Gucci Marco Bizzarri

MILAN — In a major call to action, Marco Bizzarri, Gucci president and chief executive offer, is urging his peers across different sectors to act quickly and accept the CEO Carbon Neutral Challenge.

The executive believes that time is of the essence to reduce Greenhouse Gas, or GHG, emissions and that actions should include companies’ supply chains. “I want to engage as many ceo’s as possible and not necessarily in the fashion industry,” Bizzarri told WWD.

To wit: He is sending a letter today to challenge all business leaders by way of Gucci Equilibrium and the brand’s social media platforms. Bizzarri also is a featured speaker at Salesforce’s annual Dreamforce convention “in conversation with” Marc Benioff, founder of the CRM and tech firm, in San Francisco — with sustainability a central theme of their discussion.

“We are entering a new decade of corporate accountability. As businesses, we all have a responsibility to meet the reality of our global climate and biodiversity crises head on and find solutions that can amplify efforts to conserve and restore nature, while mitigating climate change,” Bizzarri writes in the letter. “I believe that collective action is imperative if we are to help create a future in which society can thrive and business can succeed, while nature is restored and protected. I sincerely hope you will join us.”

He goes on to acknowledge that “there have been many commendable commitments made by individual companies and through industry coalitions to align with the Paris Agreement and push even further toward a 1.5 degree Celsius trajectory.” Still, Bizzarri believe further steps can be taken.

“Even though Gucci is an important reality, it’s a small drop in the ocean,” he said. “The impact on the total greenhouse emissions is limited.” The executive reiterated that, in order to “maintain the company’s size and allow its 18,000 employees around the world to keep working,” concrete steps must be taken to reduce the emissions “immediately. We cannot only clean our conscience.”

Bizzarri emphasized corporate accountability and responsibility, urging his peers to “find solutions that can amplify efforts to conserve and restore nature, while mitigating climate change” through practical action.

In September, Gucci and parent group Kering revealed they were committing to becoming carbon neutral across the board and throughout their entire supply chain. A pioneer in sustainable practices, Kering pledged to offset its annual GHG emissions from 2018. The French conglomerate also spearheaded the “Fashion Pact,” signed by 32 companies and presented by François-Henri Pinault in August at the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France, pledging to eliminate single-use plastics, use renewable energy and promote regenerative agriculture practices, among other commitments.

The approach should not only focus on reducing GHG emissions, but on redefining corporate carbon neutrality “to encompass the entire supply chain,” where most of the GHG emissions are created, according to Bizzarri. Companies should prioritize “actions to first avoid, reduce and restore,” and then offset “all the remaining emissions as a final measure.”

The executive proposed “important nature-based solutions like REDD+,” which not only contributes to “reversing the curves of biodiversity loss and climate change through the protection and restoration of critically important forests around the world but also simultaneously benefits the livelihoods of local communities.” (REDD+ stands for Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation.)

To offset the group’s 2018 GHG emissions, Kering is investing in REDD+ projects that will conserve nearly 2 million hectares of important forests around the world that help remove carbon from the atmosphere. Gucci is also taking action and is supporting REDD+ projects and investing $8.4 million in the Peruvian Amazon, in Kenya, in Indonesia and in Cambodia, as reported.

Bizzarri said there is no time to wait for technology and “climate smart solutions to catch up, and to scale up, to meet the sustainability challenges we all face. This could take years that we don’t actually have.”

To participate in the CEO Carbon Neutral Challenge companies need to adhere to six guiding principles and must:

• Account for their entire GHG emissions associated with their business activities and recognize that additional measures are required immediately;

• Have an internationally recognized objective measurement of their GHG emissions that encompasses the supply chain, or, if not already in place, commit to adopting one within 12 months from accepting the challenge;

• Have a publicly declared timeline and plan of action;

• Implement verified and certified nature-based solutions, such as REDD+, a mechanism developed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, that will mitigate and offset the near-term unavoidable GHG emissions associated with a company’s entire business activities on an annual basis following through to deliver direct benefits to biodiversity and fair and equitable benefits to local communities;

• Commit to providing annual reporting on the impact and outcomes of offsetting projects, their progress and third-party verification to ensure efficacy; and

• Commit to collaborate with stakeholders to raise awareness for solutions that can amplify efforts to conserve and restore nature, while mitigating climate change and outreach to other ceo’s to join the challenge.

“This is an open letter, for whoever feels represented by these principles,” Bizzarri said of the challenge. He conceded that the processes, the series of procedures and systems might be daunting for smaller companies and in some cases the organization may take longer. “It’s not all immediate because it’s not superficial and it’s transparent, it’s all done seriously by serious associations,” he said. “The financial investment is less relevant than the enormous impact [of the initiatives],” he noted.

Asked about the reaction to Gucci’s pledge to carbon neutrality, Bizzarri said “people have already contacted us, there is great interest and attention in Italy as well as abroad. Italian ceo’s are very attentive to this theme and will probably accept the challenge.”

John G. Robinson, chief conservation officer of the Wildlife Conservation Society, lauded Gucci as it “has assumed unprecedented leadership among corporations in the fashion industry by reducing its environmental impact and now achieving carbon neutrality in its direct operations but also across its entire supply chain.”

Peter Bakker, president and ceo of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), also commended Gucci: “It shows bold and ambitious climate action to move to net zero emissions with immediate effect. We are encouraged to see leading companies taking commitments aligned with net-zero emissions as soon as possible. Net-zero emissions can be achieved by reducing companies emissions in their operations and value chains, complemented with natural climate solutions to cover any residual emissions.”

Both the letter and the guiding principles are on a new dedicated section of the company’s Equilibrium site, together with a platform for ceo’s to register their interest in committing to the challenge.