Luxury, traceability, and sustainability

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Luxury, traceability, and sustainability

This is the link to my first collaboration with The Luxonomist, the new go-to web for economic news regarding the luxury market. This time, my article deals with the concepts of luxury, traceability, and sustainability, as well as the way they are interrelated.

Read more (in Spanish)

Luxury, Traceability and Sustainability
María E. Girón

What is the story behind the products we consume or the services we use? What mark have these products left, regarding the environment and the people that sell, make, or consume them?

The travel to the past to understand the origin of a product, its components, the raw materials and their extraction, the impact on people, and on the environment… that is what we call traceability.

Traceability has become the closest approach to sustainability, since the concept of sustainability is not an easy one to understand. What does sustainability mean? It has to do with making a responsible use of the resources. It means giving back to society or the planet for everything we consume, replacing it.

The search for traceability is a tough journey because it is a difficult one. The first step back is an immediate one; its objective is to know our suppliers. The second one is more complicated because we have to investigate the suppliers of our suppliers. And the third one is a cloud of confusion, where companies usually lose track. The effect on the planet caused by the products we consume happily, unknowingly, and unwarily, has usually made us come face to face with environmental and ethical issues.

Our first pressing matter as consumers has been to discover where the products we eat come from since they have a direct impact on our lives. Even more than the planet, we care about our own health and well-being, as well as those of our closest ones. Recent events and scientific reports have stimulated the concern and the interest for traceability of what we eat. From that search for health, several international movements arise, like “slow food “, the interest for local farming and the rise of organic agriculture. All in all, there is a new category of eco-healthy products and a new luxury segment in food sector. This segment is one of the fastest-growing ones in the luxury food category, according to the last report from the prestigious Altagamma.

In a discreet way, the luxury industry, an expert on anticipating and collecting the dreams of the customers, works to manage and control the traceability of its products. Programs, such as the one led by Zegna and Loro Piana in the Peruvian Andes, have resulted in the recovery of the vicuna and the economic development of local communities. Even better, they have made sure the availability of a scarce raw material, an additional value to these companies.

Managers of the established brands in this sector know that nowadays a luxury brand has to be, not only creative, but innovative, international and craft-oriented. It has to be faithful to the true meaning of luxury, and also respond to new expectations from its customers. Therefore, luxury gets back its original meaning which has to do with life-long products made by people who felt dignified making them.

This paradigm shift opens the door to those entrepreneurs who look for solutions for this equation. The new luxury entrepreneurs −like Oscar Metsavaht, Osklen founder− make sustainability desirable, and they create brands with traceability as an essential value. A new era is dawning.

Today, the sales of so-called “eco-luxury” or “sustainable luxury” products account for just a 3% of the personal luxury segment’s total sales volume −estimated as EUR 217.000 million in 2013. My forecast is that these figures can only go up.