CHAPTER 1 : INTRODUCTION
1.1 Research Background and Motivation
The textiles and clothing market is an important part of the world's economy. In 2000 the worlds consumers spent a total of US $1 trillion dollars on clothing. Cotton is an in-demand resource for consumers today. Western Europe accounted for a third of the total cotton exports, and the United States accounted for another third of the total cottons exports. Refer to the pie chart for the specific percentages. Developing countries seem to dominate the remainder of the sector, especially Asia. (M., J., 2017.). The continuous growth of the global economy has caused significant environmental problems for the planet and eco-system. The natural forest has been lost or damaged, many animals are extinct or in danger, and the natural resources are continually over used with no plans to replenish them efficiently. (Tisdell, 1991; Hueting, et al., 1992).
Refer to pie chart to other percentages.
Figure 1. M., J., 2017. Well Dressed?. University of Cambridge Inst. for Manufacturing.
The luxury aspect of the market has transformed from the old craft-based company's dependent on the skills of Parisian ateliers and Italian leather workers (small businesses but with big reputations) into a set of multibillion-pound conglomerates. LVMH (parent company of Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs) is the biggest, followed by PPR (including Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent).(The Guardian, 2017) Currently there are major brands striving towards sustainability such as Stella McCartney and Gucci who are desperate to broadcast their fur freeways, but there is another aspect of the industry where there has been a rumoured history of Louis Vuitton incinerating faulty or end-of-line products to "protect" the brand as they famously never go on sale. (The 7 Deadly Sins of Louis Vuitton. 2017) The luxury market has both positive and negative factors towards gaining a true sustainability status, many factors will be discussed throughout this dissertation.
1.2 Purpose of the Study
My aim throughout my dissertation paper is to discover and finalise how sustainability is perceived by consumers and whether luxury fashion can truly be labelled as “sustainable” when focusing on the industry. I chose to research this project for my dissertation because sustainability is a true passion of mine. I believe in the ethos myself but I also want to promote better understanding in the topic and how attitudes towards this subject from consumers can affect the fashion industry in a both negative and positive way. “While some studies have approached consumption ethics through historical analyses (e.g. Newholm et al. 2014; Hilton 2003), most researchers have tried to establish a relationship between consumers' concerns with ethical issues and their purchasing decisions, the factors which may affect such a relationship, and ultimately whether or not it is possible to enable consumers to purchase more ethically” in the luxury market. This is therefore what I want to research ensuring I conclude with an independent outlook on the industries future.
I have been conducting research of my own comparing and contrasting the different fashion houses sustainability ethos' and their commitment to the future of sustainable fashion. After some initial research in this area it is hard to truly know that they are keeping to their sustainability plan due to limited published data. As well as this through online research I have discovered that over the past two years there has been few relevant qualitative and quantitative investigations examining consumer attitudes towards sustainable luxury, these have presented a range of inconsistent or contradictory conclusions. Steinhard, et al. (2013)
1.3 Dissertation Question
My Lead question is “Can Luxurious Fashion Truly Be Sustainable? A Mixed Method Investigation of Attitudes Towards Sustainable Luxury Consumption in Fashion.”
CHAPTER TWO: IMPACTS FROM THE APPARELL INDUSTRY
2.1 Overview of Environmental Factors
For true sustainability to be an option for the world, sustainability will need to be cemented as an important factor alongside the economy and environment. This will need to be nourished by both consumers and businesses by taking responsibility and consuming natural recourses efficiently and sparingly therefore reducing pollution and protecting the global environment and eco system for future generations. The global community needs to understand that they have a responsibility to the ecosystem to ensure that there is a world left for future generations, this lies in the hands of each individual from the government to small businesses (McCann-Erickson, 2007).
