PARIS — Geopolitical tensions might be running high ahead of this weekend’s summit of the Group of Seven industrialized nations, but the fashion industry is eager to paint a different picture — one of corporate rivals banding together with pledges to do better for the environment, signing on to the “Fashion Pact.”
Eliminating single-use plastics, using renewable energy and promoting regenerative agriculture practices are among the commitments from signatories of the pact, which will be presented by Kering chairman and chief executive officer François-Henri Pinault at the upcoming summit hosted by France in its coastal city Biarritz.
Structured around the climate, biodiversity and the oceans, the initiative is spearheaded by Pinault, who was mandated for the job by French President Emmanuel Macron last April. Thirty-two companies have signed on so far, representing around 150 brands, and more are on the way, according to Kering and officials from the French president’s office and the country’s ministry of ecology.
Companies that have signed on so far range from fast-fashion retailers H&M and Zara-owner Inditex; sportswear labels Adidas and Nike; American-based companies Capri Holdings, Gap, PVH, Ralph Lauren and Tapestry; European luxury groups Chanel, Hermès International, Prada, Ferragamo, Giorgio Armani and Burberry, and Asia-based Fung Group. Stella McCartney is also a signatory, while the brand’s new investor, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, is not taking part. (Asked in May if LVMH would be involved, chairman and ceo Bernard Arnault said he understood it to be fashion-focused while his group also includes Champagne, perfume and cosmetics.)
“I would like to stress that this is something that seems to be quite historic — the creation of a coalition of actors in the private sector that are able to go before the G7, and its heads of state, and tell them that, separately from governments, the private sector can mobilize itself and work together — I think that’s what the president had in mind and it’s an extremely strong moment,” said Marie-Claire Daveu, Kering’s chief sustainability officer, flanked by French officials at a press briefing in a guilded room of the ecology ministry.
The project is part of broader effort by Macron to forge closer links with the private sector and involve actors outside the government in pursuing environmental goals — which he kicked off in 2017 after the U.S. pulled out of the Paris climate accords.
French officials turned their attention to the fashion industry because of its high, negative impact on the environment — officials cited the use of huge volumes of water, pesticides for growing cotton and water pollution from production processes, noting that a quarter of micro plastics flowing into the ocean come from the sector.
“These are some figures that show that it’s more urgent that we pay attention to this industry — more and more consumers are becoming aware of this impact, they are demanding more transparency from brands, to know more about their products, and an increasing realization on the part of the producers, and an increasing amount of initiatives that are a bit scattered, that exist,” said Baptiste Perrissin-Fabert, director of the junior ecology minister Brune Poirson.
“The president asked François-Henri Pinault to put a bit of order in these dispersed initiatives and bring together at least 20 percent of the actors of textiles — not just in luxury,” he added.
With today’s 32 signatories the pact brings together more than 30 percent of the global fashion industry in terms of volumes of products, officials added.
They also cited the role of fashion as setting trends for society as a reason for focusing on the sector.
“When we talk about the textile sector, we have fashion, mass-market — we’re talking about fashion in the larger sense — this industry is strong because it represents over 1,500 billion euros in sales per year, but what I find fascinating about this industry is that beyond the financial and economic side, it’s really an industry that influences trends,” added Daveu, citing other industries and consumers.
The G7 meeting is a “point of departure,” she said, noting that other companies planned to join and, in some cases, had to get board approval before signing on.
Support from high-level executives is key, she stressed, noting that the recruiting process entailed work contact between Pinault and other ceo’s — who plan to meet up in October for a working dinner.
“It’s not a law, or regulatory measures, but these companies from the fashion industry have understood that we have to change the paradigm and that it’s essential to have in their strategy and action plans something very strong in environmental terms,” Daveu added.
Pact members opted for longer time frames to allow time to adjust, with 2030 being the target for eliminating single-use plastics and reaching 100 percent renewable energy sources.
The Fashion Pact 32
Capri Holdings Ltd.
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