‘We have the greatest opportunity to replace conventional, unsustainable systems with innovative and sustainable ones’

Across fashion’s complex and global supply chains there is a depletion of resources, from the raw materials we use, to our manufacturing processes that are dependent on vast amounts of water and energy

It should come as no surprise that fashion can be considered the second-largest polluting sector and contributes to climate change. In fact, a new study illustrated that the global apparel and footwear industries account for 8 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, almost as much as the total carbon impact of the European Union.

What is perhaps surprising is that our industry has only recently become more aware of the significance of the breadth of its environmental impacts. Conversely, there has been recognition for decades of the need to improve radically the often deplorable working conditions in fashion’s supply chains.

In the business of fashion, like all commercial endeavours, there has been a historical disconnect between perceived business needs and a more regenerative, humane approach. More than ever it is critical to change this paradigm. In a world where we are passing our environmental planetary boundaries, business and sustainability cannot remain decoupled.

In my view we have the greatest opportunity in our lifetimes to replace the conventional, unsustainable systems that have been entrenched for centuries with innovative and sustainable ones.

While it is true that many sectors are wrestling with how to integrate sustainable practices, fashion also has a moral obligation to be a leader in becoming accountable, ethical and responsible to our environment, and to contribute to the greater good.

We can help build climate-smart and resilient agriculture to support our raw material needs, efficient, low-impact production systems, and fair working conditions that provide a foundation for thriving communities. This will not only result in the improved sustainability of our products, it will support sustainable development globally through operational initiatives, from the furthest supply chain tiers to design.

In short, we need to refashion fashion for the future; to move away from a “take, make and waste” economy towards a circular one where resources are conserved.

This is how Kering’s chief executive François-Henri Pinault views the future of fashion in our group. And truth be told, what other major industry can shine the light of excitement and glamour on this daunting mission like the luxury sector?

Luxury is in a unique position where we influence and set the trends and aspirations in fashion and lifestyle. And so, just as luxury sets these trends, we have a critical role in setting the standard for sustainability across the fashion industry.

At Kering we are finding and implementing solutions-based approaches that will establish a new, sustainable luxury ecosystem and accelerate the uptake of a “fashionable” status quo that aligns with beauty, creativity, quality and sustainability.

Indeed, this is no easy task. And we can’t do it alone. As an industry, we need to accept a shared responsibility and shift towards more collaborative and entrepreneurial thinking. We need also to understand that transparency of information sets the stage to look at opportunities, and should not just be seen through the limited lens of risk and competitive disadvantage.

Open-sourcing new ideas will fuel sustainable innovation and create business value. It is also essential to educate the next generation entering our industry. They will be tomorrow’s leaders who will drive change and embed these new frontiers of sustainability that we are only just discovering today.

We have choices like never before and it is clear to me that we, as an industry and as individuals, need to move forward and contribute with creativity, ingenuity and innovation for a truly sustainable future.

Also found in Opinion