Luxury companies represent both an opportunity and a threat to environmental organizations. They require materials that have significant ecological footprints, but also have the potential to convince consumers that sustainability is fashionable.
In order to confront this double-edged nature of the luxury industry, the World Wildlife Fund used a hybrid approach incorporating both confrontation and collaboration-based strategies. Its 2007 Deeper Luxury report utilizes descriptive and injunctive normative statements to positively engage the industry while also using a controversial rating system to confront the top 10 luxury firms with their poor environmental and social performance.
Our research on sustainability information in the luxury industry involved a detailed content analysis of the Deeper Luxury report and all of the sustainability-related, publicly-available documents produced between 2001 and 2011 by the ten luxury companies rated in the report. We analyzed the report’s normative statements and performance ratings, and identified the strengths and weaknesses of the hybrid approach used by WWF in the report.
This research was published in an edited volume entitled Sustainable Management of Luxury (Springer, 2017). In the chapter, we conclude that such an approach faces important challenges, and may require collaboration among organizations with different skills and reputations. Our content analysis of the sustainability-related documents of the ten rated companies, and finds that their responses to WWF’s normative demands varied significantly, with L’Oreal, LVMH, and PPR demonstrating the greatest responsiveness.