The new, more eco-friendly Lane Crawford packaging.

BEIJING — Lane Crawford made its name with its trendsetting fashion. Now the Hong Kong-headquartered company is intent on starting another trend, this time in environmental sustainability.

The heritage department store is the first luxury retailer in Asia to revamp its packaging to nontoxic, biodegradable paper, rolling out the eco-friendly solution in all of its Hong Kong stores earlier this month. Its network in mainland China is due to switch, too, by Feb. 10. Meanwhile, for online orders the company has replaced bubble wrap with recyclable and biodegradable kraft paper.

“When we talk about sustainability at Lane Crawford, we articulate our deeply held ethos that it’s our job to take responsibility for people and planet,” said Andrew Keith, president of Lane Crawford. “Our strategy acknowledges that we are in the business of selling beautiful products that people desire and need; but also means our customers can be assured of balanced consumption that does not needlessly degrade our precious environment.”

The new bags and packaging retain the signature bronze Lane Crawford color but now make use of FSC-certified paper, meaning they are sourced from responsibly managed forests. Its gift boxes also contain FSC-certified lining made of 80 percent recycled content. For inks and varnishes, the company has turned to water-based solutions in a bid to reduce the use of chemicals, while magnetic closures previously used within boxes have been replaced with 100 percent cotton weaved ribbon, allowing boxes to be widely recyclable. The switch will impact some 3 million paper bags and gift boxes that Lane Crawford uses on average each year. 

While luxury in some people’s eyes is linked to excess, Keith says the company sees it differently.

“We actually think the opposite of this: Luxury is associated with something that has been carefully made to last and be cherished — not to be thrown away immediately. It is about slowing down consumption, the very opposite of fast fashion,” he said.

“Our buying policies and evolving code of sustainable principles mean that we try and source products sustainably. While other modes of retail have opted to pursue a ‘high volume, high discount’ business model, as if there was no ecological emergency, we will not degrade our product. Perhaps uniquely for a retailer in today’s fast and furious marketplace, our message to our customers is to buy what you will love and cherish. ‘Buy less, buy better,'” he said.

The topic of environmental sustainability at large has begun working its way to the forefront for both consumers and companies in China. E-commerce giants Alibaba and this year unveiled key green campaigns and packaging initiatives, as online shopping explodes in the region.

According to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch report in August, Asia consumes 50 percent of global plastic packaging, which could quadruple by 2050. Due to a lack of infrastructure and mismanagement, Asia accounts for a disproportionately high amount — 82 percent — of plastic waste entering oceans.

Lane Crawford added that the packaging shift is just one of the ways the firm is looking into bringing sustainability into the core of the business. It has been working with sustainability consultancy Eco-Age to build a “program of change, which will see us view our business through a sustainable lens and is founded upon our three sustainability pillars: environment, wellness and community.”

Other earth-friendly initiatives include shipping certain goods by sea instead of air to reduce the carbon footprint, and introducing a new fleet of electric trucks in China, and soon in Hong Kong. Plastic hangers and shrouds are recycled across parent company the Lane Crawford Joyce Group, a shift that the company estimates saved one ton of materials going to landfill in just 60 days.

Related: Chinese E-Commerce Attempts to Turn Eco >> 

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