Business students crave luxury with a conscience

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European business schools are a rich source of graduates for the global luxury goods sector. No fewer than 19 of the 22 business schools with luxury programs are in Europe, according to the US-based accrediting body AACSB, with more than half of these courses in France and a fifth in Italy.

But luxury brands — and those who teach about the industry — are putting pressure on millennial and Generation-Z consumers and students to promote sustainable and ethical practices, said Julia Puschel, MSC’s director of luxury marketing. Neoma Business School in northern France.

This is a group that is aware of climate change and wants to align with brands that are trying to make a difference. In an era of greenwashing and some businesses wearing paper-thin eco-credits on their sleeves, consumers are looking for a fast, sustainable bond beyond what they want. Many want more detail.

According to a study by the Boston Consulting Group and Altagama, an Italian luxury trading arm, 72 percent of Generation-Z consumers consider companies’ commitment to sustainability when making purchase decisions.

“Many of our students in luxury programs emphasize sustainability concerns when discussing luxury brands,” Puschel says. “Through presentations from representatives of luxury companies, students are constantly asked about sustainability initiatives and policies, and sustainability consistently emerges as a central theme when these students do research projects.”

Barbara Slavich, academic director of the Master in Fashion Management at Esseg in France, says business schools need to instill in students not only an awareness of sustainability, but also a detailed understanding of ethics and social responsibility.

“They need to know ethical business practices such as labor rights, fair trade and responsible sourcing, and environmental knowledge such as regulations, certifications and standards,” Slavich says. “They need to know about sustainable materials and processes, including eco-friendly packaging and product design, as well as key sustainability concepts such as the circular economy, sustainable sourcing and carbon footprint reduction.”

FT European Business Schools Ranking 2023

This story is from a ratings report published on December 4.

Students need to understand concepts such as life-cycle analysis and new ownership business models from the circular economy, including renting, second-hand, recycling and upcycling, says Isabelle Chaboud, director of the MSc Fashion, Design and Luxury Management programme. Grenoble School of Management. The program includes a one-week study tour on the theme of sustainability and innovation in the fashion and luxury sectors.

In the year 2024 Audencia Business School The new Paris campus in Saint-Ouen will launch the first specialized MSc in Sustainable Luxury Management. “Students feel responsible for shaping their future,” says Michael Marks, professor of luxury marketing and director of the new program. The course aims to align business skills with a sustainable mindset so graduates can learn how to make companies sustainable and more profitable, she says.

“Generation Z strongly condemns ‘fast fashion’ associated with incredible waste and pollution, and supports the idea of ​​longevity of products,” added Merck. In 2030, the concept of pre-loved brands that align with the values ​​of this generation, which will represent the largest luxury consumers and talents, will increasingly be sold through second-hand channels.

“Before Covid, few premium brands like Stella McCartney or Patagonia put sustainability in their business strategy,” Merck explained. “Now many luxury brands want to become sustainability champions in record time, hire chief sustainability officers, organize sustainability events, speak publicly about their sustainability efforts and set ambitious goals to reduce their carbon footprint.”

Marie Verrier-Montagneres graduated from Audencia in 2020 with a Masters in Management and is now the Innovation and Sustainability Project Manager for Christian Dior Couture in Paris. Dior’s parent LVMH’s Life 360 ​​program includes commitments to eliminate plastic from packaging by 2026, reduce its total water consumption by 30 percent by 2030, and use 100 percent renewable energy in its factories on the same day.

“When I went to Odencia, my level of awareness of sustainability was relatively high, but while I was understanding the actions I could take in my personal life, I lacked an understanding of how this translated into my work,” she recalls. “Sustainability was part of every business case I worked on as a student and environmental and social issues were evaluated and tested to the same standards and importance as what we call clean business.”

Two of the five days during Dior’s introductory week were focused on sustainability, diversity, inclusion and the “dissemination of savoir-faire”. Verrier-Montagneres says it’s become common to hear customers asking about raw material sourcing, tracking and production location.

“The stories and legacies of ‘centenary masons’ like Dior are so strong that at first glance students may find it difficult to question existing frameworks,” says Verrier-Montagneres.

“Business schools can help students by providing concrete tools and examples of how early career professionals can positively impact their grades.”

Alessandro Brun, director of two masters in luxury management at Polimi Graduate School in Milan, says students need to understand the complexity of sustainability.

“Faux-fur reduces animal cruelty and we kill fewer animals by eating quinoa,” Brun says. But faux-fur is made from microplastics, and washing them ends up with a million tiny pieces of plastic in the oceans. And the skyrocketing price of quinoa has forced many Latin American families to turn to cheap but healthy fast food.

“Sustainability is a delicate balance of environmental, ethical and social aspects – students need to consider these holistically to make the right decision,” he added.



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