Backstage at Chanel RTW Fall 2021

LONDON — Chanel is strengthening its ties with Cambridge University, creating a three-year partnership with its Institute for Sustainability Leadership, CISL.

Chanel said Tuesday the new tie-up will feature “tailored sustainability education programs, innovative operational projects and scholarships focused on driving greater inclusion.”

The partnership will also draw on expertise from across the university, including the Institute of Manufacturing, the Cambridge Judge Business School and its climate-change initiative, Cambridge Zero.

Chanel said the overarching aim is “to advance practical sustainability solutions to specific business and societal challenges, including how to reduce and avoid carbon emissions and address biodiversity loss.”

The partnership will initially focus on three main streams, including building an education and sustainability leadership program, and a series of innovation “sprints,” each lasting up to 18 months. Each sprint will frame key questions and bring together insights and expertise from across the university.

Chanel said the sprints are aimed at accelerating innovation within the company with regard to business challenges and opportunities, and will initially look at specific products and processes in fashion. CISL will also bring together a pool of experts to help push innovative ideas and to prototype solutions that will later be applied to Chanel’s way of working.

The third stream will look to support students. Chanel said it will sponsor individuals from underrepresented backgrounds to join CISL’s Masters in Sustainability Leadership program over the next three years, providing what it billed as the largest support of an MA program by a single company.

The French brand also plans to work with students from across the university “to help them apply smart ideas to real-world problems and advance Chanel’s sustainable transformation strategy.”

Andrea d’Avack, Chanel’s chief sustainability officer, said “the new partnership reflects key pillars of our business transformation, from research and insights that deepen our understanding to finding tangible solutions that positively impact our supply chain and wider communities. This is underpinned by educational initiatives that will help to embed a sustainability mindset to accelerate change.”

Clare Shine, director and chief executive officer, CISL said: “This is a really important partnership with Chanel that can generate long-term benefits at global scale. Many of the solutions required for truly sustainable economies and societies do not yet exist, are not commercially viable or are not yet fully scalable. We believe that this bold research-backed initiative will help Chanel in its ongoing efforts to shape the future of luxury, inform leadership and best practices, and inspire responsible businesses around the world.”

This is not the first time that Chanel has worked with CISL.

Chanel also supports The Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellowship in Luxury and Social Inclusion at Cambridge. The fellowship money is earmarked for research into how “luxury brands should define their purpose and use their voice to foster social inclusion by shaping societal norms and accelerating behavioral change.”

The fellowship is also exploring “the opportunities and challenges of luxury brand activism and its impact on social inclusion.”

CISL said the findings of that research will be disseminated via several academic and non-academic outlets, and aimed at a diverse range of audiences. The main research collaborators include Prof. Paurav Shukla, of University of Southampton in England, and Dr. Veronica Rosendo-Rios, Colegio Universitario de Estudios Financieros (CUNEF).

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