THE SUSTAINABILITY BOSS...
Diana Verde Nieto is the Co-Founder and CEO of Positive Luxury, the company behind the Butterfly Mark: the unique interactive trust mark that has been awarded to Lilliput & Felix and other luxury lifestyle brands in recognition of our commitment to having a positive impact on people and the planet, providing wordless reassurance that a brand can be trusted.
Positive Luxury was founded in partnership with Karen Hanton MBE, founder of toptable.com. The two trailblazing entrepreneurs combined their experience and knowledge to use technology to demystify sustainability and positively communicate a brands’ action directly to the consumer.
Diana’s entrepreneurial spirit has driven innovations in the way that brands communicate on their commitment to social good and environmental responsibility, with companies seeing the true benefit of investing and incorporating responsible business practices into the companies’ DNA. This began with founding a sustainability communications consultancy, Clownfish, in 2002 which Diana built to international success, with a presence in 5 markets including China and USA at the time of exiting the business in 2008.
Diana is a globally recognised figure in the sustainability field, having been trained by Al Gore at the Alliance of Climate Change in 2007 and subsequently being honoured by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader in 2011, also serving as a board member for the World Economic Forum Young Global Leader community and sits on the Sustainable Development Goals Advisory Council. Diana is an advisor to the British Fashion Council, and the European Council of Conservation International.
What was your inspiration for setting up Positive Luxury and how did sustainability become something important to you?
My background is in sustainability; I founded Clownfish, a sustainability communications consultancy in 2002 and took it from my living room to an international agency with offices in New York, Milan, Madrid and London.
When I sold my business in 2008 I felt that, although I had been successful according to traditional measures, I hadn’t yet fully achieved what I set out to do – there was still much ground to be covered.
I’ve always believed that it’s essential for businesses to incorporate the concept of sustainability in order to create a balance between people, planet and profit. Companies need to internalise the externalities the world is facing.
That is why my co-founder, Karen Hanton MBE, and I created Positive Luxury. We award the Butterfly Mark to luxury brands that are committed to responsible business practices, and doing good for people and our planet.
What do you think the future for sustainable business is?
Sustainability has often had negative associations – especially in the fashion industry – but we’re really seeing a new wave of businesses that offer beautiful, quality products that marry desirability with sustainable credentials.
It is imperative to have sustainability as part of your business strategy and product innovation. As the population grows and natural resources are depleted faster every year, innovation and responsible business models will be essential for fashion brands to survive.
Business as usual is not an option in a world in which uncertainty is the new normal. Any business must think about its impact – that means incorporating the local ecosystem and choosing to benefit the local community as much as possible, is key. I want sustainability to be adopted in the same way that technology has – it’s no longer something you think about, it’s a part of everyday life.
Can you describe your average day?
I’m a morning person; I always get up in a good mood. I normally go for a run or to the gym first thing, spend the day in and out of meetings, and the evenings attending work-related events or out with friends. Once I’m home, I can’t get to sleep without a cup of rooibos tea.
As a serial and successful entrepreneur, what are your tips to small businesses and start-ups for incorporating sustainability into their strategies and everyday lives?
In the tech and luxury fashion industries, I would say, be resilient. Never give up, just keep going and learning as much as you can along the way. Keep being yourself – that feels hard at the start, but later on it becomes a very valuable commodity. Trust yourself and hold your own – it’s a male world, especially in the tech community.
You have played a huge role in making sustainability ‘cool’ as well as spreading the message that the big players are making a positive impact and therefore setting an example. Of your many accomplishments, what have you been most proud?
I’m proud that we created The Butterfly Mark! It’s the first interactive trustmark that looks at the brand’s overall holistic appeal. I’m very proud of having being able to address this shift in buying behaviour, where more information is needed at the point-of-sale about the social good and environmental impact of brands. It’s important that brands are transparent about the good things they are doing in order for consumers to make educated decisions on the brands they buy from.
People are not passively taking information on, they are increasingly interested in what makes a company responsible and are seeking out the information. As major brands and retailers around the world – for example, Selfridges – are adopting the Butterfly Mark, we are seeing an increase in consumers exploring brands’ Positive Actions.
Which brand or company would you most like to see become a Positive Luxury member and to work with on their sustainability goals?
We would love to see the most forward-thinking, creative brands in the world become Positive Luxury brands – our goal is to normalise sustainability.
Where do you see yourself and Positive Luxury in 10 years time?
Our vision is to become the globally recognised trust mark for the luxury lifestyle industry. We want consumers to be able to see the Butterfly Mark on brand websites and luxury retailers across the world and know, at a glance, which brands they can trust and which brands are making efforts to improve their social and environmental footprint.
We’ll achieve this by expanding the business internationally and launching some exciting new retail partnerships. We are also awarding the Butterfly Mark to yet more responsible companies and introducing our community of brands to trust to the growing wave of consumers that care.
Who do you look to for inspiration and what advice would you give to your former self?
My female heroes are rarely famous – they’re the people that are around me. So many of my friends are women supporting kids and friends and partners and a full time job.
Advice to my former self: Never give up, just keep going and learning as much as you can along the way. Keep being yourself – that feels hard at the start but later on it becomes a very valuable commodity. Trust yourself and hold your own – it’s a male world, especially in the tech community.
Is it all work or do you get some play? Where do you go to escape it all?
What I will say is I don’t feel like I have a job, because this is what I love to do. I never count hours but am always aware of how I feel. I think if you do what you love then it tends to become your life anyway. My place to truly escape it all has to be my home, Argentina. Though it’s not a holiday spot for me, I love going back to my country.
What are you reading at the moment and what is your favourite book of all time?
I couldn’t name just one favourite book of all time. I do love The Crow Road by Iain Banks, which begins ‘It was the day my grandmother exploded...’ An intriguing first line, and when I read it, I thought ‘who would come up with something like that?!’