Image credit: Claire Luxton, MTArt Agency.

Last year, Country & Town House became the world's first glossy magazine to become B Corp certified, and in doing so signalled to the wider industry the importance of balancing purpose and profit.

To find out more about the accreditation, and how it impacts upon both the environment and Country & Town House's workers, customers, suppliers and community, we meet the magazine's Editorial Director, Lucy Cleland, who discusses the relationship between sustainability and luxury - and why brands that don't look after people and planet shouldn't be associated with luxury...

What role do you believe publications like Country & Town House play in driving awareness and action on environmental issues?

During lockdown, we found ourselves with the luxury of a period of enforced time to think about the future of Country & Town House. Did we want to carry on business as usual at a time when each and every headline was catastrophising over the state of our world. It didn't feel like an option we could take.

But how to harness that overwhelming feeling of powerlessness and get practical and pragmatic without destroying a business we’d already been building for the past 12 years. How could we work from the inside to become a better business for us, our own employees, our partners and our community at large?

The lens we chose through which to do this investigative work into being a better business was obvious: B Corp, a movement that is gathering momentum and offers a different way to look at business in all impact areas.  

We acknowledge that B Corp-accredited businesses aren't the answer to everything by any means. B Corps can still use fossil fuels and plastic, they still have waste that goes to landfill, they still use preservatives in their healthy food ranges thereby making them effectively processed, they still may not have women on the board or enough diversity in the workplace, they may get outed as bullies even...  

However, those businesses have had at least the guts to hold up a mirror to themselves stark naked and poke about in their wobbly bits – and in doing so are therefore open to critique and change. This road to better business won't happen in an instant – there are too many systemic parts to shift all at once – but the more people who are willing to do the heavy lifting, the easier it will get for other brands to join.

How does Country & Town House cover sustainability and promote eco-conscious lifestyles to its readers?

We don't try to silo it into its own section, but use it as a way in which we cover things – sometimes subtley, sometimes with hard-hitting features. We want to engage and inspire not berate and belittle. There is so much to sing about when it comes to how to live more responsibly – and joyfully – that we're never short of content. Our fashion column, for example, exhorts creativity, craft, innovation and enjoyment – it does not urge the mindless consumption of stuff that we've all come to take for granted. We want to help people make good choices by highlighting the more considered brands, companies, people, and products so sustainability becomes second nature.

What role do you believe publications like Country & Town House play in driving awareness and action on environmental issues?

We have a huge role and it's incumbent on us to take it responsibly. But that doesn't mean it has to become boring. I understand that magazines are often places of refuge and escapism – of fantasy and inspiration. Still, those feelings don't have to be in opposition to awareness of how we live our lives. The most nourishing and important thing for people is that we have a thriving environment full of nature, clean water, clean air and access to green spaces and other people. All those things seem terrifyingly under threat so it doesn't really matter how much 'stuff' we have accumulated, we need to all engage in making our environments better for all of us.

How do you see the relationship between sustainability and luxury evolving in the coming years?

They're really one and the same. Luxury must come to stand for transparency with regard to supply chains, use of ethical, sustainable materials, fair pay for workers, incredible design, first-class service, craftsmanship, longevity and a sprinkling of stardust to keep aspiration alive and allow people to fantasise.

Those luxury brands that don't invest in ensuring that their product is not ruinous to people and planet shouldn't be associated with luxury.

Also, the experiential is coming much more into play – we all have enough stuff, but immersion in exciting and innovative experiences – whether cultural or in nature – will become far more important to the luxury offering as we progress.  

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