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Gucci Confronts Climate Emergency With ‘CEO Carbon Neutral Challenge’

Gucci has thrown down the greenhouse-gas gauntlet.

Marco Bizzarri, the Italian company’s president and CEO, has issued a “carbon neutral challenge”: a call to action for CEOs to take full and immediate responsibility for the total greenhouse-gas emissions generated by their supply chains.

In an open letter published Tuesday, Bizzari urged companies “across all sectors” to follow Gucci’s lead by adopting a “360-degree” strategy that begins with avoiding and reducing carbon emissions within their operations and ends with offsetting the remainder though “nature-based solutions,” including forest-conservation projects.

“There have been many commendable commitments made by individual companies and through industry coalitions to align with the Paris Agreement and push even further toward a 1.5-degree-Celsius trajectory,” he wrote, referring to the temperature-increase ceiling experts say is the point of no return for irreparable climate damage.

“However, I believe that we can take another straightforward step in the right direction,” Bizzarri added, “and deliver rapid and concrete positive impacts right now for our natural world and for our climate.”

Gucci, for its part, became the world’s first “entirely” carbon-neutral luxury house in September after implementing what it calls a “hierarchy of actions” to avoid, reduce, restore and then, as a final measure, neutralize any unavoidable emissions through REDD+ projects in Cambodia, Indonesia, Kenya and Peru. (REDD+, an acronym for “reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation,” is a United Nations-supported program that protects forests from logging.)

The same month, Kering, Gucci’s parent company, announced the entire group would be following suit. Kering chief François-Henri Pinault is also spearheading the G7 Fashion Pact, a coalition of 32 companies representing 150 brands, including Adidas, Burberry, Chanel, Gap, H&M, Nike, Nordstrom and Prada, that have pledged to collectively achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

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But as recent intergovernmental reports have shown, time is of the essence, Bizzarri said.

“We don’t have the leisure to just work to avoid and reduce our impacts on climate and biodiversity over the long term,” he said. “Nor can we wait for technology and climate-smart solutions to catch up, and to scale up, to meet the sustainability challenges we all face. This could take years that we don’t actually have.”

Gucci’s CEO Carbon Neutral Challenge comprises six “guiding principles,” the first of which is acknowledging that additional measures, “over and above direct reduction targets,” are immediately required, given the urgency of the climate crisis.

Companies should have an “internationally recognized objective measurement” of their supply-chain greenhouse-gas emissions and publicly declare a timeline and roadmap for avoiding and reducing them based on science-based targets.

They must implement “verified and certified nature-based solutions” such as REDD+, purchase offsets within 12 months of joining the challenge and ensure they deliver “measurable and direct benefits” to biodiverse ecosystems and local communities.

Furthermore, companies are expected to provide annual reporting on the impact and outcomes of offsetting projects, their progress toward the reduction of their emissions and third-party verification of investments made to the offset projects “to ensure efficacy.”

Challenge takers must also commit to collaborating with stakeholders to raise awareness for solutions that “amplify efforts to conserve and restore nature.” To “continue positive momentum,” they should reach out to other CEOs.

“I believe that collective action is imperative if we are to help create a future in which society can thrive and business can succeed, while nature is restored and protected,” Bizzarri said. “I sincerely hope you will join us.”