As a destination for staff training, it sounds idyllic: a 75-acre wetland area on the edge of the Rambouillet forest teeming with more than 350 plant and animal species, including foxes, badgers and deer.
Known as Vallée de la Millière and located about one hour from Paris, it was acquired by famed photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand in 2020 and will soon become a place of learning and awareness about biodiversity for employees of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
On Friday, the luxury giant unveiled a five-year partnership with the Vallée de la Millière association, which is renovating and readying the verdant site for employee training, and which will host visits from students, nongovernmental organizations and scientists starting next year.
LVMH aims to train all of its 200,000 employees in “environmental fundamentals” by 2026 at multiple sites, which include Vallée de la Millière and sustainable fashion hub La Caserne for its 37,500 employees based in France.
“Each employee can be an actor of change, and providing expert training is key,” Hélène Valade, LVMH’s environmental development director, told an audience at the Change Now environmental summit in Paris. “I think this amazing place will be will enable a reconnection with nature.”
Since April 2022, LVMH-owned beauty brand Guerlain has been a partner of Vallée de la Millière, renowned for its regenerative farming techniques and a garden built on the principles of agroforestry and permaculture.
Arthus-Bertrand, an advisory board member of LVMH since 2019, said the French group’s sponsorship will allow Vallée de la Millière to “carry out this unprecedented pilot re-wilding project, which could serve as an example and encourage others throughout France.”
Valade told the Change Now audience its training programs would be tailored around employee functions, so procurement specialists can evaluate suppliers of raw materials, so sales associates can respond to customer inquiries about a product’s eco credentials, and so logistics specialists can navigate the most eco-friendly modes of product transport.
“It’s absolutely crucial to engage and to align the entire company around a common environmental ambition,” she said, noting its objective to train all employees by 2026 has been enshrined in the group’s Life 360 roadmap.
In an interview, Valade described robust demand from employees for job-specific eco training, noting that its human resources department recently posted a range of new environmental training options, and most slots were filled within a day.
She noted some training sessions would be only a few hours, while some would be daylong immersions.
Valade was one of four panelists at a Change Now session dedicated to corporate transformation.
Pierre Louette, chairman and chief executive officer of Les Echos — Le Parisien, a French newspaper group controlled by LVMH and a co-organizer of the Change Now summit, told the audience that about 15 percent of articles it publishes today contain an environmental, social and governance angle, versus a tiny fraction even five years ago. To his delight, the number of subscribers are increasing.
“It hasn’t been detrimental to the business. People are interested,” he said.
But Louette insisted the newspapers practice what they preach, so Les Echos – Le Parisien has taken steps to reduce the company’s carbon footprint, hired a chief impact officer, and worked with its printing and delivery supply chains to reduce environmental impacts.
“Most of the staff involved have found out that it’s something that adds to your life,” he said.
Antoinette Klatzky, vice president of programs and partnerships at the Eileen Fisher Foundation, said ownership models determine engagement, with Patagonia among the most advanced. Last year, the family of founder Yvon Chouinard transferred ownership of the firm to two new entities set up to use its $100 million in annual profits to fight climate change.
The Eileen Fisher house introduced an employee stock option plan in 2007, which Klatzky described as transformative. “The employees care differently; they’re invested,” she said.
In a rousing speech to introduce the session, Kate Williams, CEO of 1% for the Planet, urged companies to “let go of what we thought of as a competitor” and encourage them to join the cause. She mentioned tea firm Pukka introduced rival Tazo to 1% for the Planet, a global nonprofit that conscripts businesses to give 1 percent of annual sales to environmental nonprofits.
“Small actions add up to large change,” she said. “And it isn’t just a marketing story. This is how we create a new economy.”