Luxury companies fail the global citizen test

Consumers are becoming more concerned about social and environmental issues, and want the products they buy to reflect these concerns — but new research shows most luxury brands fail.

A new report, co-written by Griffith Business School Associate Professor Jem Bendell and launched by WWF examined the environmental and social record of some of the world’s top brands, including L’Oréal, Hermès, Tiffany & Co and Louis Vuitton.

Dr Bendell said the report, ‘Deeper Luxury’, looked at the top ten holding companies for luxury brands and ranked them.

“This is the first time anyone has conducted such an analysis, and none of these holding companies scored well. The best performer, L’Oréal, scored a C+ and many of its competitors failed even to achieve a pass grade,” Dr Bendell said.

The ranking was based on the companies’ own sustainability reporting and the way they have been judged in the media and by non-government organisations.

“Even the Paris fashion editor of Newsweek says luxury has lost its Lustre,” Dr Bendell said.

“Obviously this has implications for business. The research suggests the industry will only get the lustre back when companies achieve excellent quality in all business processes, including social and environmental aspects.”

Dr Bendell said it wasn’t about charity, but whether products and services had made a positive contribution to the world.

“Notions of quality are changing. No brand will be considered quality unless it makes a positive contribution, and no brand considered luxury unless it makes the greatest contribution.”

The report highlights many luxury consumers are increasingly well educated and concerned about social and environmental issues.

These consumers use luxury products as a symbol of success. The definition of success and the way it is perceived by others is changing. Increasingly, successful people want the brands they use to reflect their concerns and aspirations for a better world.

This is true not only in Western luxury markets, but, increasingly, amongst the affluent middle classes of Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe, Dr Bendell said.

Report Co-writer and WWF-UK Senior Policy Adviser Anthony Kleanthous said luxury companies must do more to justify their value in an increasingly resource-constrained and unequal world.

“Despite strong commercial drivers for greater sustainability, luxury brands have been slow to recognise their responsibilities and opportunities,” Mr Kleanthous said.

“The report calls upon the luxury industry to bring to life a new definition of luxury, with deeper values expressed through social and environmental excellence, and with performance on environmental, social and governance issues comprehensively measured and reported.”

Dr Bendell said the WWF was also encouraging celebrities to support brands that actually make a positive difference to the world, and were launching a Star Charter for them to support.

Dr Bendell is also working with professionals in the industry to share information on creating more sustainable luxury goods and services, through the Authentic Luxury Network, also just launched. The report is online at, the Star Charter at and the Authentic Luxury Network at