PARIS — People can give back to nature what they take from it with sustainable and scaleable solutions. So decided the jury at LVMH’s first mock Tribunal for Future Generations, where experts debated the topic.
An immersive project from LVMH’s Life 360 program that was part trial and part theater — complete with robes, a witness box and a gavel-wielding judge — the tribunal was staged with Thierry Keller and Blaise Mao, cofounders of think tank Usbek & Rica, serving as prosecution and defense. The duo interrogated witnesses on the main question at hand: Can we give back to the living world what we take from it?
LVMH head of image and environment Antoine Arnault watched the proceedings from the audience, LVMH environmental development director Helene Valade stood as a witness, while comic artist Tommy Dessine was on hand for live drawing and a little bit of levity.
Jean-Baptiste Barthes, vice president of operations for Berluti, and Sandrine Sommer, director of sustainability at Moët Hennessy, were among the nine-person jury. All the dissenting votes were from advocacy groups.
“I don’t want to say it was expected, but it is a good ending to a very interesting debate,” Arnault said. “It was a small representation today on these very, very important topics, but it also shows that we are ready to talk to people that don’t agree with us but with respect. We are ready to listen to what they have to say and to find common solutions.”
The first witness, Marine Calmet, president of environmental law organization Wild Legal, insisted that humans have a moral duty to create new rights for other species.
“Recognizing the rights of nature also means getting out of an anthropocentric model,” she said. “It is getting out of a model that is in a pattern of deprivation, domination, intensive exploitation of life and recognizing that animals are not goods; air, forests, water, are not resources but are the very matrix of life.”
Pierre Canet, director of WWF France, talked up the comprehensive accounting in respect of ecology (CARE) system that has been championed in France. “It makes it possible to make visible what is invisible for agents and economic players. For example, how to successfully reflect the use of natural resources where pollution is generated by business activities,” he said. “The balance sheet is able to display all the restoration and protection actions to reduce the footprint of this same economic player.”
Laura Magro, deputy director of CEEBIOS, discussed the science-based idea of biomimicry — the concept of using nature’s adaptive abilities to inspire “a whole new dimension of multidisciplinary skills and expertise. “Businesses need to invite ecologists and biologists into their planning stages. We desperately need it to resolve these challenges, between economic activities and the environment,” she said.
The most passionate testimony of the evening came from Valade, particularly when confronted with the idea that a consumer still consumes. “Our primary responsibility is to create consumption that is durable, transferred from generation to generation,” she said, noting LVMH products are intended to last decades. She also said the very definition of beauty is changing, consumers are no longer seeking out the new and easily disposable and circularity is considered a desirable quality in any product.
Valade conceived of the event as a way to “get away from black-and-white thinking” on the issues. “The challenge is to change our relationship with nature to no longer consider that humans are all powerful but that there should be an alliance between man and nature, and for this we need to raise awareness.”
It’s part of her long-term educational plan for LVMH employees that will roll out in the coming months. Speaking to WWD, Valade added that education is a two-way street. In a shift that has intensified since the pandemic, customers, particularly in France and Asia, are asking detailed sourcing and policy questions while Gen Z employees want corporate change. “It’s absolutely key to transform our business model to adopt circularity, and this model allows us to attract new talent.”
After years of prototyping and experimentation, the company now needs to scale up and transform. Valade cited Virgil Abloh’s last collection for Louis Vuitton in which sneakers were completely upcycled. The company’s policies are being applied across design houses through the Life 360 corporate roadmap.
Added Arnault: “In business today you feel this will, you feel this necessity and you feel this responsibility that all the stakeholders and all the economic leaders of this world have. Altogether we can move lines at least as much as the state and as much as unions. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Valade plans to host similar debates in London and New York later this year.