Sustainability in Luxury Retail

Sustainability in luxury retail – keeping it a priority.

When talking about sustainability in retail, it’s easy to label fast-fashion brands as the ones that need to make the big changes. But while luxury brands have an advantage of products designed and purchased for longevity, as opposed to temporary use, these brands are still feeling the same pressure from customers and competitors to demonstrate their sustainability efforts. And while luxury products may have a more sustainable lifespan, in-store displays still play a huge part in their environmental footprint.

As we see more brands move forward with their post-pandemic retail strategy, it will be interesting to see how sustainability will be included, especially within retail design. Here are some examples of brands that have been continuing to make an impact throughout the pandemic.

Changing the spotlight on energy efficiency

Keeping the lights on is key for any retail store and brands have to rely on electricity to keep business going. In early 2020, Chanel pledged to source 100% renewable electricity for its global operations by 2025, including all retail stores and runway shows. As part of an overall strategy set out by the label, titled ‘Chanel Mission 1.5°’, it follows the Paris Climate agreement (COP21), which aims to limit the global mean temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Spreading the sustainability message

While retailers closed their doors throughout most of 2020, luxury handbag and accessories brand, Anya Hindmarch saw an opportunity to spread a message through her shop front. You may remember the brands ‘I Am Not A Plastic Bag’ campaign back in 2007, in which it designed canvas bags for leading supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s. But over the years, the mission has changed. The brand has shifted focus from awareness of the problem to circularity of materials. The recent ‘I Am A Plastic Bag’ collection is manufactured from recycled plastic bottles, which are spun into yarn to produce canvas that feels like cotton.

Over 2020 London Fashion Week, the designer closed her stores and filled them with 90,000 recycled plastic bottles to promote the new collection and encourage the conversation of circular economy throughout such an important week in the fashion industry. The windows displayed shocking statistics linked to damage caused by plastic bottles, along with a QR code that passers by could scan for more information. The graphics, of course, were made from eco-friendly inks and printed on PVC-free material. What’s more, all elements were sourced within a 40-mile radius.

Financial commitments to sustainability

Over the last year, we have seen some major commitments to sustainability from leading luxury retailers. Prada recently took out a major sustainability-linked loan, against which the brand has to reduce its environmental impact otherwise it would face pecuniary consequences. Not long after this Chanel and Burberry followed a similar route, in the form of raising money from investor bonds.

This move saw Burberry develop its ownSustainability Bond Framework, designed to encourage financial backing from investors with the view of delivering the brands sustainability aims. The brand’s aims include its ongoing efforts to increase its use of green energy, improve its material sourcing, reduce and re-evaluate its waste and to ‘positively impact’ one million people by 2022, by tackling educational inequality and supporting social and economic development and community cohesion.

It’s great to see so many brands making innovations and commitments to sustainability, even during a global pandemic. It goes to show that creating a greener, more circular economy should always be a priority.

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M41 7LY, UK

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Unit 6 Mercury Park,
Mercury Way,
Trafford Park,
Manchester,
M41 7LY, UK

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