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HONG KONG – A group of the world’s leading luxury brands, including Kering, Ralph Lauren, PVH Corp and Louis Vuitton, have come together to look at how they can future-proof their businesses against disruptive global trends – including, intriguingly, rising inequality. The 15 luxury companies are collaborating under the BSR’s Responsible Luxury Initiative (ReLI) to develop a “sustainable pathway for the future of luxury.”

The businesses have launched a new report entitled ‘Disrupting Luxury: Creating Resilient Businesses in Times of Rapid Change.’

The report outlines three disruptive global trends – climate change and biodiversity loss, new technologies and automation, and rising economic inequality – which, it is felt, will have specific consequences for luxury brands. It then provides a perspective on how luxury businesses can “create responsible and resilient brands in a time of rapid change, while leveraging the sector’s unique strengths.”

The issue of rising inequality is the most interesting of the issues being addressed. It is perhaps unfortunate timing that this report has been published during a week that Burberry has been slammed for destroying £28.6m worth of goods. What, many might be curious to know, have a group of the world’s most luxurious brands got to say about the issue of income inequality?

The report states: “…the third trend is rising economic inequality, which asks luxury companies to re-evaluate their role in society and how they can contribute in new ways to create a more inclusive luxury. When it comes to emerging markets—where economic inequality is even more dramatic—what does it mean to be a modern luxury brand?

“With inequality on the rise, there is growing frustration with an economic system that enables a fraction of people to control most of the world’s wealth. Often, this same group determines how the world’s collective resources are used.

“Rising inequality has specific implications for luxury: How can a sector that traditionally appeals to the elite embrace inclusion?” Editor’s note: it can’t. Luxury, by definition, is exclusive.

On the occasion of the global launch of the report, Kering’s chief sustainability officer and head of international institutional affairs, Marie-Claire Daveu, said: “Luxury has the added responsibility as trendsetters to create value for the good of the environment and society, which can then influence the entire fashion industry to act. In prioritising sustainability and embedding proactive strategies into our business models now, the luxury sector will become more adaptive to future challenges and ultimately this will provide us with critical business advantages.”

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