My Work: Diana Verde Nieto

Portrait of Diana Verde Nieto

Interview: Haris Stavridis // Portrait: Courtesy of Diana Verde Nieto

Could you please describe your role at Positive Luxury and the concept behind the company?

I’m the co-founder and CEO, which in the world of start ups means, of course, to recruit top tier talent, communicate a clear vision to the company’s stakeholders, and make sure the company doesn’t run out of money. But the reality is that the day-to-day grind requires me to wear many different hats, which is what I love about my job. We founded Positive Luxury for consumers and brands that care about the future of our society and planet. Brands need to understand that they have to be on the forefront of thought leadership when it comes to social good and environmental responsibility. Positive Luxury helps companies to talk about their values and assists them in communicating their positive actions. Our Butterfly Mark is a way for consumers to instantly recognise positive brands which they can trust.

What were the challenges in setting up Positive Luxury and how did you deal with them?

Whichever business you set up, there is no denying that the first year of operation can be difficult; strategies and tactics change. However, if you can be true to your mission, this serves as a driving force behind what you are trying to accomplish. One's mission will dictate which strategies make sense and which don’t. That level of focus can ultimately determine the core competencies you develop and how successful you are as a company. The main thing is to have the right team, the right culture, be client centric and have the belief that as a team nothing is impossible.

You left Argentina with little money in order to pursue a career in London. What was the best decision that you took during that rather difficult period?

Coming to London was the best and easiest decision I’ve made, but the toughest was telling my father I was leaving and, of course, to live in a country that I didn’t speak the language of. I think remaining flexible and avid to learn is key for growing—no regrets.

What's the most useful thing you learned while working with people such as Al Gore?

You have to be collaborative and allow room for co-creation and innovation, reach out to your network and remain humble.

How do you feel about fast fashion? What are your views regarding the eco-conscious initiatives of brands such as H&M?

‘Fast fashion’ has a place because not everybody can afford luxury. We have to remember that brands such as H&M, with 132,000 employees and more than 3,700 stores worldwide, will take time to change but they are making significant efforts, as well as involving consumers in the conversation and encouraging them to take action. With that being said, I don’t agree with the rate at which their collections turnover—it takes from design to store as little as two weeks for example, but I do think that affordable clothing is a need.

Would you say that consuming less is the only way towards sustainable fashion?

There is an economic paradigm with consuming less, as it transfers to producing less, which in turn means less jobs and this of course has a direct impact on the local economy and society. It’s about consuming more responsibly and for brands to work towards a more responsible supply chain.

How honest are luxury brands when it comes to their business practices and how their operations affect the environment?

Luxury brands are very honest, because they won’t communicate what they don’t have. The majority of luxury brands have huge businesses and processes so it takes a long time for changes to be made, but the one thing the majority of luxury brands have in common is great leadership, which leads to great business in every aspect.

Could you please describe the entire process once a brand contacts you with an evaluation request? Do brands get regular re-evaluations?

Every brand within the Positive Luxury community has first and foremost completed our application form, which assesses their social and environmental framework through a set of targeted questions based on the industry such as fashion, travel or beauty. If a brand passes, they’re awarded the Butterfly Mark for use on their website and marketing materials, and we work closely with the team to spread their positive story through their own and our channels. The application form is updated annually, and each brand must re-complete this on a yearly basis.

How do consumers get informed about the brands that have your seal of approval and which 'tests' they have passed?

Consumers can instantly recognise a brand through the Butterfly Mark. We also have a fully searchable index on our website, where each brand has a dedicated page which tells their story. Moreover, we continually share all of our brands' stories through content on our own site as well as our social media channels. Brands do the same, it’s a collaborative effort to communicate to consumers and the wider world.

Which markets are you focusing on at the moment and why?

The UK and US are our biggest focuses at the moment.

What are your three biggest headaches right now?

The speed at which change happens and trying to change the perception of sustainability—to normalise it, those are my two biggest headaches. Everything else is minimised by the incredible team and network I have, internally and externally.

When it comes to your everyday business life, what kinds of tools, applications, or services make your life easier?

Slack, my team and the ability to access the internet pretty much anywhere, 4G is a savior.

What's on your reading list? Any great business books you'd like to recommend?

The best book I’ve read this year is Sixth Extinction.

What is the biggest setback you have faced in your career and how did you respond to it?

We’ve all had a few setbacks but I really believe that failure is necessary in order to grow. The biggest set backs are also your biggest learning curves.

What are your business priorities for the next six months?

Consolidate the UK team and grow the Positive Luxury US team.

Who would you like to recommend next for My Work?

Terese Hoffeldt of Hevea Baby, Katy Bell of Lost Property of London, Hugo Douglas of Plum of London, and Alexandra Llewellyn.

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