MILAN — Renzo Rosso does not mince words and he has a pet peeve: greenwashing.
“Sustainability is a state of mind and I can’t bear to hear it whenever recycling a piece of plastic is touted as making a company sustainable. That is merely greenwashing,” Rosso said scoffing.
On Wednesday, the founder of OTB presented the group’s first sustainability report at the company’s Milan headquarters, one year after the launch of its “Be Responsible. Be Brave.” strategy.
“We see how difficult the situation is, with a planet that is overheated. Sustainability is a serious matter and it must be tackled in a serious way, with all the right certifications, and there’s no messing with them, one must comply with them 100 percent,” said Rosso. “I do take responsibility for the current situation as I am part of that generation that has contributed to destroying our planet,” he admitted. But he listed the steps the company has taken so far and the future initiatives that are part of its sustainability strategy.
“Only when sustainability becomes a way of thinking can you really speak of true change,” said Rosso. “I have been investing in this direction for years, and today we finally communicate what has been done with the concrete goals that we have set, among which, for example, reaching carbon neutrality of our internal operations by 2030, ahead of the European Union targets.” The goal is to reach carbon neutrality for the entire value chain by 2050.
He also underscored that social sustainability is very important to him. “My father taught me to give back, that it is my duty, since I have received so much.”
The group focused and reported on three macro areas, “Protecting Our Planet,” “he New Fashion System” and “Brave Together,” mapping out the year 2021 and the OTB carbon footprint in the 2019-2021 period.
Sara Mariani, chief sustainability officer of the group, which comprises Diesel, Jil Sander, Maison Margiela, Marni, Viktor & Rolf, Staff International and Brave Kid, and has a minority stake in Amiri, emphasized the need for “precise, transparent and concrete goals,” and “sharing and promoting best practices for the entire sector,” said 41 percent of electricity used for OTB internal operations come from renewable sources.
“This is not a finish line, it’s only a starting point,” said Mariani, adding that it “is brave to invest in sustainability, with the higher costs, tests and technology that are necessary.” OTB has “harmonized its approach to sustainability in the past two years,“ but its path had been laid out long before, she noted.
She admitted sustainability can be “invasive in its processes, with difficult technical issues which are at times inconvenient,” but that there are no alternatives to a serious approach.
Mariani also highlighted the brands’ circular projects: Diesel Second Hand that repairs and reconditions denim garments; Maison Margiela’s Recicla that recycles authentic original articles selected by creative director John Galliano, to create limited-edition clothing or accessories; Jil Sander+, a collection based on high-performance and often eco-sustainable products made from natural fibers; the new line of the Myar brand developed by Brave Kid that gives new life to fabric remnants and scraps from a number of OTB companies; Marniphernalia at Marni, which reconditions cotton garments taken from previous collections and repurposes more than 800 handmade striped items; and the Viktor & Rolf Tulle collection, a limited-edition capsule collection named “Lost & Found” consisting of recycled vintage items.
As Ubaldo Minelli, chief executive officer of OTB, noted, “Sustainability is a business leverage that encourages innovation and optimizes the pipeline, and our supply chain is vital for our business model.”
The executive was proud of the C.A.S.H (Credito Agevolato — Suppliers’ Help) project first launched in 2013, which guarantees OTB suppliers easier and speedier access to credit. Minelli said more than 400 million euros have been allocated in nine years, even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“C.A.S.H. has helped many small-sized companies, which are the backbone of the country,” he said, adding that he hoped to be able to reveal the acquisition of a minority stake in “some of Italy’s most excellent companies” by the end of the year. He did not elaborate, but this is in line with Rosso’s goals to support the pipeline by providing the organization and platform of OTB without overturning the managerial lead of these small companies.
In 2021, OTB worked with more than 1,600 suppliers, of which 73 percent were in Italy — or 80 percent in the luxury segment — and nearly 60 percent of the total purchases were made in Italy.
Last year, OTB became a founding member of the Aura Blockchain Consortium; a partner of the Leather Working Group, and adhered to the Roadmap to Zero program promoted by the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Foundation.
Rosso said that in 2021, 51 percent of the managerial positions across the company were held by women out of a total of 6,000 employees. In the group, women represented 63 percent of the total and 57 percent were younger than 30.
Rosso also spoke of the OTB Foundation, which has invested in more than 300 projects with a positive impact on the life of about 300,000 people.
Last year, the Foundation doubled its resources destined to the local communities compared with 2020. It has recently helped to protect refugees from Afghanistan offering a shelter for around 1,500 people and welcomed 442 refugees from Ukraine in Italy.
Minelli said this was “a very important day because we share the path we have mapped out and our long-term strategy. We have long been working on sustainability, and this is the moment to provide an account of what has been done so far — even if we are not a public company yet.”
When asked whether an IPO was still in the cards, Minelli confirmed OTB is eyeing the end of 2024 or the beginning of 2025 for the listing, as reported.