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Walpole launches sustainability manifesto

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

14 Jan 2020


Walpole, the industry body for the British luxury sector, has launched phase one of its sustainability manifesto at its annual chief executive and chairman's dinner.

The event, which took place in the UN Ballroom at the Four Seasons Hotel, was attended by more than 100 British luxury brands and retailers, including Burberry, Dunhill, Harrods, Johnstons of Elgin and Mulberry, who have all committed to prioritising sustainability within their businesses.

The sustainability manifesto is aligned to United Nations sustainability goals, and has been designed to set “industry best practice aspirations in sustainability for the British luxury sector with four overarching principles” that it hopes will provide “on-going directional guidelines for the sustainability journey of its members”.

Those four aspirations are: to lead the transition towards a circular economy; safeguard the environment and natural resources; guide partners and suppliers towards sustainable practices; and advocate equal and respectful working conditions.

Helen Brocklebank, chief executive at, Walpole said in a statement: “If British luxury is to achieve its target of 65 billion pounds in sales over the next five years, sustainability has to be at the heart of every brand’s strategy: for Millennials and GenZ who will account for half of all luxury sales by 2025, true luxury only comes with a clean conscience.”

Luxury industry body Walpole sets out sustainable best practice goals for members

The initiative is being supported by strategic partner McKinsey and Company, who launched its sustainability ‘Generation Research’ research that aims to support the British luxury sector in leading the way on the imperative towards sustainability.

The report reveals that there is momentum from consumers demanding sustainable products with approximately 30 percent of GenZ and Millennial consumers stating that they are willing to pay more for sustainable products. While it adds, investors and shareholder are increasingly demanding sustainable investments, with a third of global assets now managed through sustainable strategies.

This was backed up by the 2020 Walpole-McKinsey ‘Sustainability in Luxury Survey’ and focus groups conducted among the Walpole membership. Around 90 percent of brands identified sustainability as a top five priority for their business largely driven by the increased focus on social responsibility and changing consumer expectations and purchasing behaviours. Owing to the wide range of sub-sectors within the British luxury industry, businesses face different sustainability priorities depending on their category.

However, the survey revealed responsible sourcing of raw materials, waste management (recycling, reuse), and reducing greenhouse gas emissions as cross-cutting sustainability challenges faced by the majority of the Walpole membership. With members acknowledged that although the luxury sector has an inherent advantage on key sustainability topics, there is a need for collaboration with supply chain players and peers.

Michael Ward, chairman of Walpole and managing director at Harrods added: “As an industry that has always been upheld by the highest standards, British luxury has an obligation to lead from the front when it comes to sustainability. There is no doubt that the commitment to quality and strong values that define our industry must now incorporate measures that prioritise sustainability within our individual businesses.

“Walpole’s British Luxury Sustainability Manifesto is the unifying platform needed to focus our individual strategies, share best practice and demonstrate our commitment to one of our industry’s biggest strategic priorities. I am heartened and inspired that Harrods will be standing alongside the wider industry as we continue our own sustainability journey.”

Pam Batty, vice president, corporate responsibility at Burberry commented: “The luxury industry needs to collaborate and enact policies and programmes at scale to protect the environment, implement more sustainable practices and support workers in its supply chains. While there is no quick fix, we are hugely supportive of Walpole’s British Luxury Sustainability Manifesto which will bring together established and emerging UK brands to implement systemic change and build a more sustainable future for our industry.”

Walpole is a not-for-profit organisation that counts more than 270 high-end brands amongst its membership, from fashion to automotive, the travel sector, food and drink, and media organisations.

Image: courtesy of Walpole