2.2 Environment and Economy- Luxury Logic
Due to the lack of visibility for consumers into the fashion supply chain the world has obscured negative outcomes such as pollution, unethical labour practices, and ever-increasing waste generation. The average U.S. resident throws away 70 pounds of clothes each year, with 85 percent ending up in landfills or incinerators. Secondly an estimated $46.7 billion worth of unworn garments hang forgotten in the closets of the U.K. (The Balance. 2017.) This could be used as an example of how consumers could buy less and wear more. The consumer could spend a larger amount of money on an individual piece which are wardrobe staples and are branded luxury- ethical- sustainable and then use this as a staple piece rather than switching between different fast fashion styles. I completed some primary research in the form of a questionnaire on this area. I asked, “If you purchase luxury products, would you say you kept them longer than you would compared to a high street product” The response was overwhelming with 87.5 % of responses voting Yes. This would support the theory of buying a more expensive product and being able to reuse it more than buying lots of cheaper alternatives. Another question I asked was “Would you pay more for a product if you knew that it was sustainable” again an overwhelming 87.5% of voters stated that they would pay more for a product knowing that it was sustainable. Therefore, my primary research has shown that there are people who care about sustainability and are willing to pay more for a sustainable product. This is a good starting point for the luxury market although theories by Achabou and Dekhili 2017 do dispute my findings by declaring that the most important factors to consumers are the price, prestige and quality.
Currently there are many consumers who see the difference between luxury and fast fashion as black and white, good and bad. For example buying an expensive coat must be environmentally beneficial due to the high price point. As the financial times investigated that is not necessarily true: ‘Just as the carbon footprint of a flight doesn't discriminate between first-class and economy, high fashion has a history of being just as damaging to the environment.' Mark C O'Flaherty Financial Times 2017. But now, both luxury and fast fashion designers are increasingly considering their environmental impact and taking steps to create more sustainable products. New York-based Maria Cornejo, for example, showed a collection for SS17 under her Zero + Maria Cornejo label that was defined by architectural drapes and contemporary lines. What made it particularly strong, was its use of a unique white fabric manufactured from wood pulp and sourced from sustainable forests in Domsjo, Sweden. (Financial Times. 2017.) This label displays how sustainable materials can be used in high fashion brands and sold at a high price point.
The planet is suffering as the population grows and an expanding middle class seeks products to illustrate new-found wealth. There are luxury brands who are responding to this demand in a variety of ways, whether through improved ethical practices such as using fairly-mined minerals, reducing the use of endangered and exotic species, reducing water pollution by using dyes listed by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), improving traceability by using Historic Futures' String platform or measuring environmental impact using a variety of tools such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition's Higg Index. (The Ethical Fashion Source. 2017.)
2.3 Environmental laws and regulations
While high street brands such as Gap and Primark have long been the target of anti-sweat shop campaigners, luxury brands from Armani to Valentino have largely managed to evade the ethical spotlight and have yet to be inconvenienced by reputation-damaging sweatshop scandals. (Guardian, 2017)
The Guardian conducted some research into their “Less waste, better ethics” report. They discovered that the celebrated ethical champion Stella McCartney was rated lowest on their ethical rating table. Although McCartney herself has campaigned for animal rights and the sister brand Gucci the fashion power house has recently vowed to go fur free in 2018 following Armani's lead in 2016. This is an amazing step towards the Luxury market becoming sustainable as if high fashion houses can take the step of using my sustainable materials and still attract their customers then so can other brands. Gucci will also become part of the Fur Free Alliance international group of more than 40 organisations which campaigns on animal welfare and promotes alternatives to fur in the fashion industry. (Guardian, 2017)
Unfortunately, the parent brand Kering still sanctions the use of fur in many of its other fashion brands such as Alexander McQueen. In contrast Kering plans to be able to confirm the origins of all its raw materials, including their country of extraction, by 2025, “to ensure a transparent and responsible supply chain”. Kering has also pledged to halve its greenhouse gas emissions over the same period. (2025, Kering) Tamsin Lejeune, founder of the Ethical Fashion Forum discussed how there is no specific target in their proposal and pointed out that pledge is very vague . “If the business grows by 50 per cent, and carbon emissions are reduced by 25 per cent, the footprint of the business may have considerably increased. I would like to see Kering register as a B Corporation [a business certified by the non-profit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance], which would be the best way for them to demonstrate their integrity.” (Guardian, 2017) Therefore there is still no true example of their commitment to sustainability in their brand. Although there are positive steps being taken forward the vague information and pledges suggests there are is no true focus for the Kering group as a whole to become sustainable long term.
Due to the importance of companies making a profit this can negatively conflict with the sustainable interests of the planet. Therefore, if a company had to switch to a “green” electricity supplier which is a 50% increase in price compared to their usual supplier, it is likely they as a company would have to close. Eisenstein, C. (2017). From this we can see that in some companies it would not be practical to suggest that they would become sustainable in the future due to the margins of the product they are selling. The only way this would change would be if an environmental law came into place, reducing costs of sustainable energy or enforcing companies to only use sustainable energy.
