More on Luxury and Dubai

February 4, 2010

Following on from my last article on luxury in Dubai, I came across this fascinating article looking at Deepening Luxury in Delhi.  It tells of a presentation by Jem Bendell at the International Herald Tribune conference on Sustainable Luxury in Delhi, India, in March 2009.

The report focuses on the role that luxury brands can play in helping to promote sustainability.  “Luxury brands have the margin and mandate to create the most environmentally friendly products and services.”  And also “I am here because I believe that luxury can lead, not lag, in the transition to a fair and sustainable world.”

The ability for luxury brands to market environmental awareness, promote reliability and longevity, and have strong links with developing economies for the development of their products is well stated.  Some brands are doing it but so much more could be done.  Too often I have found that luxury tends to involve excess and waste rather than longevity and care.

Currently, my son is completing a project on renewable energy and discovering the frustrations of people not willing to take action on sustainability issues.  This “Life is good, I don’t need to worry about the future” attitude seems to be quite prevalent here in Dubai.  Brands tend to be used as status symbols to define someone in luxury rather than as monikers to encourage awareness raising and responsibility across the populace.

I like Jem’s approach of working “towards a new form of luxury that embodies what is personally, socially and environmentally the best of human creativity.”  This deeper luxury requires a change from buying a brand for status to buying luxury for the inherent meaning in the goods and services and to pass on that message of environmental awareness to others through the branding.

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What’s that got to do with the price of petrol?

April 1, 2008

Andrew W asked me the other day about what it is like to live in Dubai as a futurist.  I’ll answer that question in another post but it’s interesting to see the local petrol prices.  In Australia, they are nearing AUD 1.50 per litre in comparison to the equivalent prices internationally of around AUD1.85 in France, AUD 1.95 in the UK and a measly 95 cents / litre in the US (I spent some time researching and doing currency conversions!).  This is about on par with a few years back when we took a round the world trip and noticed that petrol prices in the states were about 2/3 of those in Australia and in Europe it was about a third more or twice that of the Yankees.

But all of this pales in comparison to the UAE.  Over here, petrol prices are about 45 cents a litre.  When I first started driving in 1981, petrol was 34 cents a litre!  Last weekend, it cost me about $17 (51 dirhams) to fill up the Yaris with 8 gallons or about 36 litres of fuel. 

Now this means that there is no real desire for people to think sustainably when they purchase a vehicle over here.  I have not seen one Prius although I have seen lots of Hummers, SUVs and 4WDs.  There is no local tax on fuel and very few shipping costs.  For the locals, they could say that it is their resource and they want to maximise the economic benefits from their use of it.  But given the relative wealth of the locals, it does breed a culture of not caring about the sustainability issues associated with personal resource use.  And there is hardly any public transport here – a few buses and the commissioning of a new rail line tracking the main road.