Women in Business Q&A: Diana Verde Nieto, Co-Founder and CEO, Positive Luxury

Diana Verde Nieto is the co-founder and CEO of Positive Luxury, the company behind the Butterfly Mark; a unique interactive trust mark awarded to luxury lifestyle brands in recognition of their commitment to having a positive impact on people and the planet, providing wordless reassurance that a brand can be trusted.

Positive Luxury was founded in partnership with Karen Hanton MBE, founder of toptable.com. The two trailblazing entrepreneurs combined their experience and knowledge to use technology to demystify sustainability and positively communicate a brands’ action directly to the consumer.

Diana’s entrepreneurial spirit has driven innovations in the way that brands communicate on their commitment to social good and environmental responsibility, with companies seeing the true benefit of investing and incorporating responsible business practices into the companies’ DNA.

This began with founding a sustainability communications consultancy, Clownfish, in 2002 which Diana built to international success, with a presence in 5 markets including China and USA at the time of exiting the business in 2008.

Diana is a globally recognized figure in the sustainability field, having been trained by Al Gore at the Alliance of Climate Change in 2007 and subsequently being honoured by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader in 2011, also serving as a board member for the World Economic Forum Young Global Leader community and sits on the Sustainable Development Goals Advisory Council. Diana is an advisor to the British Fashion Council, and the European Council of Conservation International.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

I think life provides you with all the lessons you need for business. Everyone is the same, no matter where you come from – we all have challenges and hurdles to overcome. If you squeeze as much learning as you can from the good and bad experiences that happen to you, if you actively adapt as a result of learning new things about the world and yourself, you’re going to get ahead.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Positive Luxury?

I had already built a company before starting Positive Luxury, so this is business is like having a second child. I made a lot of my mistakes the first time around - now I can do it all better. I’m faster and more efficient in my work, because I know what I’m doing.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Positive Luxury?

The highlights – making the business grow, building a fantastic team, watching consumers care more and more about what we care about as a company. Challenges? I don’t know – I think it’s a part of the entrepreneurial spirt not to see challenges. I see challenges as opportunities.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?

In the tech and luxury fashion industries, I would say, be resilient. Never give up, just keep going and learning as much as you can along the way. Keep being yourself – that feels hard at the start but later on it becomes a very valuable commodity. Trust yourself and hold your own – it’s a male world, especially in the tech community.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?

To be kind and generous. That’s the bread and butter of life. Those are the qualities I want in a leader and that’s the kind of leader I want to be for my team.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

I don’t! Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. But I would say, I don’t feel like I have a job, because this is what I love to do. I never count hours but am aware of how I feel. I think if you do what you love then it tends to become your life anyway.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

The fact they are made to feel differently from men in the workplace, the idea that somehow women have less to offer than men in business. They don’t. Having to prove yourself as a woman in the workplace just distracts from the task at hand, which is being the best you can be. It’s a waste of time. Thankfully there are a lot of men who are feminists, and I believe people are increasingly understanding that to run a strong business you need women. We need to fight for women’s rights, but it frustrates me that women still have to do that when we should be focusing on our work.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

Because mentorship opens you up to experiences and lessons you haven’t had. The more you can be a sponge and allow yourself to take on board other people’s experiences the better. I’m mentored by so many people – by older men and women and by the younger members of my team. You need both.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

Theresa May. Disregarding my own political beliefs, I have respect for her as a woman who has been handed a task with no precedent. She’s learning on the job, and so far, I think the way she’s handled it impressively. But my female heroes are rarely famous – they’re the people that are around me. Women supporting kids and friends and partners and a full time job.

What do you want Positive Luxury to accomplish in the next year?

This year we aim to affirm our status as the globally recognised trust mark for the luxury lifestyle industry. We’ll achieve this by expanding the business internationally and launching some exciting new retail partnerships. While also awarding the Butterfly Mark to yet more companies and introducing our community of brands to trust to the growing wave of consumers that care.

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