Ryan Lobo the Director of Tome Brand (eco- focused) believes there is no option supporting the suggestion of an environmental law, stating “Sustainable and ethical fashion should not be considered a luxury but a given,” he says. “That's the direction the industry is taking and it'll be unwise for brands to ignore it.” (Financial Times 2017)
2.4. The Future of Apparel
The apparel industries future is estimated to continue to grow, especially due to the increase of the global middle class. One of the factors associated with this is China and Asia's unprecedented tax reliefs. According to the World Institute 2017 by 2030 there will be 5.4 billion people in the global middle class, up from 3 billion in 2015. This will result in consumers who want to represent their middle-class status through clothes and other products. If consumption continues at its current rate, we'll need three times as many natural resources by 2050 compared to what we used in 2000. (The World Institute. 2017)
One day the resources of the world will limit the current resource consumption rate. Beyond environmental factors the over consumption will deter the world's economic and social goals. Therefore, brands will need to look into different business models if they want their company to survive and flourish, otherwise their company will struggle to keep with demand and ultimately go bankrupt.
Figure 2. World Resources Institute. 2017
Figure 3. World Resources Institute. 2017
2.5 Eco-consciousness as marketing opportunities
The world is constantly changing and evolving as more information is freely and readily available through the internet to anyone in the world. This information has made people more Eco-conscious and there are certain individuals who are applying more environmental pressures on creating sustainable resources. Such as increasing the price of goods which use non-renewable raw materials (Whitmore, 2007). Whereas it is widely known that sustainable products which are sold to the public are generally more expensive than one which is not. Therefore, it is easier for luxury high-end fashion to be sustainable due to their higher price point, allowing there to be more money left over to both gain profit but also the best possible materials and ethical processes.
Designer Cornejo believes that sustainability remains a concern for consumers: “During the recession, we made it through because our clients cared about supporting our local economy, and they really connected with the fact that the majority of the collection is made in New York. I feel the same now — people will still focus on the environment, they still want beautiful things that have the right message and heart behind them.” (Financial Times. 2017.) This can support the theory of Eco-consciousness becoming a solid factor when consumers are considering products and even a possible marketing opportunity for brands of the future.
In conclusion, the environmental impacts form the Apparel industry are dominant factors in ensuring the luxury market become sustainable. Luxury brands will need to be aware of the many damaging impacts that are now occurring through Apparel. For example, the limited natural resources and unclarified logic in the Consumers Economy. If these aspects are paid great attention to and clarified to consumers then the luxury brands should be able to become sustainable, although this does depend on cheaper sustainable solutions being found.
CHAPTER 3: TEXTILE AND ENVIRONMENT
3.1 Water Stress and Pollution
After some research into water pollution I found a study developed from The Balance 2017 where they focus on factors from the apparel industry. They brought to light a study located in California which found that one quarter of fish purchased at local markets contained textile fabric. One of the major components leading to this was suggested to be the fibre that is released from clothes into washing machines, travelling through waste water networks all the way to sea; “1,900 microfibers are shed from a single synthetic garment during the course of its life” (The Balance 2017). These microfibers are now affecting wildlife which is unacceptable due to the action being no fault of their own. Luxury companies have the option to take on board this information and look into the sustainable technology of minimising the microfibers in their clothing created. Although this will be expensive, ensuring that animals are not affected by their products this would be a big step in gaining a truly sustainable status.
Astoundingly the fashion and textile industry is guilty of contributing to water pollution. According to Eco Watch 2017 the dyeing and treatment of textiles results in between 17 to 20 percent of industrial water use. When treating textiles 1000's of synthetic chemicals is also used in the process as well. Sustainable companies have been creating new technologies to stop this huge loss of water each year which currently stands at half a trillion gallons alone to dye textiles. Although the likely hood of companies choosing to embrace the new technology of waterless dying and change their manufacturing sites is unlikely due to the high expenditure it will need. However, the long-term benefits are undeniable. (Eco Watch 17)
3.2. True Sustainability
Sustainability is based around the ethical processes we follow to limit the impact we have on the planet, therefore there will always be different opinions debates against and for sustainability. Environmental sustainability is the ability to maintain rates of renewable resource harvest, pollution creation, and non-renewable resource depletion that can be continued indefinitely. (Thwink.org. 2017). Eva Kruse, chief executive of the Danish Fashion Institute raised a point concluding there are other factors involved with sustainability “How could fashion consider calling itself sustainable, since it's always about consumption. But it can be sustainable if we concentrate more on the environment.” (New York Times. 2017). One issue in sustainable luxury consumption is due to the fact that the products being sold may use only 100% organic cotton or faux vegan leather but the process's involved are the issue. For example, when creating faux leather a large amount of electricity is needed to create the product as a whole. Another negative is the chemical processes that are used to create the same kind of texture of materials like leather is then pumped into our atmosphere and polluting our air.
