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Farfetch CEO: ‘Our Industry Can and Should Have a Positive Impact’

If consumers are failing to put their money where their values are, Farfetch isn’t seeing it.

Not only have sales of its so-called “conscious” items soared over the past year but they also grew 3.4 times faster than their more conventional counterparts, the luxury e-tailer reported in its inaugural environment, social and governance report Monday. As of Dec. 31, 2020, Farfetch products tagged as sustainable comprised 5 percent of the London-based company’s gross merchandise value.

While Farfetch’s social and environmentally savvy wares, as validated by ethical ratings agency Good on You, currently make up only 10 percent of its assortment, the Browns and Stadium Goods’ owner says it plans to top that up to 100 percent as part of a set of priorities it dubs Positively Conscious—itself a piece of the marketplace’s overall Positively Farfetch strategy to become the “global platform for good in luxury” by 2030.

Positively Conscious, according to Farfetch, aims to help consumers “think, act and choose positively” by considering the impact of their purchases on the environment, society and animal welfare. More than 1,000 brands in the Farfetch stable have been assessed by Good on You, and over 200 have met the threshold for qualifying as “conscious” because of their better-for-the-world materials or production processes. Modern slavery is not “conscious.” Neither is fur, which Farfetch yanked from its virtual shelves in 2019. Secondhand items, on the other hand, dovetail perfectly with the Positively vibe. Last summer, Farfetch rolled out a footprint tool that crunches out the waste, emissions and water-saving benefits of choosing pre-owned over brand new.

Other pillars in the concept follow the same naming convention. There’s Positively Cleaner, which chases climate positivity; Positively Circular, which has to do with integrating circular business models; and Positively Inclusive, which involves worker wellbeing, diversity and inclusion. Taken in tandem, the Positivelys are meant to serve as part vision board, part roadmap.

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“Our industry can and should have a positive impact; it needs to be cleaner, conscious, circular [and] inclusive and have robust governance,” José Neves, the company’s founder, chairman and CEO, wrote in the report. “We have an opportunity, as the luxury fashion industry’s leading global platform, to help make that happen.”

Already, Farfetch’s efforts are beginning to bear fruit. Last year, the e-tailer reduced the carbon impact of its shipments fulfilled by DHL, its primary carrier, by 12 percent. More than one-quarter (26 percent) of its energy consumption stems from renewable resources, up from 6 percent in 2019. Beginning April 2020, Farfetch has been offsetting the carbon impact of all its marketplace and Browns deliveries and returns. By 2030, it seeks to first achieve net-zero emissions, then displace more greenhouse gases than it generates.

“The need to address climate change is urgent, with communities around the world experiencing the impact of a changing climate firsthand,” the company noted in the report. “Undoubtedly, we will need to help transform our supply chains to help tackle this. Our 2030 climate positive goal reflects this urgency.”

Circularity also received a boost over the past year. Sales of pre-loved pieces increased by 53 percent, and those of items made from recycled or upcycled materials vaulted by 144 percent. Farfetch Second Life, a program that swaps pre-owned designer bags for shopping credit, sold three times as many carryalls as it did year over year. The number of “circular” products sold or serviced by the marketplace also ballooned by 313 percent. And between December 2019 and December 2020, the number of items donated through Farfetch Donate exploded by 662 percent.

Farfetch expects many of these figures to grow: In February, the e-tailer linked arms with The Restory, a luxury aftercare firm, to repair and restore bags, shoes and accessories that need extra TLC. This summer, Farfetch extended Farfetch Donate to the United States through a partnership with ThredUp, which bills itself as the world’s No. 1 online consignment and thrift store.

“To ensure a sustainable future for fashion, we cannot just limit our thinking to products being sold on the Farfetch marketplace,” the company said. “At Farfetch, we have a great opportunity to help our customers extend the life of the items they already own and we have launched services to encourage repairing, re-selling or donating them. Doing this [reduces] the need for new resources, and the number of items that go to waste.”

Consumers are increasingly clamoring for such services, it added. In a recent survey it commissioned, 38 percent of respondents said that more than half their wardrobe is made up of pre-owned items.

Equally important to Farfetch, it said, is an inclusive and diverse workplace. Over the past year, the platform’s gross merchandise value for brands in its Black designer edit ticked up 66 percent. More than half (53 percent) of the company’s employees and 35 percent of its executive leaders are women. To promote community betterment, employees directed 7,000 Kiva loans to provide financial resources to microbusinesses in underserved communities in 53 countries. Farfetch also established 10 “global people communities” to support staffers from different backgrounds and identities, including more than 85 nationalities.

“At Farfetch we have a very strong culture built upon our values and we are constantly working to retain staff and maintain a low turnover rate,” the company said. “Learning and development are important aspects in creating an environment that helps Farfetchers own their career and thrive.”