Walpole launches British Luxury Sustainability Manifesto


Last night, Walpole launched phase one of its Sustainability Manifesto at its annual CEO & Chairmen’s dinner on Monday night in the UN Ballroom at Four Seasons Hotel, Ten Trinity Square, attended by over 100 British luxury brands including Burberry, dunhill, Harrods, Johnstons of Elgin, Mulberry and The SAVOY to support the launch of the new initiative and committing to prioritising sustainability within their businesses.

Walpole, the sector body for the UK luxury industry which counts over 270 high-end brands amongst its membership, supported by strategic partner McKinsey & Company, launched its ambitious and comprehensive sustainability manifesto that aims to support the British luxury sector in leading the way on the imperative towards sustainability.

Aligned to the UN Sustainability Goals, Walpole’s sustainability manifesto, aims to set industry best practice aspirations in sustainability for the British luxury sector with four overarching principles:

  • Lead the transition towards a circular economy
  • Safeguard the environment and natural resources
  • Guide partners and suppliers towards sustainable practices
  • Advocate equal and respectful working conditions

According to McKinsey & Company’s ‘Generation Research’, there is momentum from consumers demanding sustainable products with approximately 30% of GenZ and Millennial consumers willing to pay more for sustainable products. Investors and shareholder are increasingly demanding sustainable investments, with a third of global assets now managed through sustainable strategies. Governments and regulators are also setting the pace for change through legislative changes. According to the 2019 Swytch survey on employee sentiment, around 70% of employees would prefer to work for a company with a green footprint.

Similar sentiment was revealed in the 2020 Walpole-McKinsey ‘Sustainability in Luxury Survey’, and focus groups conducted among the Walpole membership. Around 90% of brands identified sustainability as a top five priority for their business largely driven by the increased focus on social responsibility and changing consumer expectations and purchasing behaviours. Owing to the wide range of sub-sectors within the British luxury industry, businesses face different sustainability priorities depending on their category. However, the survey revealed responsible sourcing of raw materials, waste management (recycling, reuse), and reducing greenhouse gas emissions as cross-cutting sustainability challenges faced by majority of the Walpole membership. Walpole members acknowledged that although the luxury sector has an inherent advantage on key sustainability topics, there is a need for collaboration with supply chain players and peers.

Having developed the manifesto, ensuring clear and specific sustainability aspirations are set, tracked and communicated, Walpole’s role will be to provide on-going directional guidelines for the sustainable journeys of its members and to support member businesses with relevant resources, forums and tools to achieve these aspirations.

Pam Batty, Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, Burberry said: “The luxury industry needs to collaborate and enact policies and programmes at scale to protect the environment, implement more sustainable practices and support workers in its supply chains. While there is no quick fix, we are hugely supportive of Walpole’s British Luxury Sustainability Manifesto which will bring together established and emerging UK brands to implement systemic change and build a more sustainable future for our industry.”

Michael Ward, Chairman, Walpole & Managing Director, Harrods commented: “As an industry that has always been upheld by the highest standards, British luxury has an obligation to lead from the front when it comes to sustainability. There is no doubt that the commitment to quality and strong values that define our industry must now incorporate measures that prioritise sustainability within our individual businesses. Walpole’s British Luxury Sustainability Manifesto is the unifying platform needed to focus our individual strategies, share best practice and demonstrate our commitment to one of our industry’s biggest strategic priorities. I am heartened and inspired that Harrods will be standing alongside the wider industry as we continue our own sustainability journey.”

Helen Brocklebank, CEO, Walpole added: “If British luxury is to achieve its target of £65billion in sales over the next five years, sustainability has to be at the heart of every brand’s strategy: for Millennials and GenZ who will account for half of all luxury sales by 2025, true luxury only comes with a clean conscience.”

Anita Balchandani, Partner, McKinsey & Company said: “Analysis of the ‘Sustainability in Luxury’ survey conducted with Walpole members confirmed that most British luxury brands consider sustainability to be a core strategic priority. It is increasingly relevant for the luxury consumers, investors and for the brands to have long lasting products.”


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