Nadja Swarovski and Kering's Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of International Institutional Affairs, Marie-Claire Daveu, came together to discuss how brands, including their own, can make a difference when it comes to sustainability in the luxury arena at the Condé Nast International Luxury Conference.
"François-Henri Pinault is completely convinced that sustainability is the key to success," said Daveu of the Kering boss. "When we have a look at the state of the planet, we can see the effects of climate change. So taking it into account in our business is not an option, it's a necessity. At Kering, to help us find solutions to sourcing sustainable materials, we created an action plan four years ago. If you want it to be successful, it's important to know what the impact is and we think it's key to take into account, not only our own corporation, but the entire supply chain."
Kering plans to do this by adopting long-lasting processes, such as the sourcing and separation of raw materials; creating new fabrics through its innovation lab; and working closely with suppliers to improve the supply chain from start to finish, said Daveu. She revealed that making personal visits to every fashion house in the Kering stable is vital if management is to understand the practicalities of each brand. For Swarovski — who serves as a member of the Swarovski executive board and is Head of Corporate Communications and Design Services — ensuring sustainability is something that has been engrained in the company's heritage — dating back as far as 1895 when her great grandfather, Daniel Swarovski, identified the benefits of a hydropower station. Water is as important to the brand today.
"At Swarovski, water has always been really important to us for manufacturing and so we've taken great care to make sure that that process is green," she told Suzy Menkes. "It's interesting to see these values changing; however, it's difficult to communicate." The brand has therefore created "water school programmes" that run in India, Uganda, Brazil, and China, which aim to educate children about the ecological, economic, social and cultural issues that affect water use globally. "For us it's about consuming better, offering beautiful product and not having a negative impact on society," she concluded.
Wired Consulting Director Sophie Hackford added that while brands are starting to make advances in sustainability, it won't be long before technology is at a stage where it will expose any exploitation in supply chains, be it social or environmental. "With DNA technology, the dirty part of a supply chain will be exposed whether you like it or not, so it's time to clean up the act," she advised. "I would hope that we were brainy enough to find ways to solve that issue in the long-term."
By Scarlett Conlon, reporting live from the CNI Luxury Conference in Seoul