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How Kering is Creating a Resilient, Future-Facing Business

For Kering, few things are as inherent to luxury as sustainability. Certainly the French luxury conglomerate, which operates such boldface brands as Balenciaga, Gucci and Saint Laurent, doesn’t distinguish between the two concepts. For the company, sustainability is at once a responsibility and an opportunity.

“To continue to be a successful and responsible business into the future, given the reality of climate change, we must build resilience into our supply chains,” said Marie-Claire Daveu, chief sustainability officer and head of international institutional affairs at Kering. “Sustainability also drives innovation and it stimulates entrepreneurial and creative thinking. This opens new doors for business growth and for new business models to thrive.

One way the company is promoting resilience is by partnering with Colorado’s Savory Institute to create a first-of-its-kind framework to source and verify raw materials grown using regenerative practices, which are rooted in rebuilding and improving soil health. The ethos carried over in May to Kering’s new animal-welfare guidelines, which specify regenerative grazing techniques that fight desertification and help maintain carbon sinks.

“This type of farming and grazing approach promotes healthy soil, biodiversity and enhances the diversity of plants and pastures,” Daveu said.

While creating sustainable supply chains is one challenge, authenticating them is quite another. Provenance is everything, which is why Kering pushed forward last October a “100 percent traceable” organic-cotton value chain based on forensic science and statistical analysis. A collaboration between Italy’s Albini Group, U.S. cotton producer Supima and U.K. traceability firm Oritain, the innovation leverages intrinsic natural identifiers in the fiber to create a “fingerprint” that can neither be altered or faked.

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It’s a move that brings Kering closer to its 2025 goal of 100 percent traceability in its overall supply chains, Daveu said.

“For Kering, we need to ensure that our high standards are in place from the very beginning of the supply chain where our raw materials are sourced,” she said. “It is critical to change the traditional systems that do not provide full traceability so that environmental and social impacts can be verified and also so that fashion can become more sustainable as an industry overall.”

In what areas has the fashion industry made the biggest strides in sustainability in the last five years?

“There has been an increased awareness about the importance of creating sustainable supply chains and this will lead to an increase in suppliers adopting best practices like regenerative agriculture. This will then provide more options and availability of sustainable materials, which will support fashion’s shift to sustainability.

Also, there has been a fair bit of interest and focus on circularity in the last few years. We now see a lot of startups and innovation focused on recycling, upcycling and turning old clothes back into new clothes. This has grown significantly since we first entered this space at Kering years ago with our support of Worn Again. And really, if we all address circularity deeply, then we will actually address a lot of fashion’s other issues.”

Sourcing Journal’s Sustaining Voices celebrates the efforts the apparel industry is making toward securing a more environmentally responsible future through creative innovations, scalable solutions and forward-thinking initiatives that are spinning intent into action.

See more of our Sustaining Voices honorees and their stories, here.