Sustainable Entrepreneur Diana Verde Nieto On Living Ethically, Now

Sustainability credentials-wise, being trained by Al Gore at the Alliance of Climate Change has got to be up there with the finest.

But a 2007 stint with the former US Vice President isn’t the most impressive thing on entrepreneur Diana Verde Neito’s CV.

As well as her day gig as co-founder and CEO of Positive Luxury, (a trust stamp organisation which audits the ethics of brands and awards those that are up to scratch with a ‘Butterfly Mark,’) she’s an advisor to the British Fashion Council, the House of St Barnabas and the European Chapter of Conservation International.

Yes, that’s a lot. But growing up under a dictatorship in her native Argentina ignited a fiery drive to push for change.

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Deciding against a career as a human rights lawyer, she instead set out in the ethical retail space, opening up a Clownfish, a sustainable consultancy that advised big brands on how to be more eco.

Next, aware that the language of sustainability can sound a a little stale (‘environmental impact,’ ‘wind power,’ ‘food miles) she decided to give environmentalism the razzle-dazzle treatment and set up Positive Luxury in 2011 with Karen Hanton, MBE.

“The word ‘sustainability’ wasn’t something cool, then,” she says. “Today, it’s one of the most overused terms out there and people care about what it encompasses, from animal testing and welfare to where your products come from and how much the person who made them was paid.”

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For Diana, that’s being driven by the younger lot. “I hate the term ‘millennials,’ but they have their own minds and are very different to previous generations,” she says.

“And the generation Z’s are going to be even more radical. They’ve been brought up with recycling, with caring about animals. They hear it at home, from friends, and, because of social media, from all these other people, too.”

This natural shift to seeing ethics as standard, rather than special, is where Diana sees things going. “I don’t like the fact that we talk about ethical business. I don’t think it even exists – it’s just equal business.” Companies, she thinks, are understanding that being mission-driven first is the way to forge trust with people: “We’re seeing a drive to purpose over profits.”

As to the brands that have been awarded the Butterfly Mark, Diana says that, while she can’t pick favourites (“it would be like choosing a favourite friend – they’re all different so you can’t compare”) beauty brand Khiels and Krug champagne are doing particularly cool things right now.

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The latter, for example, grows its grapes on plots of land that belong to a load of different farmers and who work with the land to nurture it. As well as farming in this way, the company: “looks after every person in the supply chain – from producers to employees.”

Of course, people and companies aren’t going to be flawless. But it’s about that genuine and concentrated effort to bring about positive change in the sustainable sphere. “I’m not perfect,” Diana says.

“But I never stop doing the smaller things – walking rather than driving, using a re-useable coffee cup, buying clothes very thoughtfully – as well as working for bigger change, professionally.”

Her big hope?

That the change we’re talking about today won’t be a big deal to people or businesses in a few decades – but pure second nature.

Let’s hope she’s right.

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