If you work alone it is impossible to change the paradigm – in conversation with Marie-Claire Daveu from Kering.
At Copenhagen Fashion Summit Marie-Claire introduces me to challenges and opportunities that Kering is facing on its path to becoming the most sustainable Group in Luxury.
Ola: We were just presented a first-ever CEO Agenda for a sustainable fashion industry. It includes 7 huge challenges – what is your approach to them?
Marie-Claire: My team and I worked on developing this agenda, as sustainability is our priority at Kering. It might seem like a lot, but it’s just a starting point. Inside Kering we go far beyond this. Sustainability is no longer an option for our industry, it is a necessity. And to be sustainable you must collaborate and share your learnings and best practices. Speaking of millenials and gen Z they are more and more sensitive to transparency and engagement.
Ola: Is the new luxury consumer more sensitive to transparency and sustainability?
Marie-Claire: Luxury consumers in general anticipate that our products’ savoir-faire automatically equals taking care of people and the planet. For them, buying a luxury product inherently means that responsibility and sustainability are built into its DNA. We have no quantitative studies to back this up, however we know that consumers are becoming more and more conscious overall. We are carefully listening to insights from our boutiques all over the world and there are more and more questions linked to sustainability everywhere…of course nobody is coming to the boutique and asking questions using the word sustainability, but they ask where gold and the precious stones come from and what is the story behind each product. They are also sensitive to animal welfare. A similar dynamic is happening on the investor side. They ask: how is Kering resilient to climate change? So on all sides, everyone is becoming more conscious of global challenges: scarcity of natural resources, lack of biodiversity and climate change. Since I joined the Group in 2012, I saw this shift coming initially from the food industry because it is closely linked to our health, then from the automotive industry since it affects air quality and finally to the fashion industry. It is happening now all over the world, which is excellent progress in my view.
For us, sustainability is about ethical reasons of course, but it is also to stimulate innovation and creativity and “future proof” the business for upcoming generations.
Ola: How do you put in practice innovation while staying true to the heritage?
Marie- Claire: There is no conflict between savoir-faire, craftsmanship and innovation. We are aware of the fact that we are using traditional processes that we need to change, like the tanning methods used for leather. As an example, we are working to remove Chromium from this equation and we invested in research to avoid heavy metals, in partnership with universities and tanneries. We aim to improve our craftsmanship and commit to finding sustainable alternatives at the same time, while also aligning with the Greenpeace detox campaign. At Kering, our goal is to reduce our environmental footprint by 40% across the entire supply chain by 2025 and innovation is key to achieve this. We collaborate with start-ups and the Fashion For Good-Plug and Play accelerator to discover how we can implement new innovations across our Maisons. We also partnered with Worn Again to boost circular economy systems and solutions. We are at the R&D stage at the moment when it comes to circular materials but we believe these efforts are crucial to help drive sustainability in our own business and in our industry. A main priority when speaking about innovation for Luxury is to keep the same highest standards of quality. This is also one of the reasons that we created the Kering Materials Innovation Lab in Italy 5 years ago, where our most sustainable fabrics come from. To ensure we have access to materials that combine beauty, quality and sustainability.
Ola: With UN 2030 Agenda mainstreamed and asking for involvement of leaders across sectors: how do you implement in your everyday professional life the responsibility for the people and planet?
Marie- Claire: With our CEO, François-Henri Pinault, there is a long-term commitment to sustainability. We are lucky that sustainability is at the core of Kering’s strategy and so that everyone inside the company knows that this is our key priority. For us, sustainability is about ethical reasons of course, but it is also to stimulate innovation and creativity and “future proof” the business for upcoming generations. We have over 50 people in the Group dedicated full time to push sustainability on every level of the business: strategy, design, manufacturing, sourcing, etc. It is embedded into our strategy from the executive board to the ground level. In our 2025 sustainability action plan, every brand has their individual DNAs to respect but within this context they are mandated to reduce their own impacts so that the overall Group’s environmental footprint is reduced by 40% within this timeline, as well as the Group’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50%. Also within our 2025 sustainability strategy gender parity is a key target to attain at every level inside each brand. This illustrates how both the environmental and social sides are equally important.
There are no magic solutions and sustainability takes time and effort. You have to be pragmatic in your approach and know where you want to go and what you want to attain. What we know is this: we want to be the most sustainable Group in Luxury.
Marie-Claire Daveu is the Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of International Institutional Affairs at Kering. She is in charge of both departments where her day-to-day role includes directing the continued progress of Kering’s ambitious sustainability strategy and the implementation of the Group’s institutional affairs on a global scale.