The luxury giant is taking the lead in sustainability – and now will the world listen?
We are all now accustomed to what could charitably be called eco-fluff, like the cards by your hotel beds saying the 300 room luxury hotel your are staying in can save the environment by not washing your towels. More effective would be turning the TV welcome messages off, investing in a fleet of electric hotel cars, and only allowing sales staff to attend travel industry events by videoconference; but these would all hit the bottom line, while saving money on laundry is good for the P&L.
One group stands out in the luxury world for the thoroughness and authenticity its messages, though: Kering, the French owner of brands such as Gucci, Balenciaga, Stella McCartney and Bottega Veneta, has gone far beyond window dressing in introducing its strict ‘Environmental P&L’ for its brands. The result has been an acquisition of the high ground in environmental leadership in luxury, at a cost of many millions to the privately-owned company’s bottom line. But, in the refreshingly visionary (in these times) words of company CEO and owner Francois-Henri Pinault: “We have no choice”.
One curious aspect of Kering’s eco-leadership is that it being done by a so-called soft brand, that of the mothership, and not in the names of the consumer-facing fashion and luxury brands it owns. As a result, few members of the general buying public have any idea about the eco-credentials of the Kering group products they are purchasing, in contrast to much hollow self-publicity around the issues elsewhere. It’s as if they are doing it for themselves.
Kering moved more towards centre-stage this week with the announcement of a broad and dramatic “2025 Program”. This specifies, among other things, reducing its brands’ “EP&L” (broadly, carbon emissions, water use, water and air pollution etc) by 40% over the next eight years; ensuring every one of its myriad suppliers of leather, textiles and other raw materials complies 100% with its strict standards; achieving gender parity at all levels; and building its own laboratories to create sustainable alternatives to unsustainable fabrics and textiles.
It’s big, it’s broad, it’s ambitious, it’s not window dressing, and, as Kering’s Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of International Institutional Affairs Marie-Claire Daveu, it involves “transformational changes”. Other luxury groups must follow suit.
Read our exclusive interview featuring Marie-Claire Daveu in the summer issue of LUX, out in July.