Kering's chief global sustainability officer Marie-Claire Daveu with Kering greater China president Jinqing Cai, at the announcement of the new China award.

BEIJING — Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world after oil and gas, and more than 90 percent of the potential to improve its sustainability lies within the supply chain — much of that within China. That formed the basis for Kering to launch a sustainability award here on Friday.

The prize is a partnership with Silicon Valley accelerator Plug and Play, and replicates its European Kering Sustainable Innovation Award in this part of the world — a fashion manufacturing capital and a growing consumer force in the luxury goods market.

The award will target and celebrate Chinese start-ups who are engaged in the fields of alternative raw materials, green supply chain, retail and use, and circular economy, with a top prize of 100,000 euros. The winner and two runners-up will be able to meet with Kering’s network of investors for mentorship, funding opportunities, as well as trips to Europe and the U.S. to meet with industry leaders.

Companies can submit their concepts now until August 2019. Three winners will then be selected by an expert jury in September, and announced later in the fall.

“From the government to industry to individuals, China is facing such acute environmental issues, and these are deeply felt by everybody,” said Jinqing Cai, Kering’s president for greater China speaking at the Chao Hotel to announce the award. “China can unlock the future of sustainability because it has the capacity to implement large-scale sustainability initiatives and practices. Kering has already started pilot projects in China, but we want to go beyond this. The award will help us collaborate with alternative raw material suppliers, establish a greener supply chain and close the loop on the circular economy.”

For Marie-Claire Daveu, Kering’s chief sustainability officer and head of international institutional affairs, China’s position as a major raw materials sourcing hub is the perfect entry point for Kering to raise awareness of sustainability efforts in the luxury fashion industry through the award.

“We are hoping to highlight start-ups that are not just within the fashion industry, but which are innovating sustainability in any sector and which can be adapted for the luxury goods industry,” Daveu underscored. “Sustainability is not a constraint; it is an opportunity. Kering wants to reduce its environmental footprint including carbon emissions, water use, water and air pollution, waste production and land use change by 40 percent and its wind and gas usage by 50 percent by 2025. Kering can achieve 20 percent of that on its own, but the remaining 20 percent must come from disruptive innovation, and that is where the award will help us identify start-ups who can help us achieve our goals.”

Cai said the majority — 93 percent — of potential sustainability impact lies with the supply chain, so engaging with Chinese start-ups, especially those focused on industrial upgrading and smart manufacturing innovations, will be vital to Kering reaching its goals. China’s Millennial generation has a greater awareness for environmental protection and sustainability, she added.

“This is about how we care about the environment, about the earth, about future generations, as a company, as an individual,” Cai said. “It is about how we collaborate with stakeholders and overcome these huge challenges — by focusing on the award, we hope to achieve these goals.”

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