Friday, June 5, 2009  

The Sustainable Luxury Myth

I hear both excitement and concern these days about the rise of the sustainable luxury lifestyle. Some are for it. Many are against it and fear that marketplace environmentalism is only possible for celebrities and the super wealthy. Neither point of view is relevant.

Equating sustainability with luxury is like equating technology with luxury. Thirty years ago when Bill Gates was tinkering in a garage and Gordon Moore was still refining his law, personal technology devices were a luxury because few could afford the initial prototypes. Today items likes PCs are a commodity and while some technology is expensive, much is affordable. Sustainably designed products are moving down the same path.

True, prices for today's best sustainably designed consumer products are out of reach for most consumers. Yet, consider that it is only within the last two years that the vast majority of high style, environmentally conscious products entered the marketplace. Two years ago there was no Loomstate, Edun, Delano Collection, Scrapile, Loop Organic, Material Furniture, Brave Space, Argington, Rhubarb Décor, Voltaic Systems, Anna Sova, Qcollection or el. The green design marketplace was sparsely populated, almost barren. Consider what is happening now. Many design-entrepreneurs are starting to manufacture, achieve economies of scale, drive prices lower and push sustainable design into the mainstream.

Two years from now there will be no more talk of aspirational/out-of-reach sustainable luxury. Sustainable design-entrepreneurs are on the cusp of the next phase of economic growth where scale is achieved and prices begin to fall. As this transpires and more consumers articulate their demand through their purchases, multinational corporations, fueled by the profit motive, will respond to market signals and employ their vast economies of scale to drive prices for sustainably designed products even lower. Millions of consumers will be the beneficiaries as will be the planet. Sustainability might still take the form of luxury goods but it will also be found in more affordable products.

We are entering the most exciting phase of the environmental marketplace evolution. The implications for our lifestyles and our environment are enormous.

By John Dorfman, CEO Vivavi, WorldChanging, May 06, 2009.

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