Propelled partly by the eco expertise of its creative director Gabriela Hearst, Chloé has become the first luxury fashion house in Europe to achieve B Corp status.
“Beyond the fact that we are proud of it as a company, we also aim to inspire many others to join,” said Riccardo Bellini, chief executive officer of the Compagnie Financiere Richemont-owned brand. “We upgraded our operations, governance and policies in a way that allows us to operate in a more environmentally and socially responsible manner.”
Regarded as the “gold standard” in sustainable companies, the Benefit Corporation (abbreviated as B Corp) certification is provided by nonprofit B Lab. By its strict ESG criteria, B Corps are legally bound to act in the interest of both people and planet.
Bellini had indicated that Chloé was seeking B Corp certification last November when he disclosed to WWD that he was retooling the brand’s business model to one that is purpose-driven, community-based and accountable, in addition to being highly creative.
At the time, he also said Chloé would create a social profit and loss account, akin to an EP&L; create an advisory board of experts to guide the company and hold it accountable, and incorporate social entrepreneurs into its supply chain, among other measures.
In an interview last week, Bellini lauded B Corp’s certification criteria for helping Chloé “frame the transformation of our business.”
“It was significantly more challenging than I could have expected,” he confessed. “It’s a deep and considered audit and work across all the different areas of the company.
“It’s all about the mind-set of continuously challenging ourselves to improve, and to bring the full equation of financial, social and environmental value to the table in every decision we make,” he added.
Becoming a B Corp requires companies — among other steps — to fill out a rigorous 300-question survey detailing the ins and outs of their business, from employee working conditions to carbon footprint.
Bellini stressed that achieving the certification marks the beginning, rather than the end, of its journey to balance profit, people and planet in the way it does business.
With this certification, Chloé joins companies like Vestiaire Collective, Patagonia, Allbirds, Eileen Fisher, Outland Denim and Toms.
“We join a real community of leaders who share a mind-set, and the belief that business can be a force of good,” he said. “[The certification] offers you a framework of where you’re strong, where you need to improve in order to set your sustainability, environmental and social sustainability agenda for years to come.”
There are some 4,000 certified B Corps across 77 countries and 153 industries. The B Corp community grew by 25 percent in 2020.
Bellini said Chloé plans to communicate the milestone to its clients, but “we don’t intend to use it as a marketing tool.”
The road to B Corp status started about 18 months ago with the brand’s “Women Forward for a Fairer Future” mission statement and other measures, before the arrival of Hearst in December 2020. However, the American designer, whose own brand is steeped in haute sustainability, accelerated Chloé’s eco transformation thanks to her experience designing in an environmentally friendly way.
“Eighty percent of solutions are really sitting on the design table — by the choice of how the product is done, by the choice of the material, and by the choice of social procurement,” Bellini said. “Gabriela has been an amazing sponsor and driver of such choices.”
For the spring 2022 Chloé collection, Hearst paraded clothes macraméd from fabric leftovers, and sandals made from upcycled flip-flops recovered from the sea. Meanwhile, Chloé’s new Nama sneaker uses 80 percent less water and emits 35 percent fewer greenhouses gases than its previous Sonnie model.
The company said its transition to low-impact materials reached 58 percent with the spring 2022 collection. Other efforts include partnerships with Fair Trade-certified social enterprises and a volunteering program that encourages employees to help local NGOs.
Consumers are increasingly looking to corporate actors to be models of responsibility, with 36 percent stating they are prepared to invest time and money in companies that try to do good, according to a recent study by data analytics and brand consulting company Kantar.
“We truly believe that sustainability is not just something fashionable, but it is one of the most important platforms for brand growth that you are experiencing right now,” Cristina Colombo, client impact director of the sustainable transformation practice at Kantar Insights, told a conference in Paris last Thursday.
Responsibility now accounts for 49 percent of corporate reputation, compared with 17 percent 10 years ago, she noted, adding that companies have to move from self-proclaimed authenticity to earned authenticity in order to gain the public’s trust.
Amélie Debaye, head consultant for beauty and luxury at Kantar, said that consumers are even more demanding of luxury brands. “They must offer a new mode of consumption, less based in excess, frivolity and elitism, all while ensuring they manufacture ethically,” she said.