Guilt-edged: can luxury brands go green?

Boyd Farrow

When LVMH, the global luxury goods group, created its Environmental Affairs Department in 1992, Al Gore had just embarked on his first conservation treatise. Back then, Louis Vuitton’s corporate recycled rainwater drums were considered the antithesis of luxury glamour. But in recent years values such as provenance, artisanal techniques and sustainable production - traditionally staples of luxury brand advertising campaigns - have become increasingly important factors for a wide range of consumers.

To sceptics, the world of luxury, with its conspicuous consumption, faddishness and decadent product lines, would seem hard to reconcile with a movement to curb human contribution to climate change by urging populations to reduce the carbon footprint of their lifestyles. However, the commercial rationale for luxury brands to market themselves as environmentally friendly is clear.