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Can a rich man enter “CSR Heaven?”

To this allegorical question, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton seems to answer, “Yes, but it may not be easy and it may take time”.

First the news:

“The LVMH Group announces the opening to the public on Monday, 27 October, of the Foundation Louis Vuitton.The Foundation will be located in [a new] building set in the Jardin d’Acclimatation in Paris … The Foundation Louis Vuitton’s mission is to encourage and promote contemporary artistic creation both in France and internationally.” — LVHM news release.

LVHM’s Mr. Bernard Arnault, “the first of the luxury titans,” — LVHM’s 60 luxury brands now include Givency, Fedi and Bulgari — tells the New York Times that he hopes that the new Paris Foundation art museum “will make the group more understood, to show its extraordinary values to the public.”

This thrust into greater transparency and public service, reportedly influenced by Mr. Arnault’s two children who are executives of the company, is more a reflection of new-age branding and reputation building than pure “old-time philanthropy”. Yet it surely serves a public good — as do earlier LVMH humanitarian public health initiatives. An LVHM associate explains that “If the 20th century was about manufacturing, the 21st century will be about intangibles — concern for preservation, heritage, the environment.”

Will the French — and consumers — readily accept the new foundation art museum, “a mix of commercial and cultural imperatives”?

The LVHM associate’s prediction: “I think we will get something along the lines of, ‘Who does he think he is to do this? It is not for business people to make these kinds of cultural statements!’ At some point, though, France will adapt to it. Then they will accept it. And then they will love it.”

In Europe, there is, after all , the Medici model.