'Care, Collaborate and Create': Kering Group unveils new sustainability strategy

22 Feb 2017 , 12:00pm

French luxury holding group Kering is stepping up sustainability efforts across its 16 top-tier brands – among them, Gucci, Stella McCartney and Balenciaga.

Kering Group has followed up its already-ambitious 2016 Sustainability Targets with a new 2025 roadmap designed to cement the French conglomerate’s status as the trailblazer for sustainability efforts across the global luxury industry. The group, which already claims boasts an environmental footprint 45 per cent smaller than the global average for companies with comparable turnover, is evolving its sustainability targets on the back of lessons learned over the past 12 months, as well as the revised business goals of the company. The strategy has been developed together with the CEOs of Kering’s luxury brands which include Gucci, Bottega Venata, Saint Lauren, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Balenciaga and Brioni, among others.

Supply chain efforts

At the core of Kering’s sustainability strategy is a recognition that the French conglomerate’s efforts will only become meaningful once they are extended down throughout its entire supply chain. Most recently, Kering invested in a Thailand python farm to help its brands assure customers that their snakeskin products, such as bags and shoes, are sourced from ‘ethically-raised’ snakes. The company also has initiatives with Mongolian goat farmers to help ensure sustainable supplied of cashmere, and with sheep farmers in New Zealand.

Creating value through sustainability

More than ever, I am convinced that sustainability can redefine business value and drive future growth,’ said Kering chairman and CEO François-Henri Pinault of the company’s updated sustainability framework. ‘Our strategy outlines how we will redesign our business to continue to thrive and prosper sustainably into the future, while at the same time helping to transform the luxury sector and contributing to meet the significant social and environmental challenges of our generation.’

To Mr Pinault, the false dichotomy between luxury and sustainability betrays a misunderstanding of the concerns of contemporary luxury consumers – and indeed, of the historical value of luxury products. He told The New York Times: ‘As a human being, you breathe, you eat, you dream. You cannot not dream. And luxury sparks that. Real luxury is based on authenticity and sincerity — product is almost secondary to the experience. But if your products are not in sync with a higher set of values, then you aren’t going to survive in this business.’

‘Science-driven’ targets

Kering Group was one of the first major companies to implement ‘science-driven’ sustainability goals in line with the recommendations of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The overarching aim is to reduce Kering’s environmental impact, as measured in the company’s environmental profit-and-loss statement (EP&L), by 40 per cent by 2025. Highlights from the company’s updated targets, as published by The Fashion Law, include:

CARE for the planet:

  • Use resources within the “planetary boundaries” with a science-based approach in order to reduce carbon emissions from Kering’s business activities by 50% in Scope 1, 2 and 3 of the GHG protocol by 2025.
  • Further address all supply chain environmental impacts with a goal to reduce Kering’s Environmental Profit and Loss (EP&L) account by at least 40%, including the remaining carbon emissions and going beyond to also include water use, water and air pollution, waste production and land use changes.
  • Create a “Supplier Index of Sustainability” and ensure Kering’s high standards for raw materials and processes are implemented by suppliers at 100% by 2025, which also raises the bar on traceability, animal welfare, chemical use and social welfare.
  • Promote sustainable design and minimize the environmental impact of a product at every stage, from sourcing and manufacturing to transportation and consumer use, and create an open-sourced tool to assess products based on Kering’s standards.
  • Establish a Materials Innovation Lab (MIL) focused on watches and jewellery, following the success of Kering’s MIL for fabrics and textiles in offering access to sustainable alternatives.
  • Expand offsetting commitment to include a new ‘insetting’ approach in order to ensure that actions across the supply chain deliver climate benefits as well as social value.

COLLABORATE with people:

  • Support the continuation of craftsmanship traditions and the communities that support them.
  • Extend focus across the supply chain and improve community livelihoods where raw materials are sourced.
  • Develop an industry-leading performance metric system that will measure achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Leverage current partnerships with leading universities and continue to develop collaborations to identify sustainability solutions.
  • Amplify forward-thinking employment practices, including the global parental policy launched on 1 January, a well-being at work policy by 2018, and an employee benefits policy by 2020.
  • Achieve gender parity at all levels.
  • Aim to be the preferred employer in the luxury sector.

CREATE new business models:

  • Invest in disruptive innovations that can transform conventional processes in luxury, and influence the industry.
  • Develop new and sustainable solutions for sourcing raw materials, including exploring biotech and promoting a circular economy through turning recycled textiles into new clothing.
  • Scale up an internal purchasing platform to have access to high quality, sustainable raw materials.
  • Stimulate and enable innovation to translate vision into action through internal governance.
  • Establish a Young Leaders Advisory Group for inspired ideas.

Sources: The Fashion Law; New York Times; Financial Times; Sustainable Brands