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By Chere Di Boscio
There can be little doubt that small sustainable brands catering to a conscious consumers are increasing in the market every day. From organic perfumeries to ethically constructed furniture, demand for such goods is also on the rise globally. Diana Verde Nieto, founder of Positive Luxury, is highly knowledgeable of the growth in greener brands, and includes many of them in her growing kaleidoscope of butterfly certified partners. But she also goes after the bigger labels too, encouraging them to jump onto the eco bandwagon and prepare for a long, long ride.
The Luxury Society and Huffington Post columnist has charm, a corporate background and a business mind that makes her just as at home in meetings with CEOs like LVMH boss Bernard Arnault as with beloved TV personalities like David Attenborough. She studied at the Harvard Kennedy School on Global Leadership and Public Policy and was selected for the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader programme in 2011, where she now sits on the advisory board. This perpetually busy woman is also a member of the Global Agenda Council for Sustainable Consumption and was trained in sustainability practices by none less than Al Gore.
Here in this exclusive interview, she tells us the importance of thinking about where to put your hands, what positive luxury is all about, and why she’s happy to be hungry and foolish.
What’s your earliest memory of being in nature?
I grew up in Argentina – my earliest memory is being in outside on a field – the sun shining on my skin and seeing at the very end of a flat land the horizon.
What steps do you take in your daily life to be a bit greener? And what’s your biggest ‘eco sin’?
I really believe that the positive impact we have on people and our planet should be a part of our daily life. It should be hardwired into our behaviour instead of just highlighted through actions with words such as ‘green’. This is what my company, Positive Luxury, is all about, normalizing sustainability and bringing everyday language to the topic. That being said, I consciously make an effort to walk or run to work when I can, eat less meat (which is a struggle being Argentinean) and to buy from brands that care about the same things I care about.
How have your own previous challenges and achievements contributed to your present successes?
My upbringing in Argentina has instilled a huge passion to fight for what’s fair, and drive for the opportunity to make a difference, that’s where my focus is and what keeps me striving to achieve.
Am I successful? Success is relative to the individual. I really believe that you never stop learning and the majority of people I’ve met, and continue to meet, have each taught me something that’s contributed to my achievements. As Steve Jobs once said ‘Stay hungry, stay foolish’, and I certainly ensure that I stay both.
What prompted you to launch Positive Luxury, and what were the first steps taken to do that?
We founded Positive Luxury to help people identify at a glance which brands care about the future of our society and planet. Positive Luxury helps brands to talk about their values, and The Butterfly Mark is a way for people to instantly recognise the brands they can trust.
What’s the screening process you put brands through before they’re accepted for the Positive Luxury butterfly?
Every brand within the Positive Luxury community has first and foremost gone through our assessment process, which comprises of an evaluation of their social and environmental framework through a set of targeted questions based on the industry, such as fashion, travel or beauty. Companies are required to respond positively to a minimum of 80% of the questions and provide additional documents to support their application. If a brand qualifies, they’re awarded the Butterfly Mark for use on their website and marketing materials and we work closely with the team to spread their positive story through their own and our channels. The application form is updated annually and each brand must re-complete this on an annual basis.
In the general panorama of ethical and sustainable fashion, what strategies do you think are already working and what needs to change most?
Businesses that are prepared to think the unthinkable and act as a start-up by innovating, prototyping and testing with people and the planet at the heart of their ideas will reap the biggest rewards in future-proofing their business. There is no separation today, this agenda cannot be disengaged from the corporate strategy but instead intertwined. The biggest change that needs to happen from a brand perspective is for sustainability to be integrated and become a part of the brand’s DNA, and in turn use aspirational language to communicate their actions.
What future initiatives are you working on with Positive Luxury?
Right now we’re expanding The Butterfly Mark internationally, my aim is to make the mark famous. The Butterfly Mark nudges people to buy from brands that care, inspiring trust and in turn influencing their purchasing behaviour. Our aim is to work with more online retailers’/travel agencies etc, as well as brands, to place The Butterfly Mark next to a product/service to enable the consumer to instantly recognize which brands embody luxury while protecting our planet’s resources. This results in building trust, increasing brand loyalty and ultimately aims to increase sales. Everybody wins; brands, retailers, consumers and society at large.
Which people making a difference are you most inspired by and why?
I’m inspired every day by people that love what they do and stop at nothing to achieve their goals – no matter how big or small!
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
A great friend and wise women once told me, “Edmund Hillary didn’t conquer Everest by looking at the summit. Think about where you’re going to put your next hand” – when in doubt I always think of this.
Which single problem do you think is the most important one faced by humankind today?
Greed….in one way or another I think we are preconditioned to be selfish – there are a few exceptions of course. Thankfully!
What are some of your own favourite positive luxuries?
Time is the ultimate luxury.