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Diana Verde Nieto on Positive Luxury

Georgie Grant

Positive Luxury, the brand behind the Butterfly Mark that is awarded to luxury brands that demonstrate a positive social and environmental impact. To be awarded the butterfly mark, companies must ensure they comply with local law, international law and best practice principles. We spoke to Diana Verde Nieto, co-founder of Positive Luxury on the journey of the company so far.

Diana Verde Nieto and Karen Hanton, co-founders of Positive Luxury

Diana Verde Nieto and Karen Hanton, co-founders of Positive Luxury

What lead you to start Positive Luxury?

Karen and I launched Positive Luxury 7 years ago through our passion and strong belief that technology would bring transparency to the sustainability conversation and enable every society member - individuals and corporations alike - to play a role in preserving and restoring nature. This initiative ensures that we meet the true vision of sustainability, as coined by Gro Harlem Brundtland back in 1980; she defined sustainable development as “meeting the needs of today without compromising the needs of future generations.”

The whole concept of sustainability was at a relatively early stage when we started Positive Luxury - yet, it was still more advanced than when I started my first company, the first international sustainability communication agency, back in 2001/2002. 

My co-founder Karen Hanton, MBE, founder of Toptable and I were brought up physically worlds apart (I am from Argentina and Karen is from Aberdeen), we are united by values and beliefs. When we started dreaming Positive Luxury, we both saw an opportunity to combine our knowledge and experience in different sectors and ultimately follow our passion to democratise sustainability - making it more approachable for both consumers and companies. 

When did your passion for sustainability begin?

I grew up in Argentina under a dictatorship and saw first-hand how a lack of good leadership can have a detrimental effect on both people and our world.  

What is the assessment process like in order to gain the Butterfly Mark?

Brands who want to be awarded the Butterfly Mark and be part of the Positive Luxury community, must go beyond compliance. What I mean by this is that they have to go beyond achieving a minimum sustainable standard that is compliant with local law, international law and best practice principles. The assessment process is designed to be a thorough examination of a brand’s commitment to sustainability in the following 5 key areas: governance, social framework, environmental framework, philanthropy and innovation. Our Butterfly Mark identifies luxury lifestyle brands that meet the highest standards of verified innovation, social and environmental performance – offering transparency and equipping people to make informed purchasing decisions.

Can you explain the significance of the butterfly emblem?

When I presented Sir David Attenborough his lifetime achievement award in 2010, I had the pleasure of sitting next to him over dinner and being inspired by his amazing discoveries in our natural world. Sir David Attenborough told me about the story of the Large British Blue Butterfly, which was brought back from near extinction in the United Kingdom; the Large British Blue Butterfly is now the most successful insect reintroduction in the world. When we were thinking about creating a logo for Positive Luxury that represented the power of people united to reverse the negative impact we have on our planet’s resources, I could not think of anything more appropriate than the Large British Blue Butterfly.

What are your biggest takings from the EAC report?

The EAC is a fantastic report that identifies the pressing issues inherent to high street fashion and our throwaway society. It is alarming that the UK is the country where people buy the most clothes and that tells us something about our cultural values. 

At the start of the Positive Luxury, Karen and I felt that luxury might be the way to inspire the mainstream to do better. We strongly believe that if we can convince the luxury industry to start communicating the amazing work they are doing, we can definitely inspire the high street and beyond. As our platform engages with businesses and individuals alike, we also aim to change customer behaviours and educate our audience to make informed purchase decisions.

At Positive Luxury, we created an assessment process that is designed to reflect the self-regulating nature of sustainable businesses, due to the lack of government legislation. 

Positive Luxury Butterfly Mark

Positive Luxury Butterfly Mark

How has the concept of sustainability in business evolved within the past few years? 

The global challenge of climate change has led companies to invest in innovation, whether on materials or new business models, in order to increase their climate risk resiliency. Brands who confront this challenge are provided with the opportunity to change the narrative and drive disruption from the inside out. A business can evolve from being a company to being a part of a movement interested in our world and future generations.

To confront the challenges with attracting and retaining talent, brands need to appeal to a new age-less demographic that is united by values and a desire for purpose – coined in our 2019 Predictions Report as “Generation Less”. The Generation Less mindset represents how our world has changed and the set of values that all ages have adopted as a result. They are socially and environmentally conscious and seek convenience, personalisation, work-life balance, experiences and are choosing to work for companies who reflect their values and can prove their positive impact on our world.

Luxury brands are inherently more sustainable; as they value quality, craftsmanship, design over quantity. The luxury industry has the capability to drive innovations through the supply chain, innovating on materials, packaging and different business models making a positive impact in the world. I truly believe that consumer behaviour - especially when it comes to their purchasing decisions - are changing: we want to buy less but better, and luxury is an enabler to that as quality and durability are inherent in the product.

With this in mind, how do you continuously develop and define when a company is sustainable?

Sustainability is not a destination but a journey, the same way it is not exclusively about supply chain, but rather about leadership - a purpose-driven leadership. 

To ensure Positive Luxury remains ahead of the curve, the assessment process is reviewed every two years in partnership with our experienced sustainability council, as well as external institutional partners, companies, NGO’s and retailers. This consultative approach guarantees that the assessment reflects the highest standard possible by respecting local and international law as well as both industry-specific issues and innovations within sustainability.

We use technology to help with our evaluation; by utilising publicly available data, we are able to check the self-reported information and that the 3rd party certification bodies are accounted for and quality checked through Positive Luxury’s data analytics. Lastly, we use a materiality assessment to identify priority sustainability issues. This materiality matrix has been reviewed and refined through a series of interviews with a cross-section of external and internal stakeholders.

Most importantly, we work with the legislative environment, academia, think tanks and businesses to support the brands in our community in remaining at the forefront of innovation.