As we are getting ready to ring in the new year, it is time to look back at 2013. Despite its fair share of depressing news, chief among them the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh, this year also saw some promising developments and auspicious announcements in the area of sustainable luxury: from zero-deforestation luxury eco-bags to shark-friendly flagship stores, and from setting off on a journey towards sustainability to setting new benchmarks for measuring it. Below are my 12 personal highlights of 2013 – one for each month of the year in which luxury did get a little greener, after all. Thank you for your support and wishing you a green and glam year ahead!
JANUARY: Gucci launches ‘zero deforestation’ luxury eco-bag
In January 2013, Gucci launched the world’s first luxury eco-handbag. The red-coloured shoulder bag was made from sustainably produced leather sourced from Rainforest Certified (TM) cattle ranches in the Brazilian Amazon that comes with a zero-deforestation certificate. The bag, available for sale on Gucci’s website, is a result of Gucci’s collaboration with Eco-Age/Green Carpet Challenge, as well as two of the world’s leading environmental NGOs, The Rainforest Alliance and The National Wildlife Federation
FEBRUARY: Sustainable brands make their presence felt at London Fashion Week
At the London Fashion Week 2013 exhibition in February, almost a third of showcasing brands had a sustainability focus, according to the Ethical Fashion Forum (EFF). “This is actually quite a significant development from past years – sustainability in fashion is clearly being taken more seriously by the wider industry, much more so than ever before,” comments EFF’s Sarah Ditty.
MARCH: Luxury industry commits to more sustainable python trade
At the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in March 2013, the luxury industry came together with conservationists to clean up the $1bn a year python trade, half of which is believed to be illicit. Since then, a number of initiatives have been announced, including a partnership between luxury group Kering, the International Trade Centre, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), to ensure greater sustainability in the python trade and facilitate industry-wide change.
APRIL: 100 brands sign up to the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety
In the aftermath of the Rana Plaza Garment Factory collapse on 24 April 2013 which killed more than 1,000 people, more than 100 global brands have signed the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, driven by labour NGOs IndustriALL and UNI. Signatories include well-known brands such as Abercombie & Fitch, H&M, Mango and Zara owner Inditex. However, several investigative media reports, including BBC Panorama’s ‘Dying for a Bargain‘ showed that six months on, the situation on the ground in Dhaka and elsewhere in Bangladesh has not improved significantly, and therefore there is no room for complacency.
MAY: Chopard announces its journey towards sustainability
At the Cannes Film Festival in May, Swiss jewellery and watch brand Chopard unveiled its first ‘Green Carpet Collection’ pieces, as part of Chopard’s High Jewellery Collection. The company also launched its own sustainability commitment, “The Journey”, and Chopard’s partnership with the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) to support and enable small artisanal mining communities in Latin America to reach Fairmined Gold certification.
JUNE: Sharks get an image makeover at Selfridges’ Project Ocean
In its third year, Selfridges’ Project Ocean, held in June, challenged its millions of customers to think differently about sharks. As part of its ongoing ‘retail activism’ campaign, London’s iconic flagship store shone the spotlight on the global plight of sharks, which — far from what their ‘Jaws’ image may suggest — are some of the most vulnerable species in the oceans. Selfridges also made sure that the products it sells are 100% free from shark oil and by-products.
JULY: Ethical fashion comes of age at the SOURCE Summit
In July, the Ethical Fashion Forum held its first-ever SOURCE Summit with more than 1,000 sustainable fashion industry movers and shakers in attendance. At the SOURCE Forum, the sustainable fashion movement has finally come of age. You can read my full report on the event here.
AUGUST: Puttin’ on the green Ritz in Berlin
“If you’re blue and you don’t know where to go to why don’t you go where fashion sits, Puttin’ on the ritz…” Remember Fred Astaire’s brilliant performance? Meanwhile, the luxury hotel behind the expression showed us what ‘puttin’ on the ritz’ really means in 2013: going green. In August, The Ritz-Carlton in Berlin became the first five-star hotel in Europe to be certified by the EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS), reinforcing its commitment to sustainability.
SEPTEMBER: Edun — Ethical label’s new beginnings
At the New York Fashion Week in September, Edun, the LVMH-owned ethical fashion brand founded in 2005 by U2’s Bono and his wife Ali Hewson presented its new collection and the first by its newly appointed creative director Danielle Sherman. While Edun’s noble objective of ending poverty in Africa through fashion was never in question, same cannot be said about the label’s previous collections that received mixed reviews from fashion industry experts. With Sherman’s arrival, there is now new hope that “…the strength of Edun’s clothes will match the strength of its mission,” according to Style.com.
OCTOBER: Sharing Beauty with All — L’Oréal’s sustainability commitment
In October, the beauty and cosmetics giant L’Oréal announced a major sustainability commitment to transform by 2020 the sustainability footprint of the company while achieving its business ambition. Titled ‘Sharing Beauty with All’, L’Oréal’s sustainability strategy includes a target to ensure that all of its products have an environmental or social benefit, and cutting its environmental footprint by 60% whilst reaching one billion new consumers. Why sustainability? For L’Oréal, the answer must simply be ‘Because it’s worth it’.
NOVEMBER: Responsible Jewellery Council celebrates certification of 300 members
In November, the Responsible Jewellery Council, the industry certification body established in 2005, marked an important milestone: 300 of its 450-plus members have completed independent, third party certification covering business ethics, as well as a broad suite of social, environmental and human rights issues. RJC’s certified members include companies of repute such as Cartier or Tiffany & Co. However, the RJC had come under fire earlier in the year by labour rights and environmental NGOs. In the report ‘More Shine Than Substance’ they argued that “RJC’s certification cannot provide consumers with meaningful reassurance about the ethical antecedents of the jewelry and minerals produced by its member companies.” It would appear that ‘blood diamonds’ are not yet a thing of the past.
DECEMBER: The Higg Index 2.0 launched
To cap off the year, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition released its updated Higg Index 2.0 in December. Developed in collaboration with industry leaders such as Nike and Levi Strauss & Co., The Higg Index is a tool to help organizations measure and evaluate environmental performance of clothes and footwear. The updated Index brings a step closer the Coalition’s shared vision of sustainability in the global apparel and footwear industry. It also serves as a platform to spotlight priorities for action and opportunities for technological innovation.