As the demand for sustainable and ethical practices in the luxury goods sector grows, European business schools are integrating sustainability and social responsibility into their luxury programs.
European business schools have long been a breeding ground for graduates entering the global luxury goods sector. However, as millennial and generation-Z consumers and students increasingly prioritize sustainability and ethical practices, luxury brands and the educational institutions teaching about the industry are facing mounting pressure to adapt. This article explores how European business schools are responding to this demand by integrating sustainability and social responsibility into their luxury programs, equipping students with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate the evolving landscape of the luxury industry.
Shifting Consumer Expectations Drive Change in Luxury Education
The rise of millennial and generation-Z consumers has brought about a shift in consumer expectations, particularly when it comes to sustainability. A survey conducted by Boston Consulting Group and Altagamma revealed that 72% of generation-Z consumers consider a company’s commitment to sustainable development when making purchasing decisions. This growing consciousness of climate change and the desire to align with brands making a positive impact has influenced students’ perspectives on luxury brands.
The Call for Sustainable Luxury in Business Schools
Julia Pueschel, director of the MSc in luxury marketing at Neoma Business School, highlights how students frequently raise sustainability concerns when discussing luxury brands. They seek more than just covetable products with sustainability straplines; they want detailed information about sustainability initiatives and policies. To meet this demand, business schools are incorporating sustainability awareness, ethics, and social responsibility into their luxury programs.
Equipping Students with Sustainable Business Skills
Barbara Slavich, academic director of the Master in Fashion Management at Iéseg, emphasizes the need for students to have a comprehensive understanding of ethical business practices, including labor rights, fair trade, and responsible sourcing. Additionally, they must be familiar with environmental expertise such as regulations, certifications, and standards. Isabelle Chaboud, program director of the MSc in fashion, design, and luxury management at Grenoble Ecole de Management, stresses the importance of teaching concepts like lifecycle analysis and new ownership business models from the circular economy.
Specialized Programs in Sustainable Luxury Management
Recognizing the increasing demand for sustainability-focused education, Audencia Business School will launch the first specialized MSc in sustainable luxury management at its new Paris campus in 2024. The program aims to align business skills with sustainable thinking, equipping graduates to make companies more sustainable and profitable. Michaela Merk, professor in luxury marketing and director of the new program, notes that Generation Z supports the idea of giving products a longer life and is drawn to pre-loved brands sold through professional second-hand channels.
The Challenge of Questioning Existing Frameworks
The histories and legacies of established luxury brands can make it challenging for students to question existing frameworks. Marie Veyrier-Montagneres, an innovation and sustainability project manager for Christian Dior Couture, explains that the strong heritage of “centenary maisons” like Dior may initially deter students from challenging traditional practices. However, business schools can provide students with concrete tools and examples to empower them to make positive impacts within their careers.
The Complexity of Sustainability
Alessandro Brun, director of two masters in luxury management at Polimi Graduate School of Management, emphasizes the importance of considering sustainability as a delicate balance of environmental, ethical, and social aspects. Students must understand the complexity of sustainability to make informed decisions. For example, while faux-fur may reduce animal cruelty, it is made from microplastics that contribute to ocean pollution. Similarly, the rise in quinoa prices has had unintended consequences for Latin American populations.
As the luxury goods sector faces increasing pressure to adopt sustainable and ethical practices, European business schools are rising to the challenge. By integrating sustainability, ethics, and social responsibility into their luxury programs, these institutions are equipping students with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate the evolving landscape of the luxury industry. As consumers continue to prioritize sustainability, business schools play a crucial role in shaping the future of sustainable luxury.