LONDON, United Kingdom — French luxury conglomerate Kering SA said Tuesday that it is going carbon neutral, paying to offset emissions it can’t currently eliminate in its operations.
The announcement comes just weeks after the company’s biggest brand holding, Gucci, said it would spend $8.4 million to offset its emissions, raising questions about why its parent company had not followed suit.
Kering’s moves reflect broader shifts within the industry as fashion comes under increasing scrutiny for its environmental impact.
As the fashion world descends on Paris for the final stretch of shows, the issue is hard to ignore. On Monday, 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg condemned world leaders in an emotional speech at a United Nations summit. Her words reflect the views of millions of young people globally who protested against the climate crisis last Friday. These are the consumers of the future, and they are exerting pressure on the politicians that regulate the industry, as much as the industry itself.
In Paris, the effect is palpable. Dior's show on Tuesday is expected to feature an environmentally-focused set. On Wednesday, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton Chief Executive Bernard Arnault is due to give an update on the steps the conglomerate is taking to address fashion’s climate problem.
But despite the growing noise, the industry’s efforts to tackle its climate impact are stalling. According to a report published earlier this year by Copenhagen-based Global Fashion Agenda, efforts to clean up fashion aren't happening fast enough to mitigate the negative social and environmental impact of the industry's rapid growth.
Though carbon offsets — which involve paying for initiatives that capture carbon dioxide like reforestation efforts in order to compensate for companies' emissions — are among the more controversial tools available to reduce companies' climate impact, Kering argues they are an effective way to mitigate the emissions it can’t currently avoid. Critics argue they allow companies to pay to pollute.
Kering has historically been at the forefront of efforts to tackle fashion's climate issues. For years, it has taken steps to understand, measure and reduce its environmental footprint. Earlier this year, Chief Executive Francois-Henri Pinault spearheaded fashion's latest sustainability pact, presenting it to global leaders in Biarritz last month. The details of exactly what that will involve in practise have yet to be established.
Under its commitment to carbon neutrality, Kering will offset 2.4 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent that it has been unable to avoid in its own operations and across its supply chain. The company is still working to reduce its footprint overall.