Pushing the Culture of Progressive Luxury Brands

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By Tom Roberts.

I’ve lived in New York for the past five years. At times it feels like a total bubble, a kind of urban space pod somehow removed from nature. Everything you need is available at the press of a button, the touch of an app or the hail of a taxi. This amazing availability of services frees up time for us to do other things: work, learn, spend time with friends and, in the case of most New Yorkers, dream big.

This is the privileged world’s version of the effect that professor Hans Rosling talks about in one of his TED-talks; when his mother got her first washing machine, she could spend the hours she previously spent on hand-washing on other things, like reading to her child or studying English.

When you manage to break out of this bubble, you realize the realities of others pretty fast. 1.8 billion people lack access to something much more important than the automatic washing of clothes: clean and safe water and sanitation. Women and children in affected areas spend more than four hours a day walking to get water, something that takes us less than a minute in our homes.

As a reader of TriplePundit, chances are you are aware that the World Economic Forum at Davos named the global water crisis as the biggest challenge facing the planet, ahead of issues such as the massive spread of infectious diseases, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and climate change.

So why am I, a representative of a luxury vodka brand, writing a guest post here about it?

The answer is, of course, water. It is at the core of our product. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to manufacture vodka. The team at our distillery in Ahus, Sweden, is working hard with the local farmers to reuse and conserve every drop of water. No artificial irrigation is used for growing the wheat, no untreated waste-water is discharged into the environment and even the rainwater runoff from the distillery is captured and made available to local farmers.

However, all of this makes us “less bad”. It doesn’t do much for the 1.8 billion people lacking access to safe water.

But then you add the element of luxury, which brings about an interesting paradigm. I believe the culture of luxury is changing. We are experiencing an emerging collective conscious among a new generation. According to a report by the Luxury Institute and Positive Luxury, 88 percent of millennials and Generation Xers in the U.S. and U.K. believe brands need to do more good, not just “less bad.” L’Oreal, for example, has taken note of this and positioned them as a leader within sustainability by diminishing its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent.

This generation doesn’t see luxury being about badge value, flaunting your wealth or showing off for the sake of it. Don’t get me wrong; luxury is still about authenticity and excellently-crafted products. But for the new generation it is also about purpose and soul.

Our purpose and soul with Elyx is about integrity, about pushing this culture of progressive luxury forward because the world needs more of that. We live it by encoding it in our business model: every bottle of Elyx sold in the US contributes to our partnership with Water For People.

Our first five year-goal is to provide at least 100,000 people with access to safe water for generations to come. In our first year we have raised nearly US$500,000 and built permanent water solutions servicing over 15,000 people. We believe this will create stronger bonds between our brand and our customers, as well as add value to current and future employees, but above all: it will draw attention to the global water crisis and help provide the most important drink in the world to those who need it most.

Image credit: Pixabay

Tom Roberts runs the Social Impact division at Absolut Elyx – Absolut’s new single estate vodka whose goal it is to overtake the luxury segment in vodka.

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