Whether they’re campaigning about climate change, shining the spotlight on sustainable style or highlighting the fragility of our eco systems, The Glossary’s Eco Pioneers series gets to know the game-changing women who are on a mission to save the world. Diana Verde Nieto, founder and CEO of Positive Luxury and creator of sustainability measure the Butterfly Mark, explains why the luxury market holds the key to a more sustainable future.
Growing up in Argentina under a dictatorship and seeing firsthand the need for human rights, combined with an interest in biodiversity conservation, first ignited Diana Verde Nieto’s passion for the planet and its people. She established Clownfish, a leading sustainability consultancy, in 2002 – way before sustainability became a buzzword. Five years on, she has trained with Al Gore at the Alliance of Climate Change and was subsequently honoured by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader, has sat on the Sustainable Development Goals Advisory Council and has presented Sir David Attenborough with a Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2011, recognising that the luxury industry needed to wake up to sustainability, she teamed up with Karen Hanton MBE, founder of Toptable.com, to set up Positive Luxury. The company’s founding aim was to influence brands to do better and inspire wealthy consumers to buy better, from the brands that care. And so they launched the – to this day, globally-recognised and respected – Butterfly Mark, which they award to brands for their measurable impact and commitment to sustainability.
How would you define sustainability?
I would like to borrow Gro Harlem Brundtland’s definition of sustainability. Gro Harlem Brundtland is a Norwegian politician, who served three terms as Prime Minister of Norway and as Director-General of the World Health Organization. She coined the term back then as: “Sustainability means development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
What are your ongoing environmental concerns?
It’s no secret that we, humans, have a massive impact in our world more often than not negative. What concerns me is the rate of the loss of species, deforestation, ocean acidification, as well as equality and social justice. But the choices we make when we buy products and how we choose to live our lives can transform our natural world for the better.
How can luxury be a positive force for good?
In this age, people in the developed world are looking to self-actualisation and purpose as the ultimate luxury. Luxury brands are inherently more sustainable; as they value quality, craftsmanship and design over quantity. The luxury industry has the capability to drive innovations through the supply chain, materials, packaging and different business models, making a positive impact in the world. I truly believe that consumer behaviour – especially when it comes to purchasing decisions – is changing: we want to buy less but better, and luxury is an enabler to that as quality and durability are inherent in the product. Furthermore, a luxury product has – more often than not – a second life.
Can you tell us a bit more about the Butterfly Mark?
Positive Luxury connects luxury brands and people who care about the future through the Butterfly Mark. Our goal is to help your organisation to be recognised as a thought leader of business transformation and sustainability. Being part of a collective of like-minded businesses that together can make a positive difference in the world is a competitive advantage.
What has given you the most satisfaction in your sustainability journey so far?
I started my career on sustainability last century, quite literally, and since then I have witnessed the world wake up to something that is undeniably important. I started my first business in this area in 2002, when convincing companies that this was important was as challenging as convincing them that they needed a website. Yes, those days did exist! Today is a different story. Generation Less – a new, ageless demographic that is united by a values-driven mindset – cares; climate change and the principles of sustainable development are taught at school; and companies want to be part of this movement of leaving a positive impact in the world. Our interactive Butterfly Mark had something like 20,000,000 impressions, which means 20 million people care about which steps brands are taking in order to have a positive impact in the world.
Image: Diana Verde Nieto.