In contrast to this currently in Japan there are many experimental production techniques being tested based on environmental consciousness. The designer Issey Miyake has been producing some of the most advanced apparel on the planet. One of his labels are crafted from material using recycled PET thread. Miyake's technique produces approximately 80 per cent less CO2 than the process of creating polyester from petroleum. (Guardian. 2017). If luxury fashion brands are being able to produce products like Issey Miyake with these kinds of materials then this could support the theory of luxury fashion becoming sustainable long term.
3.3. Product life cycle in fashion industry
However, consumers are still aware of the ethical issues associated with luxury products. In a study of an online community dedicated to analysing sustainability issues in the luxury fashion sector, Cervellon and Wernerfelt (2012) concluded that knowledge relating to the supply chain of luxury products is important for consumers involved in eco-purchases. These consumers gain personal benefits from being aware of the positive ethical factors of the supply chains of the brands they buy. The environmental claims of luxury products can result in consumers feeling positive about their purchase which can then justify the money they have spent. Unfortunately, research around whether consumers truly consider the ethical issues in each luxury purchase made remains limited and unaccounted for.
For the life cycle in the luxury sector to evolve and become sustainable the supply chain will need to be carefully observed. According to the Business Institute this can be done effectively. “This can be achieved by identifying where your environmental hotspots (areas of biggest impact) are in your supply chain. This exercise can be done in a cost-effective way, and does not require expensive life-cycle assessments. A baseline environmental impact – whether carbon, waste or water – can be developed at various levels of detail to provide an indicator of impact, and therefore area(s) to focus.” (The Business Institute 2017)
In conclusion, the water pollution is an undeniable worrying factor in unethical practice. If luxury brands will need to take any action to help stop this excessive use of resources. Not only are resources being over consumed but animals and even people are being harmed by the extreme amounts of chemicals pouring into rivers. Simply technology will need to be invested to be able to counteract these awful practices for luxury brands to be sustainable.
CHAPTER FOUR: TEXTILE EVOLUTION
4.1 Convenient Recycle Option
When considering options for brands to become more sustainable, recycling is one key component. For consumers to use the recycling systems they need to be practical and convenient. Therefore, by having a recycle option in store, not only does it allow consumers to know that the brand is looking to be more sustainable and benefit the world it also brings people into store to both recycle and hopefully purchase a product whilst they are there. Therefore, a win win strategy.
One brand who has purposely used this strategy is Marks and Spencer. Marks and Spencer provide an OXFAM box in their stores and take back clothes to be recycled or sold for charity even if they are originally not from the brand itself. Marks and Spencer also created an added benefit for people to bring their clothes in to recycle, donators would receive a £5 voucher for when they next shop in store. Since the partnership began in 2008 over 28 million garments have been donated in M&S and Oxfam shops, worth an estimated £19 million for Oxfam. (Oxfam GB 2017)
This scheme would be a good start for companies in the luxury industry to progress towards a sustainable status by taking back preowned clothes. If they don't have the funds to do this individually they could work collectively with a charity. Although the company itself wouldn't have changed their manufacturing procedure creating a drastic change, they still would have made a change to the environment by reducing the amount of clothing going into landfill.
4.2 Natural Or Synthetic
The carbon footprint of a garment largely depends on the material. Cheap synthetic fibres are becoming increasingly popular, helping to keep fast fashion clothing affordable in price. Polyester is now found in 50 percent of clothing, and rapidly increasing in terms of market share. Global production of polyester is anticipated to rise from 40 million tons in 2010 to 70 million tons by 2030. Polyester is an oil-based product. Another synthetic product used is acrylic, which is 30 percent more energy intensive than even polyester.
