Pinault rallies fashion CEOs to join forces to end climate change

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Held on May 15 and 16, this year’s Copenhagen Fashion Summit was also attended by Kering’s CEO François-Henri Pinault, a clear sign of how crucial environmental and social issues have become to the fashion and luxury sector.

Not only did Kering’s executive present the actions undertaken by the luxury titan owning Gucci, Saint Laurent and Bottega Veneta, but he also addressed the crowd gathered at the event by calling for managers of the largest fashion groups worldwide to join forces.

“It isn’t true that the big groups aren’t doing anything. Each one is undertaking many tasks individually,” he explained. “But the fact is that collectively, we aren’t there. We must think about collective intelligence because we are in an urgent situation. The private sector isn’t used to that but [we] need to change and to work beyond what we are doing in our own companies. That means working together with shared objectives.”

François-Henri Pinault defined it as ambitious to put his plan for a fashion coalition into practice. He accepted the task he was entrusted with by the President of the French Republic, to be carried out at the next G7 taking place in Biarritz (France) from August 24 to 26. “It’s an official mandate. We must create a coalition. I want to invite CEOs to join the movement and become involved via the ‘Fashion Pacte’.”

As explained by Brune Poirson, the French Secretary of State for the Ecological Transition, the President has opted for centering this year’s G7 on a few themes proving the importance of the meeting to the public, and fashion is considered indeed as a key lever for raising awareness among citizens.

According to Kering’s CEO, the industry players will need to uncompromisingly come to terms with the impacts their businesses have  ̶not just on site, but all along the logistic chain. After analyzing their impacts, they will have to announce their next targets.

“The countdown is on. I don’t want businesses to get involved only when they know they have a solution. I want to convince my peers that they must start trying even if we don’t have all the answers. We must accept feeling uncomfortable; it will force us to advance. We have announced our wish to reduce our [environmental] impact by 40% between now and 2025. We already have a solution for the first 20%; we still have to find a solution for the other 20%. But that’s the way it has to be to make progress. And the solutions we find must be open-source. It’s a new way of thinking.”

The CEO, whose group is listed on the French Stock Exchange, also appealed to financial establishments for opening a dialogue on the matter. “If financial institutions change the criteria they use to quantify the value of a business, that will change the dynamic. Trimester after trimester, businesses are judged on their financial performance. Taking into account the environmental and social performance would also change the primacy of short-term gains. I hope I will be able to convince the leaders of these large financial organizations. With the persuasion of 10 people it would break away from the tenet of ‘business as usual.”

It surely is a gamble. In order to gain the deciders’ approval, François-Henri Pinault will need the support of the coalition of CEOs he intends to build. The framework of G7 will be up to the challenge.

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