Hélène Valade

PARIS In a sign that it is ramping up its commitment to sustainability, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton has named Hélène Valade its new environmental development director, effective this week.

Valade reports to Antoine Arnault, who will now oversee the environmental department in addition to his roles as head of communications and image for the group, chief executive officer of Berluti and chairman of Loro Piana.

“Respect for the environment is an essential subject for the group. It’s one of our priorities for the coming years and it was important for a member of the family to be in this role and to represent that commitment,” Arnault told WWD.

Valade succeeds Sylvie Bénard, who served as LVMH environment director for 26 years and will retire later this year. In that role, she oversaw the creation in 1992 of LVMH’s environmental division, which until now has been overseen by group managing director Antonio Belloni.

Valade joins the luxury group from French water and waste group Suez, where she was director of sustainable development since 2014. Since 2018, the executive has also been president of the ORSE corporate social responsibility network, as well as a member of the board of directors of French environmental protection agency ADEME.

The two women will work together to ensure a smooth transition, LVMH said. One of Valade’s major objectives will be setting out the group’s “LIFE 2030” roadmap of environmental targets for the next decade.

The LVMH Initiatives for the Environment (LIFE) program, launched in 2012, covers every step from product design to retail operations and is now a required component in the strategic plans of all LVMH brands, which include Louis Vuitton, Dior, Fendi, Sephora, Guerlain, Bulgari and Dom Pérignon.

In his traditional New Year’s wishes to the group’s top executives and staff, Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH, on Monday said the company was adding a fourth pillar to its fundamental values of creativity, excellence and entrepreneurial spirit: a commitment to solidarity, diversity and environmental excellence.

Antoine Arnault, the luxury titan’s son, was a pivotal figure in LVMH’s decision last year to buy a minority stake in Stella McCartney’s namesake label and appoint the British designer, known for her environmental campaigning, as special adviser to Bernard Arnault and executive committee members.

The group also named Yann Arthus-Bertrand, a photographer and director known for raising public awareness of environmental issues, as an advisory board member, and engaged Ismaël Emelien, a former special adviser to French President Emmanuel Macron, as a consultant on green topics.

Antoine Arnault said the group was approaching its environmental ambitions with humility and determination.

“I don’t pretend to be a sort of big priest on the environment. I’m familiarizing myself with this world. I will endeavor to gather information and understand what is at stake for a big group like ours, so it’s going to take some time,” he said.

“I want us to continue to strive to be exemplary in this field. I know we’re not perfect, so it will require a bit of patience. But I’d rather take the time to understand the issues and then take action, rather than make announcements on actions that might be meaningless or so far-off that they can’t be quantified,” Arnault added.

At an event during Paris Fashion Week in September dubbed “Future Life,” LVMH said it was launching a raw materials sourcing charter for animal products such as fur and leather. But the event was overshadowed by Bernard Arnault’s comments criticizing climate activist Greta Thunberg for being too “pessimistic.”

At the time, Antoine Arnault explained why LVMH declined to sign the “Fashion Pact” spearheaded by rival French luxury group Kering at Macron’s request. He said it did not make sense for the group to be lumped together with fast-fashion and sportswear brands such as Inditex, H&M and Nike.

Speaking to WWD on Wednesday, he indicated LVMH would continue to move at its own pace. “Every decision we make has a domino effect on the environment, whether positive or negative. We can’t take this kind of decision lightly,” he said.