In support of both natural and synthetic materials, synthetic fibres like polyester have less impact on water and land than grown materials like cotton, although they do emit more greenhouse gasses per kilogram. Cotton is causing another wave of concern accounting for 2.6 percent of global water use. Around 53 percent of cotton is grown under irrigation. Some 99.3 percent of cotton is grown with the aid of chemical fertilizers. This once more will affect the environment negatively. (Eco Watch 2017)
According to the World Institute 2017 A polyester shirt has more than double the carbon footprint of a cotton shirt (5.5 kg vs. 2.1 kg, or 12.1 pounds vs 4.6 pounds). Polyester production for textiles released about 706 billion kg (1.5 trillion pounds) of greenhouse gases in 2015, the equivalent of 185 coal-fired power plants' annual emissions. (The Balance 2017)
Recycling is a relatively easy option for luxury brands to participate in and show their dedication of sustainability to consumers. This would be a delicate first step into adapting an ethical nature for their brand. When discussing the natural and cotton debate there is inconclusive information on both parts to confirm what is currently best for our environment. Until an environmental law is introduced banning the production of polyester, brands will continue to develop it due how cheap it is to make and how durable it can be.
CHAPTER FIVE: CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR AND ATTITUDE
5.1 Attitudes towards Luxury Sustainable Consumption
One approach that has been linked with ethical concerns affecting consumer making decisions is the theory of reasoned action. (Ajzen and Fishbein 1980). This theory relies on the consumer's desire to purchase and the attitudes and perceptions that will affect their purchase decisions. When considering the ethics of luxury purchases, consumers purchasing luxury products tend to purchase them due to wanting to enhance their individual prestige, although this can be affected by their moral principles. (Beckham and Voyer 2014) These theories are unable to pin point one specific factor alone. This suggests that luxury fashion has the opportunity to change and progress into a sustainable brand through its brands individual consumer attitudes and needs.
Currently there is no confirmed link between sustainable consumption and luxury purchase's. Achabou and Dekhili 2013 have suggested 3 factors that are the most important to consumers when purchasing luxury products. These factors are the price of the product, the prestige gained from the product and the quality of the product. Achabou and Dekhili 2013 have suggested that when using recycled materials in luxury fashion it can limit the overall value of the product. Therefore as sustainability is still not a significant part of consumer's lives the 3 factors suggested price, quality and brand reputation are the most important factors when purchasing luxury products. (Achabou and Dekhili 2013) In response to this the ethics of consumers choices can be affected as the other benefits of the product may sway their choice. For example, rather than looking into the background behind the materials that are used such as using leather which can only be used by taking a life and killing an animal. Instead they look at the actual product of a nice jacket and choose not to consider the ethics behind it.
I chose to complete some primary research of my own in the form of a questionnaire asking questions whether the ethical nature of a product was more important. I did three separate questions. The first question I asked was “Which is most important to you” Option A the ethical nature of a brand OR Option B The price of a product. 87.5% of voters voted that the price was more important than the ethical nature of the product, this contradicts some earlier findings from my previous questions, this suggests that sustainability is not the most important factor like Achabou and Dekhili 2013 suggest. The second question I asked was “Which is most important to you” Option A: The ethical nature of a product OR Option B: the prestige of a product, this time 75% of voters voted the prestige of product was more important than the ethical nature of the product. This does suggest that people do still care about the prestige of the brand but not as much as the price. Finally, the last question I asked was “Which is most important to you” Option A: The ethical nature of the product OR Option B The quality of the product. Once more 87.5% of voters voted that the quality is the most important factor. Therefore, I can conclude that my research concludes that the three factors suggested by Achabou and Dekhili 2013 are the most important for consumers.
The theories suggested by Beckham and Voyer 2014 suggests that luxury fashion has the opportunity to change and progress into a sustainable brand through its brands individual consumer attitudes and needs. Although research from myself both agrees and contradicts with the theories put forward by Achabou and Dekhili 2013. In this area I can conclude that the research is inconclusive and varied resulting negative and positive points for luxury brands becoming sustainable.
5.2 Social Concern
Social concern for the condition and welfare of the workers has increased in the past few years, due to more published reports on the working conditions of workers in factories abroad, labelled sweatshops. Ever since there has been campaigns for improved working and social conditions for low paid workers in developing countries.
