COPENHAGEN — Opting for strength in numbers, executives at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit are making a case for industry-wide coordination, with Kering chairman and chief executive officer François-Henri Pinault leading the charge for a “Fashion Pact” ahead of the summit of seven highly industrialized countries this summer in France.
“We’re trying to show industry leadership and get some of our other industry competitors to do the same kind of thing because I think it’s critical. One company is not going to be able to change the system, it’s going to require the industry to move forward — I think us and a number of companies who have taken leadership roles,” said Emanuel Chirico, chairman and ceo of PVH Corp., owner of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, speaking at the summit. The group earlier this week announced a three-pronged sustainable strategy with goals to reduce end-waste, eliminate hazardous chemicals and transition to using sustainable materials by 2025.
Chirico and Pinault discussed environmental matters in the run-up to the summit, which Pinault kicked off with calls for fashion companies to band together on sustainability issues.
“In the field of sustainability, a critical mass of key players can create a terrific momentum,” said Pinault.
The Kering boss was formally mandated by France’s President Emmanuel Macron in April to create a coalition of companies to make concrete commitments to protect biodiversity, to fight climate change and preserve oceans.
In October, WWD spoke with Pinault about the project in the works for the French president to rally other leaders in the sector for a sustainability push ahead of the G7 meeting in the French coastal city of Biarritz this summer.
“If I can help, I want to help,” Pinault said at the time, noting that in his view, major luxury brands have a responsibility to be industry leaders in terms of sustainability development.
“The objective is to show that next to government efforts, civil society can be mobilized, particularly businesses, to make things happen for the climate, biodiversity and protection of the oceans,” said Kering’s chief sustainability officer Marie-Claire Daveu, speaking to WWD on the sidelines of the Copenhagen summit.
“It is a transversal approach — the president saw that the fashion sector, which is extremely important in France, is also a sector that has an impact on all three of those areas,” she added, referring to climate change, biodiversity and oceans.
As reported, France is preparing a law to ban the destruction of unsold garments, an effort led by junior ecology minister Brune Poirson, as part of a broader government push to promote a circular economy.
In his opening remarks, Pinault invited chief executives of the fashion industry to rally to the effort and endorse the “Fashion Pact,” calling on financial institutions as well, to take part by considering sustainability criteria when making investment decisions.
“If this criteria has the same importance to economic value as to sustainability value, all companies will immediately shift priorities,” said Pinault.
Joining with other actors adds weight, noted Daveu, citing the importance of striking up partnerships even outside of the sector. The executive’s teams have been working with the food industry, for example, as part of their efforts on animal welfare.
“It’s also a question of volume, when you create coalitions beyond collaboration — if you have several important actors with high volumes, you also have the capacity to effect change more quickly and more significantly,” added the executive, who was asked earlier at a panel discussion how to accelerate progress.
“I quickly answered that there has to be an agreement on how to measure things…secondly, we have to know what we want — Kering has to know what it wants to do from an individual point of view, but the same goes for the sector, which means we have to come to an agreement on objectives,” she said.
While individual companies tend to strike out on their own when it comes to drawing up environmental commitments, forming a coalition brings added energy to the effort, she said. Kering, which publishes its environmental profit-and-loss accounts, has taken an open-source approach to guidelines it has drawn up on various sustainability topics, with a view to promoting broader industry change.
Companies will have to make an effort to go beyond their comfort zones, she added.
“We will call for this — and it applies to us, too — because we don’t have the answer to everything, but this is how things move forward,” she said.
“The G7 [meeting] — it’s the starting point, not the finish line,” Daveu added.