Gucci made history last September when it said it had become an entirely carbon-neutral company—the first luxury house to do so. Italy’s most valuable brand, in a statement, hailed its move as an “unprecedented” commitment to sustainable leadership in the fashion industry, which accounts for 8.1 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, or as much as the total climate impact of the entire European Union, according to environmental consultancy Quantis.
Gucci’s strategy implements a “mitigation hierarchy” to avoid, reduce, restore and then finally offset what it calls “unavoidable emissions” through four “critically important” United Nations-backed REDD+ projects in Cambodia, Indonesia, Kenya and Peru that protect forests from being logged.
Though the company has been “operationally embedding” sustainability into its business over the past several years, including working to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 50 percent by 2025, it decided to make the leap into full carbon neutrality because of the urgent need for more ambitious climate action. Indeed, last November, Marco Bizzarri, its president and CEO, issued a “carbon neutral challenge” to urge CEOs to take full and immediate responsibility for the total greenhouse-gas emissions generated by their supply chains. (Its parent company, Kering, has already followed suit.)
“Gucci’s decision to entirely compensate for our greenhouse-gas emissions is a reflection of our commitment to sustainability and our desire to encourage a more progressive approach to carbon neutrality,” a spokesperson said. “We believe that companies must be responsible and accountable for all the emissions created by business activities across the supply chain immediately, not over decades.”
While the majority of corporate climate targets are years away, given the scientific evidence, companies “don’t have the leisure to just work to avoid and reduce their impacts on climate and biodiversity over the long term,” the spokesperson added. “2040 and 2050 climate targets are just not good enough.”
In terms of specific reductions, Gucci says it focuses on high-impact areas throughout its supply chain, which has “led to positive and measurable change,” including increasing the use of recycled raw materials and organic fibers in its collections, incorporating more responsibly sourced precious metals in hardware and jewelry and extending sustainable processes and manufacturing efficiencies with programs such as Gucci Scrap-less for leather and Gucci-Up for circularity. It has also switched to green energy, achieving 83 percent renewable energy for its stores, offices, warehouses and factories, with a goal of 100 percent by the end of 2020. As of 2019, Gucci has reduced its emissions “all the way to the end of the supply chain” by 37 percent relative to growth as measured against its environmental profit and loss (EP&L) system of natural capital accounting.
Gucci’s own definition of carbon neutrality takes a more ambitious stance than similar claims, encompassing all emissions, from Scope 1 to Scope 3, as laid out by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. Most companies, the brand explained, measure their take on “carbon neutrality” against their own direct operations and a small part of their indirect operations, but this doesn’t account for the bulk of the greenhouse-gas emissions that result from business activities, which are primarily generated upstream in the supply chain.
The luxury house says it hopes other companies will hold themselves to the same standard.
“Gucci believes that corporate carbon neutrality must encompass the entire supply chain and that companies and multi-stakeholder groups working toward long-term net-zero ambitions should build in critical interim actions in order to immediately and fully address their supply-chain emissions,” the spokesperson said.
What’s the most important issue the fashion industry has yet to address?
“True accountability. Indeed, there are key issues like traceability that the fashion industry as a collective needs to address. However, as individual companies, we need to take real responsibility for our actions and the impact they have on our planet and on people in the immediate.
Considering the reality of climate change, our industry can’t just wait to ‘scale solutions’ through collaborations or for technology to catch up to our sustainability needs. We need to be transparent about our total impacts and take full ownership of them right now. This ownership will drive change. At Gucci, we transparently publish all our environmental impacts via our Digital EP&L every year and all the information about our sustainability activities can be found on equilibrium.gucci.com.”
For more on Sustaining Voices, which 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, visit sustainingvoices.com.