European Business Schools Adapt to the Demand for Sustainable Luxury

European Business Schools Adapt to the Demand for Sustainable Luxury

As millennial and generation-Z consumers prioritize sustainability, European business schools are incorporating ethical practices into their luxury programs.

European business schools have long been a breeding ground for graduates in the global luxury goods sector. However, as the demand for sustainable and ethical practices grows among millennial and generation-Z consumers, luxury brands and the institutions teaching about the industry are facing increasing pressure to adapt. Students are now seeking not only covetable products but also detailed information about a brand’s sustainability initiatives. In response, European business schools are equipping their students with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate the complex landscape of sustainable luxury.

The Rise of Sustainable Luxury

With 19 out of the 22 business schools offering luxury programs located in Europe, it is clear that the region is a hub for luxury education. France and Italy are particularly prominent, hosting more than half and a fifth of these programs, respectively. However, as Julia Pueschel, director of the MSc in luxury marketing at Neoma Business School in France, points out, luxury brands and students are increasingly focused on sustainability. A survey by Boston Consulting Group and Altagamma reveals that 72% of generation-Z consumers consider a company’s commitment to sustainable development when making purchasing decisions.

Addressing Sustainability Concerns

Barbara Slavich, academic director of the Master in Fashion Management at Iéseg in France, emphasizes the need for business schools to equip students with sustainability awareness and an understanding of ethics and social responsibility. This includes knowledge of ethical business practices such as labor rights, fair trade, and responsible sourcing, as well as environmental expertise in regulations, certifications, and standards. Students must also grasp concepts like the circular economy, sustainable sourcing, and carbon footprint reduction. Isabelle Chaboud, program director of the MSc in fashion, design, and luxury management at Grenoble Ecole de Management, highlights the importance of teaching students about lifecycle analysis and new ownership business models that promote sustainability.

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Specialized Programs and Initiatives

Recognizing the growing demand for sustainable luxury, Audencia Business School in France will launch the first specialized MSc in sustainable luxury management in 2024. The program aims to align business skills with sustainable thinking, enabling graduates to make companies both more sustainable and more profitable. Michaela Merk, professor in luxury marketing and director of the new program, notes that generation-Z consumers support the idea of giving products a longer life and are drawn to pre-loved brands. Luxury brands are now rushing to become sustainable champions, hiring chief sustainability officers, organizing sustainability events, and setting ambitious goals to reduce their carbon footprint.

Integrating Sustainability into the Curriculum

Marie Veyrier-Montagneres, a graduate of Audencia, emphasizes the importance of business schools providing concrete tools and examples of how early-career professionals can make positive impacts. Business schools play a crucial role in helping students understand the complexity of sustainability and consider environmental, ethical, and social aspects as a whole when making decisions. Alessandro Brun, director of two masters in luxury management at Polimi Graduate School of Management in Milan, highlights the delicate balance required in sustainable practices. Students must be aware of the potential unintended consequences of certain choices, such as the environmental impact of faux-fur made from microplastics or the social consequences of rising quinoa prices.

Conclusion: European business schools are responding to the demand for sustainable luxury by incorporating ethics, social responsibility, and environmental expertise into their curriculum. Students are increasingly concerned about sustainability and are pushing luxury brands to prioritize ethical practices. As the industry evolves, business schools must equip their graduates with the necessary knowledge and skills to navigate the complex landscape of sustainable luxury. By doing so, they can help shape the future of the luxury goods sector, making it both more sustainable and profitable.

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