Call for transparency in luxury : give ourselves power to plebiscite best practices !
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(Here's a two-minutes extract of the presentation of this project at the Paris 2017 Hello Tomorrow Summit. The complete presentation - 10min + Q&A can be watched here. A three-minutes extract demonstrating the new e-commerce product can be seen here. The slides of the presentation can be viewed here)
Dear Consumers, dear Citizens,
Each and every purchase you make is a powerful vote that you could transform into a plebiscite for a better, sustainable and responsible world! This petition is about calling companies and in particular luxury brands to be more transparent about their production, retribution and distribution models, on an systematic and consumer-friendly basis.
From the market point of view, every single purchase decision is a vote, incentivizing or sanctioning the related production, retribution and distribution model. I even believe these economic votes are as important as political ones, when facing the sustainability challenge.
Private markets have been key in the development of humankind but have not been designed to consider environmental externalities, which only appeared recently as an issue. They even prevent the emergence of resolutions at national levels because of the «carbon leakage» and «free-rider» dilemmas : nations putting no efforts to reduce emissions will benefit from the ones making sacrifices, by attracting polluting activities (and the resulting economics) to themselves. In consequence, no government is willing to enforce stringent regulations, since it will destroy its economy while benefitting to others. Therefore, any efficient solution must come from markets themselves, which is to say, at the end of the chain, from the consumers themselves.
Hence as consumers it is crucial that we care about the social and environmental externalities of our shopping habits - this is actually the only way so far we can make markets reach more sustainable and fair equilibria, and collectively help decision makers craft regulations that embed negative externalities within market mechanisms (tax, quotas).
However, in real life, even if we do care, we don't have access to the facts that could help us decide.
Making these facts available on a systematic and consumer-friendly basis obviously requires exhaustive data, time and interests. These three issues are why I'm adressing this call to leaders of the luxury industry in particular :
- Time and interests can be found, if there's a perceived value in exploring the production, retribution and distribution context of a product. And what products could make you want to learn more about their background stories if not luxury ones ? This perceived value is the incentive that can make both customers and brands share and leverage relevant data.
- Regarding data : in fact, every company already has lots and lots of them - more than enough to be honest! There again is the issue of how to create economic value out of sharing them, to justify the costs of the operation.
Examples of strategies aligning search for profits and a transition toward sustainability are already becoming reality : my two personal favorites so far are first, Carrefour's marketing (and physical) campaign promoting "ugly veggies" and "forbidden seeds" (seeds produced by independent and traditional farmers, forbidden to be sold as they are not "standardized" enough according to a law written under Monsanto&Co's supervision), while in the same time lobbying public authorities to change this law. The second example is the living success of France's first "online fashion brand [...] that French girls wait in line to buy" Sézane, built on mutual trust and understanding, as shown in frequent documentaries they made put forward their workshops and the legacy it is saving.
So it is indeed possible to make money and be profitable while improving sustainability! (how absurd does this sound : in a very short run, everything sustainable will be profitable by definition, may it be for economic activities, our planet or our grandsons).
I trust luxury executives to be smart and creative enough to put up incredible campaigns that will make us all dream of a sustainable and responsible society, while giving us the power in our daily lives to plebiscite best social and environmental practices. This petition here is just a friendly reminder to them that this is a matter so very dear to us - so please handle it with care, swiftly, and with love !
Thank you all again for your time and support,
Nicolas, Paris, Hello Tomorrow Summit, October 26th 2017, entirely re-written in a reader-friendly form by Alice :)
PS : since the first posting of this text in October 2017 Starbuck and Alibaba unveiled the biggest physical-digital coffee shop in the world. Demo here
PPS : @luxury creatives just in case you don't figure out a way to align search for profits and traceability/transparency here's a three-folded strategy, illustrated by the example of Stabruck x Alibaba that you can adapt & discuss. :
- Improve thanks to information technologies (ICT) traceability and systematize documentaries like Sézane's, so that from each sold product the acquirer can discover the story of every person and all materials that have taken a part in this product's journey.
- Reinvent digital and physical spaces to extend customer experience beyond the sole act of purchasing, by letting them discover the aforementioned information, search easily for news related to designers, artisans and materials they already know from theirpurchases, and become a part of a bigger community. Make luxury the meeting point between patron-consumers and the guarantors of tradition, expertise and biodiversity.
- The automated and systematized traceability and accounting systems, enabled as a result of technological and process experimentations, will then allow identification of levers for both environmental and economic improvements - and this within companies as well as on society as a whole.
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