Since the mid-twentieth century, rapid technological and scientific developments have produced continuous and significant improvements in people’s daily lives. However, this growth has had considerable, and sometimes horrifying, consequences for the climate and environment (Egri and Ralston 2008). As a result, sustainability has become a central point in public discourse—not only for consumers, but also for the companies, and in particular those in the luxury industry, who generally operate at the international level and may serve as relevant actors in economic development (Fraj and Martinez 2007; Kerr et al. 2009). Our focus on luxury firms was born from the fact that such firms are still uncertain about how to combine luxury and sustainability; indeed, these two concepts are often seen as contradictory (Joy et al. 2012; Kapferer and Michaut-Denizeau 2014). The very term “Luxus” has a double meaning: It positively connotes such concepts as beauty, prestige, and power, but also implies excessive and ostentatious displays of wealth (Kapferer 1997, 2012). This duality helps to explain consumers’ difficulty in reconciling luxury, sustainability, and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and also why a company like Prada recently launched a website dedicated to highlighting initiatives that reflect the brand’s commitment to sustainability. The present chapter thus delves into a currently neglected area of research—namely, consumers’ perceptions of the relationship between luxury, sustainability, and the CSR strategies that major luxury companies adopt to counter said perceptions. To analyze luxury brands’ initiatives, we conducted a qualitative study on three well-known brands—Gucci, Tod’s, and Bulgari—and examined their eco-sustainable collections and approaches. We supplemented this research with a survey of consumers’ perceptions regarding luxury, sustainability, and CSR specifically by interviewing 200 consumers via an online questionnaire. From these data sources, we draw theoretical and managerial implications.
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