Lobby group calls for deeper value in luxury brands

Shareholders of French cosmetics company L'Oreal arrive at the annual general assembly in Paris April 25, 2006. Some of the world's leading brands -- including L'Oreal -- were marked down on Thursday in a report by green lobby group WWF on the social and environmental impact of luxuries. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

LONDON (Reuters) - Some of the world’s leading brands were marked down on Thursday in a report by green lobby group WWF on the social and environmental impact of luxuries.

Brands including L’Oreal, Hermes, Tod’s, Tiffany & Co and Swatch were ranked from A (best) to F (worst) in the study -- which examined companies’ own reports of their environmental, social and governance performance as well as how non-governmental organisations and the media rank them.

None achieved higher than a grade C+, which was awarded to L’Oreal, the world’s largest cosmetics group, and fellow French luxury group Hermes. Tod’s -- the Italian luxury shoe and bag maker -- was graded an F.

“Many luxury consumers are part of an affluent, global elite that is increasingly well educated and concerned about social and environmental issues,” WWF said.

“These consumers use luxury products as a symbol of success. The definition of success and the way it is perceived by others is changing. Increasingly, successful people want the brands they use to reflect their concerns and aspirations for a better world.”

It said this was increasingly the case not only in Western luxury markets, but also among the more affluent middle classes of Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

Anthony Kleanthous, WWF’s senior policy adviser urged luxury goods makers to incorporate “deeper values” in their brands, and called on global celebrities to lead the way in encouraging luxury firms to raise their game.

“The world of celebrity leads by example and generates an aspirational desire for branded products. These stars have the responsibility to make sure that the brands they are endorsing are not damaging the planet,” he said. “Let’s face it, who wants to pay extra for a dirty brand?”

Reporting by Kate Kelland. Editing by Paul Casciato