfume that was either described as being the first original edition and came with an official certificate of origin (indexical cue) or described as a second edition by the same brand that paid tribute, was inspired by the first original version, and came with an official brand booklet (iconic cue).
The feedback showed that when a brand communicates a message on its authenticity with indexical cues, consumers perceive the brand as being more ethical than when it relied on iconic cues. This difference cannot be ascribed to the “intensity” of perceived authenticity because we also found that the two messages did not differ in the level of authenticity they evoked: iconic products were seen as just as authentic as indexically cued ones. So, why are products using indexical cues seen as more ethical?

It’s All About Passion
To answer that question, we conducted additional studies for our research, with more than 700 consumers, in the context of high-end perfume once again. We found that respondents perceived products with indexical cues of authenticity (original versions) as made with more effort and care than the products using iconic cues (authentic reproduction). This was because original versions, by definition, are new and different, which means that more creative investment must have gone into them. It was this perception, of putting more efforts and love, we suspected, that contributed to the sense that these products were more ethical than iconically authentic products.
To confirm this hypothesis, we ran another study, again with more than 700 consumers, in which we included strong signals that our iconic product had required as much care through creativity, design, and craftsmanship as its indexical counterpart — by, for example, highlighting the number of years taken developing the iconic product and the number of design ideas submitted and reviewed even for the second series. When these signals were included, ethical perceptions of iconically authentic products turned out to be about the same as for indexically authentic products. Thus, there was a clear link between how much effort and love the manufacturer was seen to put into the product and how likely consumers were to perceive it as ethical.

So What Should Marketers Do?
Giorgio Armani once observed that luxury brands should get back to the value of authenticity. Our findings seem to confirm his insight. A case in point is the luxury brand Hermès, one of a handful that have enhanced people’s ethical perceptions of the brand. They did this by shifting from classic marketing approaches to adopt a strategy focused on authenticity. The key is to have real people making the link between the past and the present, with an artistic eye.
The human touch. Many luxury brands already link to their origins, as their manufacturing is often based close to where they came from. They also retain artisanal manufacturing processes, with products handcrafted by dedicated, expert artist-craftsmen, motivated by an intrinsic desire to create the best product. But Hermès goes further than most. Every year, for example, it organizes a public event, “Hermès Beyond the Walls,” to celebrate the passion of the artisans behind their products, showcasing both their original creations and those inspired by their classics. During the event, Hermès artisans handcraft unique pieces in real time in front of visitors, explaining how they work and answering questions. This makes it very clear that making each product requires many different steps and hours of precision manual. Hermès creative director, Pierre-Alexis Dumas, observes that customers who attend the event come away with a deep relationship with the product: “[they feel] the presence of the person who crafted the object.”
Forward-looking continuity. Most luxury goods manufacturers will emphasize tradition — Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe, for example, presents its products as tomorrow’s heirlooms. This communication works better, however, when it focuses on how today’s craftsman are part of a long tradition of craftsmanship. Emphasizing a brand’s closeness to its historic roots — for instance, the fact that it may employ several generations of craftsman from the same families — demonstrate the commitment of both today’s workers and their employers to the traditions of their craft.
But it’s also important not to get caught in the past. The best luxury goods companies understand that they cannot live off or simply re-make their classic products forever; they risk losing connection with the creation and love that went into those products and will come to be seen as exploitative — and in the end maybe less ethical. At Hermès, traditions are kept relevant and linked to passion through frequent collaborations with contemporary creators and designers and even customers. For example, Laurent Goblet, a saddler at Hermès for forty years, worked closely with German dressage champion Jessica von Bredow-Werndl in designing the famous Arpège saddle. Hermès also drew on the skills of its traditional glassmakers to produce watches with diamond indexes embedded in sapphire crystal, which appear to hover above the inner workings. This was a pioneering move in watchmaking and involved the application of traditional skills to achieve a modern design.
Dedication to the artistic community. Above and beyond the design and manufacture of its own products, luxury goods firms can show passion and care to raise their ethical profile by supporting the development of a broader community of artists. A good example is provided by the Hermès Corporate Foundation, which offers residencies to artists. This gives them the opportunity to work with Hermès craftworkers and designers to explore social themes from multiple perspectives and create art works using the materials used for Hermès products (such as wood, silk, paper, crystal and leather). For example, Bianca Argimon, a Belgian artist in residence at the Hermès textile holding company in the Lyon region, was interested in printing on silk muslin, a material that is particularly delicate. With support from the Hermès Foundation, she produced a silk print describing the excesses of consumer society, inspired by a famous painting of Hieronymus Bosch.
Hermès received a high ranking on the CSRHUB Consensus ESG Ratings of 89%, which could be linked to the brand capacity to take advantage of important authenticity cues. In addition, we carried an additional ad hoc study in the U.S., in which Mturk respondents were asked to compare Hermès and its main high fashion competitors (including Chanel, Dior, Prada, Burberry, and Louis Vuitton) on measures of ethical commitment. Findings show that most respondents perceived Hermès as a distinctly more ethical brand than its rivals.
The bottom line is this: if luxury retailers are to win a reputation for ethics, they need to do more than just green their products and operations. They need to communicate the passion and commitment of their people to their art. A company’s customers must be made aware of how much care and feeling has been embedded into the lengthy and complex manufacturing process that goes into each and every luxury product or service that the company supplies.

