Stella McCartney’s Approach to Sustainability

The Subtle Art of Sustainability Marketing


Conveying sustainability in marketing can be tricky if consumers are not interested in the environment to start with. While in some industries it’s being well implemented, other sectors are still struggling to communicate transparency and accountability through their campaigns. The fashion industry has been the topic of discussion for years, and its relationship with sustainability has a controversial history. While some brands are putting effort into creating change and acknowledging the gravity of their environmental impact, others are still not complying with the standards. What is interesting, however, is that the brands that decide to invest money and resources in sustainability are often not the ones with the most resources available. If we look at the facts, the top 10% of emitters are responsible for almost 50% of global CO2 emissions (Cozzi et al., 2023). Simultaneously, leather continues to be one of the most commonly used materials in luxury fashion (Ramchandani & Coste-Maniere, 2020) and is mostly purchased by upper-class individuals in highly developed countries. This data leads us to wonder to what extent the luxury fashion market is responsible for the excessive CO2 emissions linked with the production of animal leather (Hakansson, 2023).
While many brands are now replacing it with vegan leather, significant change is still required in the luxury market. Since 2001, Stella McCartney has been shown to be supporting the use of sustainable alternatives to animal leather, including MIRUM® and Frayme Mylo™, plastic-free materials made entirely from plants and fungi (Stella McCartney, n.d.). While these are innovative solutions that made the Falabella bag exceptionally popular, they have not taken off in the rest of the luxury fashion industry. As stated in an interview for Vogue, many customers who purchase products made of vegan leather are not aware of the origins of the material (Farra, 2017). The decision process of the customer, therefore, leads to the question of what factors make vegan leather the preferred choice for the final consumer. Are products made from alternative leather most successful if promoted as a more sustainable alternative or as a great product itself? In other words, should sustainability be sold in a subtle way or as the point of difference? For Stella McCartney, turning sustainability into a norm has proven to be a substantially successful strategy, which eventually allowed the brand to stand out in the luxury fashion industry. But will other fashion giants follow her example?

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Cozzi, L., Chen, O. and Kim, H. (2023) The world’s top 1% of emitters produce over 1000 times more CO2 than the bottom 1%, IEA. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2024).

Farra, E. (2017) Stella McCartney discusses how sustainable fashion can be sexy and ‘how technology can save us’, Vogue. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2024).

Hakansson, E. (2023) The carbon cost of our leather goods, calculated, Collective Fashion Justice. Available at: (Accessed: 22 January 2024).

Ramchandani, M. and Coste-Maniere, I. (2020) ‘Leather in the age of sustainability: A norm or merely a cherry on top?’, Textile Science and Clothing Technology, pp. 11–22. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2024).

Stella McCartney. (n.d.) Sustainability. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2024).