WWF Highlights Bad Side of Luxury Goods

panda deluxe.jpgThink twice about buying the sad-eyed giant panda in your life a buttery leather Tod’s handbag or a Bulgari choker. A report just released by the United Kingdom branch of WWF (the global conservation organization formerly known as the World Wildlife Fund, not the one formerly known as the World Wrestling Federation) has given dismal grades to the ten largest, publicly traded luxury brand-owning companies based on their environmental, social, and governance performance. The report, “Deeper Luxury,” also asks celebrities not to promote or endorse environmentally damaging products from “dirty brands.”

WWF-UK’s rankings (online here) are based on data reported from the companies themselves as well as reports from the media and NGOs, all of which was scored, weighted, and combined to generate letter grades ranging from a high of C+ (L’Oreal) down to a couple of Fs (Bulgari and Tod’s).

Why should we care about the sustainability efforts of luxury brands? Because they’re iconic and highly influential on a global scale, say the report’s authors:

In reality, the most successful and iconic brands, especially in the worlds of fashion and technology, do not so much respond to consumer demand as create and influence it. They do this in two ways: by “editing” consumer choices through product design, distribution, and other attributes over which consumers have no control; and by influencing the choices that consumers can make, such as how and when to use their products.

While we think this substantial report will get the industry talking, don’t look for Gucci canvas shopping totes or recycled Hermes scarves anytime soon. The initial effects will likely come in the form of a media push by these companies to publicize their environmentally-friendly initatives. For example, did you know that Tiffany & Co. is helping to build support for a marine protected area in the Indo-Pacific Coral Triangle (granted, it’s laden with pearls, but still)? Or that the watch brand Omega (owned by Swatch) is sponsoring a project to fly a solar plane around the world? You will soon.