Major luxury companies criticized over ethics

The Ethical Consumer Research Association (ECRA) has recently released a report entitled “Style Over Substance”.  The report deals with ethics in the world of luxury business. The luxury houses selected for the report included Prada, Burberry, Alexander McQueen, LVMH and Armani.

The companies have been rated against 15 ethical criteria that fall under four key issues – animal rights, human rights, the environment and political activities such as lobbying and anti-social finance practice (think tax evasion and corruption).

High street brands have been had their fair share of sweatshop exposes, but the luxury market has remained unscathed.

ECRA has now called for the luxury sector to take responsibility and to start reporting on its social and environmental impacts. The organisation posed a number of questions to the luxury companies. A lot of questions weren’t answered, which might make one think that the luxury houses aren’t as ethical as we think.

Animal testing is a topic that has been associated with the cosmetics industry for years. Luxury fashion brands produce the majority of their own fragances and sadly the companies named in the report have the worst rating for its animal testing policy.

Clothing is the biggest component of the luxury houses’ business, which comes with a high environmental impact. Non-organic cotton growing uses huge quantities of water and chemicals. Greenpeace is currently campaigning for companies to stop using toxic chemicals.

Fur is the biggest ethical drama that the luxury industry faces. During the ‘90s, supermodels helped make fur taboo, by posing for PETA ad campaigns stating that they would ‘rather go naked than wear fur.” Fast forward to 2011 and these models are now parading fur. What has changed?  The fur trade is now trying to win favour by promoting it as being eco-friendly.

CSR Asia reports that fashion critics have considered that the luxury landscape has been shifting from a focus on tradition and quality to an emphasis on corporate growth and branding. To maximise revenue, luxury goods are no longer accessible by the rich, but also to the middle class.

Whilst China is expected to be the second biggest consumer of luxury goods after Japan by 2015, industrial analysts believe that the luxury consumption in China will not depend on the super rich but the emerging middle class whose purchasing power has been growing steadily.

adapted from The MO Down