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Sustainable luxury is the new narrative for businesses

luxury brands need to undertake such initiatives to support the cause of sustainability in business practices.

By Sachin Jain,

Sustainability is important and must be the core of every business – it is a guide to a better future, one that is fairer, safer, cleaner and healthier, where safety, human rights and ethical integrity continue to be paramount, where communities thrive and where the environment is protected. These are the values that most luxury brands vouch for across the world. Millennials and Gen Z consumers, who drive majority of global luxury sales growth, expect luxury brands to be aligned with their values. The new generation is conscious of the ecological and social consequences of their purchase decisions and prefer buying from a brand that is in tune with their own personal values. Hence, niche brands who wish to retain their established status in the luxury market need to evolve with this growing trend of ethical and sustainable luxury. We believe this notion of social purpose will come to sit at the heart of the consumer proposition for all luxury brands – and even more so when it comes to highly meaningful luxury purchases such as diamonds.

According to a Nielsen survey, 73 percent of millennial respondents were willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable or socially conscious brand. Furthermore, 81 percent of millennials expect the brands that they buy, to be transparent in their marketing and actively talk about their sustainability impact. So the question is, how should luxury brands embrace this change and introduce sustainable luxury into their narrative? The key is to be transparent and authentic – brands have to mandatorily implement sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices in their methods.

Sustainability should be at the heart of the diamond legacy

Diamonds discovered in some of the remotest parts of the world are invaluable and rich, and hence their discovery should carve out a positive legacy. We have to make sure that the discovery of these miracles of nature benefits everybody who lives in the geography where they were first sourced and that the biodiversity is protected to the maximum extent possible. A diamond’s journey is always held to the highest possible sustainable and ethical standards from the moment the rock is sourced from the ground, the rough diamond extracted, and then metamorphosed into marvellous jewellery. These diamonds are not only selected for rarity and beauty alone but they must be responsibly sourced and transparent.

Consumers too now increasingly expecting brands to prove they are a demonstrable force for good – in their sourcing practices, impact on local communities, commitment to environmentally responsible operations, and support to social causes. The challenges our planet currently faces have opened a space for jewellery that addresses important topics such as climate change, sustainability and the protection of endangered habitats and species. Forged billions of years ago deep within the earth’s surface, natural diamonds are the closest thing to forever you might ever hold. Each totally unique, they carry incredible significance, not only for the people who wear them, but for those they touch along their journey.

An example of nature initiative taken by us in Africa involves the protection of the source waters of the Okavango Delta and the lives and livelihoods we support. The commitment will help protect Africa’s endangered species, ensure water and food security for more than one million people and develop livelihood opportunities for 10,000 people. It represents critical inward investment to underpin the resilience and long-term recovery of the region in the years ahead. Hence luxury brands need to undertake such initiatives to support the cause of sustainability in business practices.

This approach towards sustainable luxury and socially conscious innovation is an innovative branding tool. Therefore, any luxury brand, which wants to survive the test of time, needs to subtle bring in sustainability in its narrative. We should understand that diamonds are symbolic of our greatest emotions – love, pride and lasting commitment, yet they have to be obtained keeping in mind the highest standards of sustainability, which alone will ensure that they make a lasting impression on the buyers. Diamonds hold a deeper meaning and value than most will ever know; for the people and the wildlife they’ve supported in the countries where they are discovered and hence it is our responsibility to ensure its pristine and natural value. Diamonds are forever only when they are sustainable.

(The author is Managing Director, De Beers India. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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