The most recent outbreak being shoppers in a Zara factory in Istanbul have been finding desperate notes in their clothing. These have allegedly been sewn on by workers who claimed that they had not been paid for their labour at the Bravo Tekstil factory in Turkey. The company then confirmed that they had used that factory to make clothes for their Istanbul market along with other European-based fast fashion labels like Mango and Next. 155 labourers worked in the factory until the factory was forced to close in July 2016 due to the disappearance of the factories owner, taking all the money the factory had made without paying the workers. Therefore, by working with this ‘allegedly' unethical factory owner, Inditex (parent company of Zara) ultimately ended up selling clothes on Zara shelves that were made using unpaid labour.
These kinds of circumstances are what has spiked the consumers concern to protest against the low wage of workers and the little protection they have. In response to circumstances like these most countries in the supply chains across the world have a legal minimum wage, but this can still be lower than a realistic minimum living wage, therefore while the sector offers an opportunity for development by creating many relatively low skilled jobs, some workers are unable to escape from a cycle of poverty. (Fast Company 2017)
Currently luxury Fashion Brands such as Gucci are reacting to these circumstances by increasing their codes of good practice in labour standards. Therefore, when you read their company Ethos their statements are positive and consequently sustainable. In contrast, when these are passed on to their labour suppliers there is no confirmation of whether or not they will follow the suggested guidelines, due to fashion buyers visiting only once or twice per annum. (M., J., 2017. Well Dressed?)
5.3 Increased Production and Consumption.
In the world of fast changing trends and must have products there has been a fight to tackle over consumption. When purchasing these trends led items, consumers are willing to spend less for a lower quality product knowing that the item of clothing they are purchasing they will not wear forever. Therefore, the consumers are buying more, using the product less and throwing away sooner. According to the World Resources Institute 2017 the average consumer is now purchasing 60 percent more items of clothing compared to 2000, but each garment is kept half as long. This translates into 20 new items per year for every person on Earth. On average, each garment is worn only 7 times. (The Balance 2017)
Figure 4. World Resources Institute. 2017
For Many, shopping has become a weekly occurrence. One factor for over consumption is the excessive advertising visible to everyone in their daily lives, as seen in the paper on the TV and the internet. It is unlikely that anyone will see their day through without seeing an advertisement. The everlasting addiction to celebrities has become an important factor when selling products. For example, the coat that Meghan Markle (priced at £550) wore to announce her engagement to Prince Harry sold out within fifteen minutes. (Harper's BAZAAR. 2017). This would suggest that overwhelmingly if a celebrity or idol of the consumer uses and enforces a product then it is unlikely that they will look into the background or ethical nature of the product.
This process of trend led products has been labelled “Fast Fashion”. Many companies create these products quickly to meet the demand of the trend at the time, this tends to be pushing the designs from the catwalk as quickly as possible from the catwalk into the shops. Due to the increased consumption, the environmental effects are clear, the excessive use of water and significant amounts of greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere. (McKinsey & Company. 2017). Fast Fashion is actually a reasonably new aspect to the industry, estimated at 10 years old. The issue is it has had such a negative impact already because it creates a demand for more whilst continually releasing mountains of new cheap clothing. This allows consumers to expect this in the industry furthermore accelerating carbon emissions and global warming.
The luxury market can make a change in this area by choosing to invest in their factories across the world ensuring that if this kind of consumption doesn't decrease over time then at least the products being made will be creating less waste and dangers to our environment. If the companies don't step forward to create a sustainable future the environmental issues will just increase and become harder to resolve. (McKinsey & Company. 2017) To support this area my primary research resulted in some positive findings. I asked responders “Would you appreciate if a favourite brand of yours added a sustainable nature to their brand ethos” 87.5% of voters agreed that they would. Therefore, this shows that consumers are aware of sustainability and do understand that it would be better for the brand to be sustainable. To support this further, I asked respondents “If you bought a sustainable product would the sustainable factor give you pleasure?” overwhelmingly 100% of respondents voted yes, further confirming the likelihood of consumers buying luxury sustainable products.
After carefully considering my research discussing consumer behaviour attitudes I can conclude that there is benefits to consumers personally by purchasing sustainable, ethical products although this does tend to come at a higher price point. Therefore, sadly consumers still appreciate the price of the product to be more important rather than its background and history. This is one factor that can truly impact whether luxury brands can become sustainable. If their prices were to inflate to pay for their sustainable technologies their customers may not appreciate the reasons why or be able to afford the new price.
