Introducing our ‘In Conversation’ series with AERA Co-Founder and CEO, Tina Bhojwani. We’re speaking with the movers and makers working to pave a path and shift the effects of climate change.
This month, we invited Diana Verde Nieto, Co-Founder and CEO of Positive Luxury, to discuss her background in sustainability consulting and share how Positive Luxury functions to exceed environmentally-conscious production standards in the luxury consumer market.
Positive Luxury is an ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) platform that helps luxury companies adapt and transition to a new climate economy by assessing ESG performance, forecast social and environmental risks and opportunities, future proof their business and leverage sustainability as a driver of positive impact and corporate value.
You’re the Co-Founder and CEO of Positive Luxury, which started in 2011. Please tell us what you were doing prior to this? And, what led you to start this organization?
In 2002, I founded Clownfish, one of the first dedicated sustainability communications consultancies. Through Clownfish, you can say that we broke new ground in the field of ESG and sustainability, against a backdrop of a similar economic climate as today. We successfully scaled its operations globally, to China, the USA, Europe and the UK and subsequently we sold the company in 2008 to a trade buyer.
Back in 2008 /2009, (I can’t honestly recall the year) I was invited to contribute to a WWF report called Deeper Luxury. This is the first time that I thought that luxury and sustainability were two sides of the same coin. I guess since that moment onwards luxury was definitely on my radar.
Fast-forward to 2010, when I gave Sir David Attenborough his Lifetime Achievement Award and was privileged to have an enlightening and enjoyable conversation over dinner about the animal world. He told me then, the inspiring story of the Large Blue– a butterfly which died out in the British Isles in 1979 – and the dedication of the scientist who successfully reintroduced it by unraveling the intricate web of interdependencies necessary for its survival, making it the most successful insect re-introduction to date. I was incredibly inspired as we, as humans, can destroy species, yet in the same breath we can actually put our collective actions to do good and restore them.
Looking back, Positive Luxury was not just born, it had a couple of years-worth gestation process.
The Butterfly Mark certification signals to consumers that a company has reached the highest standards of ESG+ performance and enables companies to share with their audiences their ESG actions, underpinned by facts. The uniqueness of the connected Butterfly Mark certification is that it is independently verified and gives consumers at a click a real insight of the company's actions across ESG.
What kind of research went into deciding the criteria for the Butterfly Mark? And, how did you form the sustainability panel?
Positive Luxury’s proprietary ESG+ assessment framework is an aggregation of the highest international standards and ESG accounting frameworks enabling companies to collect and measure comparable data in line with new legislation and accounting frameworks.
Sustainability is a journey. We learn daily and ensure that we share our learning with our community to keep the Positive Luxury community ahead of what is coming their way.
Today it is up to businesses to reach out to Positive Luxury. Do you believe that mandates for sustainable practices should be obligatory? And if so how would you suggest this be done?
Many businesses approach Positive Luxury as they are looking for an expert partner in the luxury industry to enable them to transition to the new climate economy. A wave of legislation is coming from next year. This means that we are moving away from voluntary actions to legislated actions. This will enable investors to have real comparable sets of data to evaluate companies’ actions like for like and most importantly organize collective action that can help us achieve the 1.5C reduction pathway in line with the Paris Agreement.
We’ve seen emissions be prioritized in previous years and COP15 [United Nations Biodiversity Conference] has put biodiversity at the forefront, but these cannot be tackled in silo. Climate adaptation is much wider than just two challenges, which is why Positive Luxury’s assessment methodology covers 29 drivers across environmental, social and governance.
There are still so many standards within the fashion industry that make committing to sustainable practices much harder said than done. For example, a consumer might still value genuine leather over a man-made alternative. Do you see an approach to consumers who don’t want to buy resale/used products or alternative materials? How can the luxury market be effectively educated?
Being sustainable takes investment and what we mean by this is financial, resources, time [and resources and development].
Material innovations such as mylo leather, pinatex, apple leather and even coffee leather are currently being piloted in the fashion industry as an alternative to leather, however not yet at scale. Consumers don’t have the time and the knowledge to make the decision about what is best – it is an industry responsibility to make products that are not just less bad but positively good.
What we mean by this is longevity – repair, recycle and resell. The world is not fast and disposable and neither should be what we wear.
What do you do to be more mindful of the environment? What would you say to someone who's looking to live a more sustainable lifestyle? Where to start?
In a consumer mindset sometimes, I get tempted by convenience at the expense of sustainability – I’m not perfect – but I try hard to buy from brands who align with my beliefs and make sure my actions are not having a negative impact on the planet – but I do love nice things.
So where to start? Look for the Butterfly Mark Certification and shop from brands that are not just making sustainability promises but actually doing the work.