Learn more at Harvard Business Review

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category : Topics

October 20, 2021

Faster, more intense, with more devastating impacts: New IPCC report lays out the scientific basis of the climate emergency

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a new report, Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis, which brings together the most recent advances in climate science to outline the current state of climate change. The results are grave, as was explored in a recent ICLEI Talk Of the Cities piece, written by Dana Vigran of ICLEI’s World Secretariat and summarised below.
The opening line of the report’s Summary for Policymakers reads: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.”
The report, which was approved by 195 national governments, shows the rapid human-induced change that is occurring in our climate. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is the highest it has been in 2 million years, sea level rise is at its fastest in 3000 years and arctic sea ice is at its lowest levels in at least 1000 years.
“The IPCC report shows how much human behaviour has impacted our climate, not only putting our future at risk, but also our presence. The current alarming state should bring our ambitions and actions to a higher level, leading true leaders around the world to stand up and change this course. Let us now use all our human capacity to change for the better,” said Martin Horn, Lord Mayor of Freiburg, President of ICLEI Europe and Member of the European Covenant of Mayors Board.
The report also outlines the control that human populations have to limit these effects. Only immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will limit warming to 1.5°C and prevent the most devastating impacts of climate change.
Cities already see climate impacts
We are already seeing the effects of human-induced climate change around the globe. Extreme weather events, from wildfires across Southern Europe to extreme flooding in Western Europe, show the real life consequences of a climate that has already warmed by 1.1°C since the mid-1800s.
The science shows continued warming will affect the climate in multiple ways. It will bring more intense rainfall and flooding in some regions, and increased drought, heat and wild-fires in others. Increased warming will amplify the melting of glaciers and ice sheets while sea level rise also increases.
In cities, these impacts may be amplified. According to the Summary for Policymakers, urbanisation increases heavy precipitation over cities, and coastal cities will continue to see exacerbated flooding both from sea level rise and “extreme rainfall/riverflow events”. Cities and urban centres are also warmer than surrounding areas – often due to lack of natural cooling influences such as water and vegetation, according to the IPCC fact sheet on urban areas.
The role of local and regional governments in holding the line on 1.5°C
“Local and regional governments need to be a part of immediate and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions if we are to have any chance of holding the line at 1.5°C and avoiding the most devastating impacts of climate change,” says ICLEI Secretary General Van Begin.
The European Green Deal seeks to ensure that Europe meets this goal, and becomes the first climate neutral continent by 2050. Local governments have a key role to play to ensure that we can meet this goal, as well as the critical calls that have come out of the IPCC report. Cities and regions across Europe are working to implement their own Local Green Deals, making use of the Mannheim Message and Basque Declaration to guide their work.
For more information on Local Green Deals, click here
To read the full article on which this news piece was based, click here

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category : Topics

October 15, 2021

World Ecolabel Day-14 October 2021

A global day to celebrate ecolabel products and services that protect you and the planet.

More than 50 countries around the world celebrate World Ecolabel Day on the second Thursday in October each year. This year, that's 14 October. It’s a day to focus on ecolabel products and services that are proven to be environmentally preferable and performance tested, so you are ensured the best products for your health and the health of the planet.

Consumers, companies, and communities worldwide will celebrate this event by discovering the ecolabels available in their own countries, buying and using third-party certified products and services, and sharing the good news with family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.

This year as part of the the Global Ecolabelling Network's celebration, we will be launching our new international “Look Closer” ecolabelling campaign. This campaign is designed to educate procurement officials about avoiding greenwashing and to help them insist on products and services with life cycle-based ecolabels. Make sure to bookmark this page and follow us on social media to see interesting information and fun activities leading up the launch of the “Look Closer” video and landing page on 14 October.

Use these hashtags to talk about World Ecolabel Day. Spread the word and be sure to follow your local ecolabel so that you can tweet and post content often!

