Sustainable Hotels and Small but Significant Changes: In Conversation with Positive Luxury’s CEO Diana Verde Nieto

Wed, 11 September 2019
positive-luxury-ceo-diana-verde-nietoPhoto: Anna Michell

We speak to Diana Verde Nieto, co-founder and CEO of Positive Luxury, the company behind the Butterfly Mark, to talk sustainability and positive change.

“Sustainability is no longer a surface level issue; we have 12 years to make unprecedented changes to save our world. Be empowered, wilful and ready to use your voice – and wallet – to make progress,” says Diana Verde Nieto, co-founder and CEO of Positive Luxury.

Heading up Positive Luxury, the company behind the Butterfly Mark – a unique interactive trust mark awarded to luxury lifestyle brands in recognition of their commitment to having a positive impact on people and the planet – the formidable Diana Verde Nieto is championing sustainability in the luxury industry and urging shoppers to buy better.

Get to know Diana Verde Nieto of Positive Luxury…

Where are you from and how has that shaped or inspired you?

I grew up in Argentina under a dictatorship and saw first-hand how a lack of good leadership can have a detrimental effect on both people and our world. I always wanted to be a human rights lawyer. However, when I came to my adopted home of London, I discovered that I could study environmental technology – I fell in love with the subject, the ethos and the challenge of integrating the principles of sustainability into the business strategy.

Tell us about Positive Luxury…

Karen Hanton MBE, the founder of Toptable, and I launched Positive Luxury seven years ago through our passion and strong belief that technology will bring transparency to the sustainability conversation and enable every member of society, individuals and corporations alike, to play a role in preserving and restoring nature.

What is the Butterfly Mark?

Positive Luxury connects luxury brands and people who care about the future through the unique Butterfly Mark. This mark is a symbol of trust earned by brands that have adopted sustainability as a business strategy and meet the highest standards of verified innovation, social and environmental performance and sound governance. It promotes transparency and enables consumers to vote with their money and buy from brands that reflect their passion.

Why have you chosen to focus on the luxury industry?

Luxury brands are inherently more sustainable; they value quality, craftsmanship and design over quantity. The luxury industry has the capability to drive innovation through the supply chain, innovating on materials, packaging and different business models making a positive impact in the world. I hope this will eventually filter down and have a systemic impact on high-street fashion, as well as influence consumer behaviour and purchasing decisions. Consumers are striving to buy less and better, and the luxury industry can enable that, as quality and durability are inherent in its products.

How do you predict the luxury market will evolve over the next 5-10 years?

I think the luxury market will be more collaborative and inclusive. Additionally, we can expect the luxury market will play a leading role in sustainable development. 2017 was dominated by the idea of truth, 2018 was defined by influence through emotion and in 2019 the notion of quality over quantity – less is more – is the reigning ideology.

How can we shop smarter, more ethically?

Look for the Butterfly Mark.

How can we travel more sustainably?

Travel with hand luggage. Stay in hotels that invest in conservation, culture and bettering the communities where they operate. Choose accommodation where the facilities are efficient from an energy and waste management standpoint. Choose food that is local and/ or sourced responsibly and where people are paid fairly.

How can hotels work to be more sustainable?

Many hospitality brands are catching on and are in the process of integrating sustainable practices to many areas of their businesses, whether it’s looking at their packaging and recycling in hotel amenities, farming their own produce or sourcing produce locally.

What hospitality brands are leading the way in relation to sustainability?

Song Saa are pioneers in conservation-based luxury tourism, working with villages in Cambodia’s Koh Rong Archipelago. Water conservation and marine preservation have been given high priority alongside maximising the island’s impact on the local community ­– Song Saa is host to Cambodia’s first ever marine preserve and a sustainability and education centre.

SALT of Palmar approaches travel in a responsible manner, creating jobs where needed and being honest and fair in its relationships. Every SALT hotel has its own farm, using permaculture practices and hydroponics to yield diverse crops. Each of the farms has its own vegetarian restaurant, with daily specials based on the harvest and the morning catch this ensures zero skill miles too.

Lagom resort in Switzerland is committed to offering a bespoke approach when considering sustainable travel; it asks the consumer how often they want their rooms cleaned, sheets laundered and toiletries replaced.

Where’s your next adventure?

Business wise, we are currently launching our operation in Paris – it’s is an exciting new market for sustainable luxury. We’re also working hard preparing for our 2020 Positive Luxury Awards, which recognise and celebrate leadership in sustainability.

On the personal front, my next adventure is homeward. I never get tired of going back to Argentina.

What are you reading at the moment?

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

Your favourite app…

Nest. It saves energy.

One piece of travel advice…

Only travel with hand luggage.

And finally, what’s in your SUITCASE?

A pair of running shoes.

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