In the world of global textiles manufacturing, Marie-Claire Daveu is the woman of the moment. As the fashion industry pivots towards radical reform in order to reverse the onslaught of bad press regarding the industry’s poor environmental and socioeconomic record, her company has been working hard to ensure it is on the right side of history. 

As chief sustainability officer at Kering, the French fashion powerhouse that owns major luxury brands including Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga, Ms Daveu is a pioneer. Her work involves transforming the business model of the textiles manufacturing industry from the traditional linear model to a circular economy. Her board level appointment demonstrates the conglomerate’s commitment to establishing a corporate identity as a cutting-edge, ethical manufacturing solutions provider.


Three-point plan

Ms Daveu explains her three-step vision for Kering: “We are committed to our ambition to reduce greenhouse gases by 50% by 2025. We want full transparency in our global supply chain – and sustainable sourcing processes for raw materials. We also want perfect gender parity and [a reduction in] the salary pay gap… we are trying to implement the best business practices.” 

This is part of an ongoing blueprint laid out in 2012, with a completion target of 2025, according to Ms Daveu. Are things on track? “Last year’s environmental profit and loss account [EP&L] demonstrated that there was a 10% reduction in emissions from a year earlier, so yes, we are on track,” she says.

The Kering Group’s innovative EP&L tool has been a game changer in influencing corporate strategy, investment policy and drafting future targets. In 2011, Kering published its trial EP&L account, highlighting in monetary terms the impact of business activities on the environment. Since 2015, Kering has made this tool available to external businesses that are also working to create greener and more sustainable business practices, with 150 companies signing up so far.

The circular economy

Ms Daveu is clear that the transformation from the traditional linear economy to the circular economy is the group’s number one priority. “It’s the Holy Grail,” she says. The pursuit of the circular economy has placed Kering on a different path to its competitors in the luxury sector as Ms Daveu acknowledges keeping operations close to home is also a priority.

“Most of our supply chain is based in Italy. Of course, for particular raw materials such as cashmere and silk we source from elsewhere, but Italy is 90% of our supply chain,” she adds. In 2017, the group opened a Gucci factory in Piancastagnaio, Italy, to manufacture specialist leather goods and handbags, hiring 120 people in the process.

Investment in innovation is also a focus, and Kering is collaborating with organisations such as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in order to reduce the quantity of resources it uses. One new area of investment is in the start-up scene in Dutch capital Amsterdam. “Amsterdam has become an incubator for ethical start-ups, such as Fashion For Good,” says Ms Daveu. “These ethically driven start-ups provide insight into new cutting-edge solutions to manufacturing processes – for example, how to use mushrooms as a sustainable substitute to leather, or the use of lasers in the lab.”

In December 2018, Kering launched a new award for innovation in Asia and mainland China in order to identify new start-ups in the region that are also working to develop more sustainable and ethical processes of manufacturing. The winner will be announced October 2019. 

Meanwhile, Ms Daveu says her main priorities for the Kering group in 2019 are biodiversity, animal welfare (which includes raising awareness in sustainable farming methods and textiles alternatives) and to work more closely with governments and non-governmental organisations to protect the world’s “natural capital”.