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Strategy

Tomorrow’s managers call for a more sustainable and fairer luxury industry

This year, Luxury Tribune partnered with the French business school, IESEG School of Management, to challenge the students of the International MBA program. More precisely, students were asked to write a hit news article about a luxury topic in one week only. The two lucky winners, Vanda Absolonova and Cari Quoyeser, will see their articles published on Luxury Tribune this week. Perrine Desmichel, luxury marketing Professor at IESEG, shares her own insights about the competition.

Dr. Perrine Desmichel

By Dr. Perrine Desmichel10 mai 2021

Illustration Domenica Lucia

Ask a group of MBA students to describe the trend that they think will shape the luxury world of tomorrow and their answer will revolve around two words: sustainability and responsibility. For these future managers luxury brands cannot ignore the key concerns in today’s society, even if, at first sight, these concerns are far from being glamorous.

What is on the agenda of luxury brands according to MBA students?

Louis Roederer’s first release of a Cristal champagne fully developed in biodynamic vineyards, new Hermès Victoria handbag made out of vegan mushroom leather, latest Philippe Starck’s furniture collection for Cassina using apple-based vegan fabric, upcoming opening of the SVART energy-positive hotel in Norway. All the areas of the luxury sector seem to be jumping on the sustainability bandwagon, but for sceptics who would see there just as a fad, students on the contrary describe: “a new way of life that is meant to last”, “the future luxury in the world of tomorrow”.

Social responsibility is not left behind. A student chose to work on the “cancel culture” and how the recent scandals that the luxury industry faced have taught important lessons for the future. Overall, 50% of the articles that MBA students from IESEG submitted revolve around CSR-related topics. Issues that are even (or should I say especially) central to luxury brands.

Why CSR not only talks to consumers, but also to future managers?

What should we learn from the CSR craze? There is no denying that sustainability issues concern luxury customers, as shown by a Bain & company study (2020) revealing that 80% of luxury consumers prefer buying products from responsible brands. But beyond that, it seems that future managers also worry about the social and environmental commitments of their potential employers.

To seduce millennials who have just completed their studies it will be key for companies to communicate about their CSR agenda and to show tangible accomplishments in this area. The luxury industry is no exception. Suffering from the negative association between luxury consumption and a materialistic and wasteful lifestyle, luxury brands must burnish their image and position themselves as CSR pioneers.

At least this is what tomorrow’s managers are expecting and what they are willing to fight for: the redefinition of a sustainable and fair luxury concept!

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