CHAPTER SIX: THE PROGRESSION TOWARDS A SUSTAINABLE LUXURY MARKET
6.1 A Focus on Stella McCartney
One luxury fashion brand I am extremely interested in its role in sustainability is Stella McCartney. I have been pursuing members of staff working in sustainable fashion brands of the future such as fashion buyers at Stella McCartney through Linked In. Due to Stella being a lifelong vegetarian she doesn't use any leather or fur in her products making her a leader in sustainable luxury fashion. Stella has previously said: “We address...ethical or ecological...questions in every other part of our lives except fashion”.. Mind-sets are changing, though, which is encouraging.” (Marie Claire. 2017). I have been unable to find a member of staff willing to talk to me about the links towards the sustainable industry the brand is truly sustainable in the luxury market, I have previously messaged employee's on Linked In, they were not willing to give me a response therefore I can only question the reasons why they wouldn't want to give me an interview. Therefore, the only conclusion that I can make is that there must be a reason as to why they are unable to comment on their own key selling point of their brand.
Although in contrast all Stella McCartney stores, offices and studios in the UK are powered by wind energy and abroad, they use renewable energy to power their stores and offices. according to the Stella McCartney press office 2015 (Lolli, A. (2017) 45% of their operations are run on 100% renewable, green energy. The Stella McCartney programme takes part in the Natural Resource Defence Council (NRDC) Clean by Design Programme, becoming the first company of luxury goods to contribute to the innovative level of ethics. Clean by Design, “focuses on improving process efficiency to reduce waste and emissions and protect the environment”. Textile manufacturing has a big environmental footprint, it pollutes around 200 tons of water per ton of fabric using many harmful chemicals, and consuming enormous amounts of energy for steam and hot water. This programme aims to reduce the use of water (about 25%) and energy by (about 30%).
Unfortunately, Stella McCartney has not published the amount of energy they use collectively so that I could not draw a final conclusion as to whether they need to use more or less to create ethical, sustainable products. In the process possibly limiting the true sustainable nature of the brand. Stella McCartney does not communicate the social impact of its supply chain as highlighted by Project Just 2017, they also do not supply any information on how the brand monitors the labour practices in its supply chain against the ETI Base Code which in turn doesn't provide confidence in the ethics of their work force. (Project JUST (2017). The brand also does not have a product recycling program which is currently being used in many brands to highlight their drive to ensure their own products are not the ones entering landfill- in turn decreasing their carbon footprint.
Stella McCartney has provided an Environmental Profit and Loss account yearly since 2015. The report states “We continue to end the EP&L a valuable tool in locating the biggest impacts in our supply chain. We use the EP&L to track impacts over time as we implement targeted initiatives. As with previous years, the most significant impacts are concentrated in the raw material production stage, which accounts for 62% of our total EP&L in 2016.”
Figure 5. shows the distribution of Stella McCartney's 2016 EP&L impacts across the different tiers of their supply chain and categorised by environmental impact group. When compared to their data from last year the impact of Tiers 0-3 increased, however the total impact associated with production of raw materials (Tier 4) decreased by 8%. (Stella McCartney. (2017).
Figure 5. Stella McCartney EPL Report 2016
The environmental profit and loss report looks at six major categories of environment impact, greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, water pollution, water consumption, waste disposal, and changes in ecosystem services associated with land use change, across all of its business and supply chain, from the production of raw materials through to its own operations and sale of products to the customer. Everything that comes from producing and selling its fashion collections. (Stella McCartney 2017)
The most highly concentrated area of environmental impact at Stella McCartney was at the supply chain level, accounting for 90 percent, with the highest concentration at the raw material stage, 57 percent. While the brand's own direct operations represent 10 percent of its environmental impact. Although there is more that can be done these results do represent that Stella McCartney is trying to be sustainable but is not truly sustainable as it is not levelling out its environmental impacts. Wightman-Stone, D. (2017).
As the luxury fashion industry relies so heavily on natural raw materials for most of its products it would make sense to become more proactive by building a sound reputation and environmental ethos which is core to the brand. In an interview with Stella McCartney she suggests that you can't do everything at once and that ‘we do things on an achievable level in order to make it happen'.
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