Interview with Maria Eugenia Giron, Luxury goods expert and RESP Executive Committee member

María Eugenia Giron

“Luxury products have to be sustainable or they will no longer be luxury”

Luxury companies must embrace sustainability if they want to continue growing and attract clients who are increasingly sensitive to environmental issues, says Maria Eugenia Giron, a luxury goods expert and member of the RESP Executive Committee.

Giron, who is Executive Director for IE Business School Premium and Prestige Business Observatory said luxury good companies must work hard to become synonymous with sustainability. The industry’s creativity and constant drive for improvements as well as its international visibility would be critical to that transition and is a real asset.

“This industry is better equipped than any other to become sustainable, Giron said. “There are a lot of creative, smart and talented young people whose job it is to come up with great ideas. It’s just a matter of time before companies will be poaching not just designers from each other, but sustainability directors too.”

Growth in the fashion, cosmetics and jewellery industries depend heavily on plant and animal life and natural resources.  In order to ensure the availability of these for future generations, industry needs to learn how to manage these resources in a sustainable way.

“Luxury products have to be sustainable or they will no longer be luxury,” said Giron, who authored two books on this subject. 

Companies must find ways to improve traceability and production systems in ways that balance the rapidly growing demand for natural resources with increasing awareness of environmental and sustainability issues. Giron said she would like to see companies to take responsibility not only towards use of resources but also towards the people with communities also benefitting from their presence.

According to Giron luxury companies do have the financial margins to be able to invest in sustainability efforts of their own businesses but also to support research and investment in the environment as a whole.

“Complexity of supply chains requires joint effort by companies, who can’t do it alone. It takes the collaboration of businesses, governments and others to make it happen,” she said.

Speaking from her hometown Madrid, the professor and lecturer said that was why RESP provided its members with a unique opportunity to work on such solutions.

A platform of luxury companies, governments and institutions collaborating to revolutionise the global trade of fashion, cosmetics and jewellery, RESP was set up in January 2013. It aims to promote the sustainable use of biodiversity and natural resources.

“The Industry must learn to perform better,” said Giron, who has also been involved with Loewe, a Spanish luxury brand, and Estee Lauder Company too. “By working together, RESP gives the opportunity to do exactly that.”

RESP is working to improve traceability and production systems, key factors impeding the industry’s transformation. Its mission is to help finding solution that allow businesses to grow while preserving biodiversity and benefitting communities.

According to Giron clients are increasingly interested in the provenance of the purchased items luxury companies will also have to work hard on tracing the origin of their materials all the way back the value chain.

“The journey to the past to understand where a product comes from, its components, raw materials and their extraction, is what is known as traceability. It is a tortuous, difficult journey and companies are often not able to do it alone,” Giron said.

“That’s why RESP is becoming so important. It is an independent platform where solutions to these dilemmas can be found and verified by all stakeholders.”

RESP is the think tank that allows luxury brand to manage or recover true and authentic meaning of luxury “ products made to last forever by people who were dignified making them.”