Some luxury brands have previously treated sustainability and social responsibility as “nice additions” to their products.
However, Generation X and millennials expect a bigger focus on social responsibility from brands compared to earlier generations. Crain’s Chicago Business found that 75 percent of consumers have a more favorable view of businesses whose social values align with theirs, and 33 percent of the current generation will boycott companies that go against their chosen causes. As such, luxury brands can no longer treat corporate responsibility as an afterthought if they want to remain competitive. Social norms encourage brands to stay environmentally conscious, and many celebrities, like Leonardo DiCaprio, are pushing for more sustainable practices.
The Clean Label Movement
The clean label movement is one way brands are adapting to the Millennial and Gen X expectations. This movement, popular within the food industry, focuses on ingredients that are natural, sustainable and understandable. While this trend started with food, it is also increasing transparency and shaping product sourcing in other industries. Customers want to know the social causes they’re directly or indirectly supporting with the purchase of products. Consumers have many brand choices, so they can vote with their dollars if they don’t like the way a brand’s social responsibility measures appear. A lack of focus surrounding any social causes, such as environmental friendliness, can reduce a brand’s standing among millennials and Gen X.
Climate change also has an impact on sustainability efforts for luxury brands. As weather patterns shift and temperatures rise, biophysical limits are introduced. Some areas are unable to keep up with previous crop production while places like California must deal with massive drought. Sustainable production helps brands adapt to these environmental changes from a logistical standpoint while also improving their reputation as a socially conscious company.
Brand Sustainability is Not a New Trend
Sustainability is trending, now that Gen X and millennials make it necessary for all luxury brands to pay attention to corporate social responsibility. However, some brands have focused on sustainability for years. Diamonds are a sought after commodity that often commands a high human cost, because many diamonds are mined in war zones and sold to fund similar efforts. These diamonds are referred to as conflict or blood diamonds. Jewelers Tiffany and Forevermark use an independent Kimberley Process to confirm the diamonds they certify are conflict free. Beauty and cosmetics company L’Oreal reduced its greenhouse gasses by 50 percent, and is currently focusing on a plan to become carbon neutral by 2020 without buying renewable energy credits.
Transparency is a Requirement
Today’s consumers want to know as much as possible about the products they use – all the way from the materials to the working conditions of employees and transportation processes. This transparency invites intense scrutiny into all aspects of your luxury brand. You need to be prepared for handling many inquiries about the origins of your products and the policies used throughout your company.
Renewable energy usage is particularly relevant information for this consumer group, as they are focused on the damage that fossil fuels and pollution do to the environment. The impact of climate change and global warming is seen throughout the world, so consumers look for companies that are doing their part to help address the damage. Clean energy, such as wind and solar, will move your company toward green and sustainable business practices that resonate well with your target audience. Your retail execution can focus on how you implement corporate social responsibility, letting millennials and Gen X know the steps you’re taking to be a more sustainable brand.
Monitoring Sustainability Efforts
Your luxury brand may focus on sustainability, but it can be difficult to track your efforts and ensure health and safety compliance. Mobile data collection tools are valuable for monitoring sustainability efforts in several areas. Your field teams can confirm health and safety measures are being followed and report back in real-time. Your brand can quickly address any compliance issues without waiting days or weeks for direction. These tools can also assist you with tracking brand standards and confirming your retail execution matches up with the sustainable message you want to send to your consumers.
Another challenge with monitoring sustainability efforts is staying consistent across multiple locations. Consumers often shop in the most convenient manner for their needs. If your sustainability efforts are great in one location but missing the mark in others, you will lose trust with consumers. Mobile data collection tools give you instant information on compliance and retail execution, so you will have confirmation that guidelines are being followed.
Luxury brands need to add socially conscious practices to appeal to the millennial and Gen X market, as well as adapt to any supply chain problems caused by changing environmental issues. Once you have sustainable measures in place, you need a retail execution strategy that helps to reinforce your brand’s adoption of corporate social responsibility. Mobile data collection tools help streamline the process and help your brand stay compliant across all locations.