Sustainability can take many forms these days — that includes everything from reducing the carbon footprint and supporting biodiversity to being a good corporate citizen.
That was the message from Antoine Arnault, chief executive officer of Berluti, who also serves as head of image, communications and environment at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the brand’s parent company.
“Sustainability has been part of our top-of-mind topics for the past 25-plus years,” he said. “My father [Bernard Arnault] created the sustainability department at LVMH in 1992.”
And while there is still work to be done, he said the issue has become “ingrained in our values” since that time. “It’s become a way of life for most of our management teams and our designers,” he said, adding that the company seeks to source materials “to forge lasting solutions for climate change.”
But it’s more than that. Arnault said that at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, LVMH set out to do what it could to help. Its cosmetics companies started making hand sanitizer gel and the couture workshops made fabric masks. The group also supported its suppliers who were forced to close their factories by continuing to place large orders and provide cash advances. “It’s not exactly sustainability, but I think, responsibility as a large group is part of this sustainability issue,” he said.
Ditto for the environment, where the company is “focused on providing solutions.” Arnault said LVMH’s customers are demanding that the company tackle the environmental crisis facing the planet, especially Millennials in China and elsewhere. These young people expect the group to show leadership in this area and are “an important means of attracting young talent. Countless times in job interviews, I answer questions around sustainability and I feel my answers are going to make the difference between choosing us or choosing a competitor,” he said.
Case in point is the fact that LVMH has a “relatively low carbon footprint, with only 0.4 percent of the entire global industry,” he said. In addition, the company switched to renewable energy in most of its production sites, has been very strict with lighting management in all of its 2,000 stores around the world, and is working with the delivery services for its e-commerce sites to reduce the carbon footprint.
But LVMH’s main focus today is the “preservation of biodiversity,” Arnault said. “A rich variety of natural resources is essential to our products, which are made from the finest materials, and we feel we have a profound responsibility to give back to nature what she gives to us. We depend on nature, and if climate increases a couple of degrees in the next 25 years, we simply will not be able to make Champagne in Champagne anymore. Let’s be realistic, our economic future depends on the climate change being reduced.”
He said LVMH is working to preserve species and the communities that depend on them and is active with UNESCO in a program called Man and Biosphere to preserve bees and beekeepers around the world. In addition, it supports regenerative agriculture and sources materials grown with fertilizers that strengthen and enrich the soil, and it holds itself and its leather and wool suppliers to the “most rigorous certifications to ensure that biodiversity criteria are taken into account.”
The company is also committed to increasing the circularity of its product range with many of its designers at the forefront of this movement. That includes Stella McCartney, whose entire business model is centered around sustainability, along with Louis Vuitton’s Virgil Abloh, who has been working on recycling, and Jonathan Anderson, who created an entirely eco-designed collection for Loewe. In addition, LVMH’s Innovation Award, which was created in 2017, identifies promising start-ups that support the company’s ethos, and has become an “increasingly coveted award among young designers,” he said.
He concluded: “With all these initiatives, I believe LVMH has found ingredients for a new future and vision for luxury, one that gives equal importance to nature and people, creativity and natural resources.”