#WorldEcolabelDay #ChooseEcolabels #CertifiedGreenEcolabel #Type1Ecolabel #Ecolabels #LifeCycleBasedEcolabels

Learn more at:https://www.globalecolabelling.net/world-ecolabel-day-2/world-ecolabel-day/

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category : Topics

October 11, 2021

[LEISURE: FASHION] How Oxwash Raised $7 Million To Transform The Way We Clean Clothes

What happens when you combine a former NASA scientist and British engineering, you ask? In Oxwash’s case, a solid £5.2 million ($7 million) investment—and growing. The company was founded in 2018, when co-founder and ex-NASA scientist Dr Kyle Grant was completing his Synthetic Biology PhD at the University of Oxford. Perpetually frustrated with broken washing machines on campus, he joined forces with by Oxford engineer Tom de Wilton and—armed with a Deliveroo backpack spray-painted blue—the duo began collecting and washing clothes for fellow students. Things quickly snowballed and, as interest grew, it became the UK’s fastest-growing on-demand laundry business. With a difference. The model is fairly simple, you see; customers place an order online, choose a collection and drop off time and location, and Oxwash collects, washes and delivers, all in house. It’s the actual washing process that made it investable.
“We knew being just another laundry app wouldn’t cut it,” says CEO Dr Kyle Grant. “Developing a model that was hyper local, carbon neutral and tech enabled—that reversed the sector’s adverse impact on the planet rather than adding to it—was fundamental.”
Global laundry usage releases a seismic 14,000 tons of microfibers into the oceans each year—meaning a third of all plastic found in the ocean are microfibers from clothes—while water wastage and toxic solvents only add to the problem.
So Oxwash got to work, utilizing technology typically found in space and hospital sterilization, to tackle each problem individually.
“A typical wash cycle uses around 10 litres of water per kg washed,” says Grant. “We can reduce this by saving up to 32litres on a standard 8kg wash through our water filtration and reclamation techniques.”
Oxwash’s proprietary microfiber filtration technology also removes more than 95 percent of fibres shed during washing, preventing plastic pollution from reaching waterways and drinking water.
“By installing filtration technology in our machines, we prevent over 1 million plastic microfibres from entering our water systems per each KG we wash.”
Additionally, Oxwash’s process kills bacteria through a three stage cycle (ozone disinfection, chemical sterilisation and thermal decontamination) so advanced it reduces 99.99999% of infections—100 times better than the NHS standard.
But they don’t stop there.
“Most laundries will use whichever detergent is cheapest and usually has high levels of toxicity, such as PERC,” he says. “We use biodegradable detergents and emulsifiers that are automatically dosed depending on the weight of the wash.”
This prevents up to 25% excess chemistry being used in each wash, much to the appreciation of early and new eco-conscious investors.
By May 2020 Oxwash had raised £2 million ($2.7 million) from a cohort of coveted investors including: FMCG giant Reckitt, TrueSight Ventures, Founders Factory and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone.
All of whom will undoubtedly be delighted with the company’s rapid growth (15% month-on-month) since the start of the pandemic.
Oxwash now boasts more than 8000 independent customers, alongside corporate clients such as the Marriott Hotel Group, Hurr Collective and the NHS.
And with the global “green cleaning” market set to reach $11.6 billion by 2029, Grant has left no sustainable rock unturned.
“By washing clothes at ambient temperatures and using ozone disinfection to remove microorganisms by oxidation rather than using heat, we can reduce carbon emissions by 45%,” he continues, noting that the company only uses zero emission e-cargo bikes that are able to manoeuvre around traffic, rather than contribute to it.
Compared to traditional laundry collection/delivery services, each bike saves 6,700 KG of CO2 per year.
With the goal to achieve net zero carbon emissions across all of their laundry and dry cleaning services, Oxwash received another $3 million from purpose-led investors this June. The round was backed by former Pinterest and Beyond Meat backers, Future Positive Capital (NYC/SF); Holly Branson, Chief Purpose & Vision Officer Virgin Group; Sam Branson, Filmmaker, Musician & Philanthropist; Pentland Group (Berghaus and Speedo); Leon Lewis (River Island); the founder of Indeed.com, Paul Forster, and more.
The new capital will be used to expand the team and invest in proprietary technology that will power the business’ logistics and cutting-edge washing facilities (known as lagoons) to further improve services, both for consumers and the environment.
“During the pandemic Oxwash has doubled down on its technology to bring simple, sustainable laundry to everyone,” adds Biz Stone. “I’ve been incredibly impressed by their speed of operational execution and I’m confident they are going to scale rapidly post-pandemic!”

Learn more at:Forbes, 08 September 2021 By: Lela London.


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