Luxury report card called unsatisfactory

Tiffany store sign

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: As the wider economy has stalled, one particular slice of it continues to fly high. Luxury goods and the people who sell them have been feeling no pain. But Britain's World Wildlife Fund says there are no gold star performers among the biggest luxury brands. The conservation group ranked 10 of them and found they were C-students at best.

Sarah Gardner tells us from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, the study itself isn't getting high marks either.


SARAH GARDNER: The U.K's World Wildlife Fund ranked companies from Tod's to Tiffany on their environmental and ethical performance. The two highest scorers were both French. Cosmetics maker L'Oreal and purse and perfume purveyor Hermes. Both rated a C+. Two Italian companies suffered the lowest grades. Both Bulgari and Tod's got big fat Fs. The fund's Anthony Kleanthous says, aside from bad publicity over furs and so-called "blood diamonds," the luxury world has gotten off light.

ANTHONY KLEANTHOUS: I just don't think that they have been publicly held to account in the past, and yes, I think they're rather surprised by it.

The companies' rankings, however, were based in part on whether they responded fully to research queries, as well as news stories, and whether the companies reported their greenhouse gas emissions. The World Wildlife Fund in the U.S. distanced itself from the report, saying the methodology had flaws. But Milton Pedraza, CEO of the research firm the Luxury Institute, says his surveys show 57 percent of wealthy consumers say they care about corporate social responsibility.

MILTON PEDRAZA: So while obviously the quality of the product and the prestige of the product are still extremely important, social responsibility on the part of these luxury providers is becoming very, very important to their constituents.

Anthony Kleanthous suggests that the stars who endorse low-scoring luxury brands need to ask these companies some hard-hitting questions. After all he says, these days every celebrity's got a cause.

I'm Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

About the author

Sarah Gardner is a reporter on the Marketplace sustainability desk.

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