A Huge Step for Clean By Design

Mention the fashion houses of Gucci, Saint Laurent, Stella McCartney, and Bottega Veneta and for sure the first thing that pops into your mind is gorgeous. NOT environmental sustainability.

But this week, just following Fashion Week in Milan, these companies and their brethren in the Kering Group can take a well-deserved bow—or should I say a strut down the runway—for excellence in environmental stewardship.

What did they do to deserve these kudos? They significantly reduced the carbon footprint of their supply chain.

  • At factories representing roughly 40% of their production.
  • By more than 10% at the half-way point of the initiative, and on track to nearly double that before the program is complete a year from now.
  • Using NRDC’s Clean by Design approach—specifically the program’s signature Ten Best Practices and more.
  • Carefully and transparently quantifying the starting point baseline and results for public accountability.
  • And all with cost-saving measures that will deliver returns in short order.

Story from the horse’s mouth and details on the reductions and the participating mills are available (here and here). For those interested in the details but not fluent in Italian (count me in there), the executive summary is in English, and the impressive figures in Chapter One are largely self-explanatory.

Way to go, Kering, and welcome to the leadership circle I have just created for you! Not just because these environmental achievements are the real deal, but also because you did this largely on your own, without extensive external involvement or push. True we gave some armchair advice, some formatted spreadsheets, and an expert review here and there along the way. But Kering put this program together in Italy by itself and ran it largely on its own, illustrating a “can do” attitude that many companies sitting on the sidelines and wringing their hands about supply chain matters should themselves adopt. As such, Kering illustrates the way that Clean by Design can come to scale in this industry without perpetual NGO advocacy or assistance.

No one beats the high fashion industry for the great beauty and creativity of their goods. This industry’s leaders spend quality time in circles that environmental toxicologists like myself don’t frequently tread! So here’s to hoping that Kering’s motivation and accomplishments to protect the planet turn a few heads outside of the usual enviro fan club—and that, as a result, new people in high places conclude that companies that lead so prominently in business can lead in responsibility and care as well.

The fashion model Angela Lindvall noted a few years ago at an NRDC luncheon that fashion is not just for models and magazines—that everyone has their own sense of fashion in deciding what they buy and wear every day. And she noted that for all of us, fashion is not JUST about the way it makes us look but also about the way it makes us feel.

People already know how the iconic designers in the Kering group make them look. As of today, knowing that their clothes were made in a way that is more gentle to our precious planet should make Kering customers also extremely happy about the way they feel.

Bravo, Kering, way to go! Looking forward celebrating with a nice bottle of prosecco together a year from now when you wrap up this phase of Clean by Design Italy.

As for the rest of you, stay tuned. More exciting Clean by Design results from both from Europe and China are on deck and will be announced soon.

About the Authors

Linda Greer

Senior scientist, Health program

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