Luxury is Going Green

The global recession has also affected the financial situation of those who consume luxury regularly. It has somewhat led them to reassess their lifestyles and rethink the values upon which they live their lives. Among others, they feel growing concern for the environment and favour brands that also feel that way. Quo vadis, Luxus?

Pamela Danzinger

Pamela Danzinger is one of the most respected researchers in consumer behaviour in the luxury universe. Her market research The Luxury Market Is Going Green and Luxury Brands Can Not Afford to Ignore It, confirms thataffluent consumers are increasingly concerned with environmental protection and begin to adopt a green living lifestyle. Research indicates that women are ahead of men in this new way of living and consuming. The study also states that after the recession, the market will never be the same again, and therefore luxury brands that want to win back the loyalty of their customers, should have a green marketing plan as part of their strategy, rather than just adopting loose measures for environmental protection.

Luxury department store Saks Fifth Avenue launched the Green House page on their website, where they sell 100% eco-friendly clothing, homeware and jewelry, made from recyclable materials. However, the most interesting feature on this page is a number of suggestions of small ecological habits – taken from the book It’s Easy Being Green – that the website offers to all their customers and visitors so that they may start having more environmentally responsible daily behaviours.


The Accor Group own more than 4000 hotels in 90 countries and several brands – some of them in the luxury sector, like Sofitel. The group have redefined their Environmental Charter, adding 65 new sustainable actions that each hotel can adopt and suggest to their customers, so that each client may put them into practice and feel that it is possible to consume high-quality services combining environmental protection requirements.

These are just two examples that highlight an interesting growing trend that can be increasingly effective in seducing customers: in addition to an environmental policy, brands should develop and launch an action plan to engage customers in actively adopting “green practices” in their private and professional lives.

There are many good examples of environmental responsibility in almost every luxury brand, however not all of them are successful in communicating such practices to the market and very few decide to actively engage their customers, encouraging them to adopt such practices in their daily behaviours. This is a socially praiseworthy practice, but above all it is very enticing to consumers who feel growing concern with environmental issues but do not always know what type of contribution they can make in their daily lives.

And let’s make no mistake: another recent study by Pamela Danzinger, where more than 1,000 consumers with annual incomes above $150,000 have been interviewed, reveals that about 75% of them admit that their purchase decisions of certain products are influenced by the environmental policy communicated by the brand. And about 65% of these consumers stated that their buying decisions depend on the regular green practices of brands.

Therefore, it is wise to reflect upon the ideas of Daniel Esty, professor of environmental policy at Yale University and international expert on sustainable development. A few years ago I have attended an international management conference in Madrid and heard Esty on stage arguing that companies should invest in environmental responsibility plans, built in 4 sets of actions to be developed and applied, in order to:

. lower energy consumption costs

. reduce environmental risks to which customers and the company may be exposed to

. learn how to enhance a green strategy

. adequately promote the intangible value of green proposal of the company

sustainable luxury

This expert highlights inspiring ideas for brands and companies that wish to succeed in a market where there is more and better information, where there is increasing sensitivity to the impact that consumption in general has on the environment and where consumers are willing to reward the brands with similar concerns and values to their own.

The findings of the study Going Green to Be Seen, developed by university professors Griskevicius, Tybur and Van den Bergh are also quite interesting food for thought. These researchers reached the conclusion that a considerable percentage of consumers, which varies depending on the product category, who buy “green products” and use environmentally responsible brands, do it not to protect the environment, but only because they want to be seen as selfless and because consuming green products is well accepted in society. The study shows that this slice of consumers are more concerned about their image and status, rather than they are with the planet.

In either case, be it to win the customer who genuinely cares about environmental protection or the group of consumers who just want to be seen as such,  high-end and luxury brands should clearly invest in a serious and consistent environmental strategy in order to succeed in future times.

But once this environmental plan is implemented, brands can no longer neglect their presence in the market. Nowadays, the world is constantly changing, the market is in a continuous state of fluidity and uncertainty, forcing companies and brands to pay permanent attention and react to those changes in order to positively impact customers.

Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman called this society we live in The Liquid Society, because of that feature of constant fluidity, change and uncertainty.

And one should not expect our society to “solidify” again. At least, not in the near future.

Antonio Paraiso 
Marketing . Luxury . Innovation . Consultant and Speaker