HONG KONG — Marie-Claire Daveu, Kering’s chief sustainability officer and head of international institutional affairs, has a simple goal for sustainability: from the fiber through to the end of the product’s life. Achieving that, she said here, is the “holy grail of the circular economy.”
That is one of the reasons why, while Daveu is intrigued by the explosion in the resale economy with sites such as The RealReal, Vestiaire Collective and ThredUp, she views that as only one segment in the overall process.
“I think it’s a good idea, it’s a great idea,” she said of resale. “But if you ask me, ‘OK, [do] we do only that,’ I will say ‘no.’ Because what I want is to have a 360 approach from the starting point of the raw materials until the end of the life of the product. But, really, raw materials and processes are key when you are speaking about sustainability.”
Kering teamed up with BSR’s Responsible Luxury Initiative, a consortium of 15 companies across the luxury sector, to map out a sustainability plan for the future. The report, titled “Disrupting Luxury: Creating Resilient Businesses in Times of Change,” delineated overarching best practices for the luxury industry.
While it did mention resale — specifically, it said Stella McCartney was a pioneer in encouraging consumers to resell in a partnership with The RealReal last year — Daveu said, “We try really to push for the long run — the fibers — because fiber is key. Everything starts with the fiber.”
“The challenge and the priority in luxury is the supply chain,” she stressed. “It’s making sure the product is still high-quality, but less impact. This was the priority and this was where we started our journey a long time ago. Because it takes decades to really make sure we can implement our vision across the supply chain, starting from cattle ranching. So resale is great, but if the product is not more sustainable, then clearly this is our priority as a business.”
Daveu highlighted Kering’s investment in a firm called Worn Again, which separates cotton and polyester filament to give the separated fibers new life.
She added that on her current trip to Asia, where the bulk of global manufacturing is done, she had been meeting with companies with new technologies and ideas that could change the sustainability conversation.
“This week we met with a number of interesting start-ups in China because there are many working on raw materials, processing,” she said.
Overall, the research by Kering and BSR focused on three key opportunities for luxury companies in the face of disruptive threats to businesses: loss of biodiversity, increased automation and economic inequality. These opportunities were building resilience through engaging in a self-sustaining, circular economy; integrating sustainability with brands, and engaging internal and external stakeholders.
In a separate study on sustainability released the week before, Greenpeace said it found encouraging results in fashion’s efforts to cut hazardous chemicals from clothing production. Eighty firms that have committed to banning certain toxins by 2020, part of a detox campaign launched seven years ago by the nonprofit, have all achieved significant progress.
Although Greenpeace was able to secure pledges from companies that constitute 15 percent of global fashion production, it said the majority of firms still implement practices that are detrimental to the environment.
The day before the Kering and BSR report was released, Burberry’s annual report revealed it had destroyed 28 million British pounds of dead stock in the past year, in a practice that is not uncommon among luxury brands.