Fashion is one of the most visible industries on our planet. What we wear marks who we are. The novelty has come with a price. Today, the fashion industry accounts for 10 per cent of the planet’s carbon emissions and is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply.
As the world grapples with climate change, some designers are galvanizing the fashion industry to act for nature. One of them is Marco Bizzarri, President and Chief Executive Officer of Gucci, one of the world’s oldest and most iconic brands. He spoke to UNEP about how he is changing the company’s practices and the CEO Carbon Challenge he launched late last year. This interview was conducted before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marco Bizzarri. Photo by Petra Collins
What is Gucci doing to make its supply chain more sustainable?
The majority of greenhouse gas emissions— 90 per cent—are created at the start of the supply chain. This is the same for all fashion companies. Gucci works closely with our suppliers to ensure traceable and sustainable sourcing along every step of the chain.
These initiatives have translated into significant reductions. Gucci’s 2019 Environmental Profit and Loss analysis shows that we are on track to attain our 2025 sustainability targets, including cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent. Since 2015, Gucci has achieved a 37 per cent reduction of its footprint across the supply chain, relative to growth. We take the remaining emissions across all the supply chain and offset them into nature-based solutions that protect critical forests and biodiversity around the world. By doing this, Gucci has been entirely carbon neutral since 2018.
What can the fashion industry do to adopt nature-based solutions?
Nature-based solutions represent around 30 per cent of the climate solution. It is crucial that the business community acknowledge this and incorporate nature-based solutions into climate strategies. Forests, for example, remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping mitigate climate change. But, unless they are protected, they will continue to diminish.
At Gucci we decided to offset our total remaining emissions every year through United Nations REDD+ projects, which help mitigate climate change, protect biodiversity and bring economic and social benefits to local communities. As businesses, we can implement this straightforward solution to immediately be accountable for all our emissions. Anything less is irresponsible.
Do you envision high fashion becoming sustainable?
Sustainability is already built-in to luxury fashion because those products are not disposable, the quality is long-lasting, and they are often passed down generations. The rental and re-sell market is also growing, through platforms like the RealReal. This all supports the circular economy.
In luxury fashion it’s common for designers to be inspired by the House’s past collections and for Gucci, this takes on a more sustainable aspect. Alessandro Michele, our Creative Director, conceives a collection as a continuous narrative. His collections are a mixture of carry-over pieces and new items, which means that they are season-less. This timeless appeal enables our clients to wear our products for longer. On the technical side, this also helps us upcycle cuttings from past collections and regenerating materials we have already used. There is still much to do of course, and we are looking at sustainability through every angle possible.
What do you hope to achieve with the CEO Carbon Challenge?
It’s a call to action for CEOs to recognize their full responsibility as business leaders to take climate action immediately. Several companies have made commitments to become net-zero by 2040 and 2050, but the science is telling us that long-term targets are just not good enough and that we have ten years to change the trajectory of climate and biodiversity crises.
By 2040, I will be almost eighty years old. I do not want to leave this responsibility to my successor. I want to create a plan of action that brings serious results in the short term.