LONDON — François-Henri Pinault, Kering’s chairman and chief executive officer and president of the Kering Corporate Foundation, today signed a joint charter with the British charity Women’s Aid with the aim of preventing and combating domestic violence in the U.K..


The foundation has signed similar charters in France and Italy.


The partnership will see Women’s Aid work with Kering’s 1,260 U.K.-based employees over a two-year period. The organization will train a number of employees to act as ambassadors for the program, so that that they can support and refer people who are victims of domestic violence — who they encounter either in their personal or professional lives – to Women’s Aid.


Kering will also support Women’s Aid in expanding the counseling support it offers online in the U.K. to help women and children who are victims of domestic violence.


“It’s a cause that surprised many people in the company when we decided to create the foundation,” Pinault said of the Kering Foundation’s aim to combat violence against women.


“We are in businesses where we are dealing to a very large extent with women…so women are very linked to our business. The point was, let’s find a cause where we could as a company, worldwide, try to move things,” he explained. “I always thought that private companies, outside of [their] financial purpose should have a non-profit responsibility in addition.”


Marie-Claire Daveu, chief sustainability officer and head of international institutional affairs at Kering, said that the project also aims to do away with the taboo around addressing domestic violence.


“People don’t want to speak about this topic, even when they are victims…because they think, ‘It’s my fault’,” said Daveu. “This happens everywhere in the world, but also in every level of society.”


Daveu cited figures that one in five working women in the U.K. take medical leave due to domestic violence. “It’s not the most easy topic to speak about when you are in luxury…it’s tough.


“When you are in the luxury sector, you set the trends,” Daveu added. “[The project] is something that tries to open the mind. If in the luxury industry we take care of this topic, it’s not a little topic, it’s a major issue.”


Polly Neate, chief executive officer of Women’s Aid, said that employers “are an absolutely key part of the struggle against domestic violence, and very few of them realize that,” noting that one in 10 victims of domestic violence choose to confide in a colleague at work.


“It’s about making…everyone in the work place feel empowered that they know what to do [about the issue of domestic violence],” said Neate, who underlined the prevalence of the problem in the U.K., noting that two women a week in England and Wales are killed by a partner or former partner. “Particularly [Kering] being part of an industry that’s high profile, that’s about women, it’s a very important company to make this strong statement,” she added.


The partnership is to foster “a real change in awareness and response to domestic violence among [the] employees that we’re going to work with,” Neate said. “Any employer who is doing this sort of program is really making a big contribution.”


The Kering Foundation focuses on specific campaigns in different territories that link to violence against women – sexual violence in the Americas, harmful traditional practices in Western Europe and domestic violence in Asia.


“We want to be very pragmatic and very concrete. We don’t want to open all the chapters at the same time, because you speak a lot, but you don’t do a lot,” said Daveu.


Daveu noted that the foundation is next planning an initiative in the Americas to fight against sexual violence.

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