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Farfetch’s 10-Year Sustainability Goals Are an Evolution of ‘Luxury New Retail’

Farfetch wants to be a force for good in luxury fashion.

On Monday, the high-end e-tailer announced the first tranche in a series of 10-year sustainability goals, including “beyond net zero” carbon emissions, a broader array of conscious products, enhanced circularity, and greater diversity and representation within the organization by 2030.

The lockdown-driven surge in online luxury sales during the coronavirus pandemic has “accelerated” the launch of the goals, which build upon Farfetch’s “Positively Farfetch” sustainability initiative from 2019, including its “climate conscious” carbon-offset delivery scheme and the Secondlife resale program, the company said.

“We operate at the intersection of fashion, technology and sustainability,” Thomas Berry, director of sustainable business at Farfetch, said in a statement. “These worlds were already merging before the global lockdown, but the move to online is accelerating rapidly as a result. Setting some ambitious long-term goals is the logical next step in the company’s sustainability journey.”

Farfetch plans to squash its carbon footprint “to zero and beyond” by centralizing fulfillment, employing more efficient packaging, increasing its use of renewable energy and offsetting whatever emissions remain. The company’s largest single environmental impact, it says, lies within its logistics network, and some 44 percent of its emissions are related to shipping and returns.

While Farfetch says it remains focused on whittling its emissions by increasing supply-chain efficiencies and ramping up its use of renewable energy, purchasing offsets is the “most economically efficient way” for it to immediately cut its environmental impact. It says, however, that it will continue to measure its carbon footprint in line with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and “work hard” to pare it back in relation to Science Based Targets. Over time, Farfetch will also expand its offsetting program, which currently covers all shipping emissions for customer orders and returns, to cover all residual emissions and support programs that “enable the achievement of net zero.”

Packaging-wise, Farfetch has introduced new sizes of boxes to ensure that all items are dispatched in containers of appropriate size, curtailing both emissions and paper waste. The e-tailer has switched to tree-friendlier Forest Stewardship Council-certified materials, it said, and improved the design of the boxes to require less tape.

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To extend the life of its clothes and reduce waste, the e-tailer will throw its efforts behind business models such as resale, repair, made to order and donation. Following successful pilots, both Farfetch Secondlife and Farfetch Donate will be extended to other markets, the company said. The e-tailer is also investing in growing its pre-owned category, which its customers are “already engaged in.” Some 52 percent of its customers, for instance, have purchased or sold pre-owned luxury items as of September.

By 2030, Farfetch wants to sell more circular, low-waste products than products made in “traditional, linear ways.” It also aims to drive all its fashion product revenues on the Farfetch marketplace, Browns, NGG and Stadium Goods from “100 percent conscious products” that will be independently accredited as organic, recycled, upcycled, pre-owned or fair trade. In doing so, Farfetch says it hopes to shift the fashion system from a linear “take, make, dispose” model to a more sustainable, circular one.

In addition, Farfetch plans to embed an “anti-discriminatory and consciously inclusive culture” at the company for all customers, partners and employees. Though it says it started its “diversity and inclusion journey some time ago,” it will be publishing a framework next year so it can track its progress and “be transparent.” Together with its brand and community partners, Farfetch has pledged to deliver a platform that provides visibility for designers and businesses from under-represented communities while staying accessible to a “representative spectrum of social identities and needs.”

“As a platform for the luxury industry we are uniquely positioned to enable positive change in many different ways,” said José Neves, founder, CEO and chairman of Farfetch. “Sustainability is a cornerstone of the evolution of ‘luxury new retail,’ where the boundary between offline and online commerce is dissolving as store-based operations are digitized. We will enable partners to enhance their customer experience through embedding sustainability into areas such as delivery, efficient supply chain management, marketing and product merchandising, customer engagement and innovative new service offerings.”

A “credible, granular environmental and social program” with distinct long-term goals is important for all its stakeholders, and the Covid-19 crisis has only thrown that into relief, he added.

“For investors, it is an increasingly important part of management’s report card; for business partners, it is part of the service we provide; customers want to see us taking action and so do staff,” Neves said. “This year we’ve seen an accelerated move of luxury fashion sales online, which has only increased the need to prioritize our work in this area and has provided us with the opportunity to embed sustainable and inclusive business practices in the way we grow our business.”