How did Gucci become carbon-neutral?

Last year Gucci made a shocking proclamation: it is a carbon-neutral brand. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been so surprising, though, since Gucci has been a leader in environmentally sustainable fashion. Nonetheless, fashion insiders were excited and curious to determine what carbon-neutralizing entailed and what other sustainability plans Gucci has in store.

In September 2019, Gucci declared that it is carbon-neutral in its own operations and across its supply chain.

This stunning declaration was possible thanks to Gucci’s efforts first to avoid and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, followed by offsetting projects that the luxury brand started funding in 2018. According to Gucci, it supports four Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) projects. Those carbon offsetting projects occur in Cambodia, Indonesia, Kenya, and Peru, and in 2018, Gucci claims that it protected 1,102,000 hectares of forest. Carbon offsetting is a common, but sometimes criticized, practice for companies looking to go carbon-neutral, and Gucci received its fair share of skepticism from journalists and environmentalists when it revealed its extensive reliance on offsetting. However, the brand has also garnered praise for going carbon-neutral. Mainly the praise resulted from Gucci being one of the first big-name, global brands to neutralize its greenhouse gas emissions, but it also came from environmentalists who were happy to see the brand taking responsibility for its supply chain emissions as well as direct emissions. Most companies that have claimed to be carbon-neutral are speaking about their own operations and not considering the emissions that come from manufacturers and suppliers. In the fashion industry, the supply chain is where most emissions come from, so brands that don’t put in the time, money, and effort to neutralize them but still market themselves as carbon-neutral are misleading consumers. Gucci proved that the brand is not interested in just appearing environmentally sustainable for the good press.

Gucci wants to create “a world in equilibrium.”

In June 2018, the luxury brand launched an online platform, Gucci Equilibrium, to “generate positive change for people and our planet.” The platform encourages fashion consumers to be creative and collaborative with each other to achieve environmental and social sustainability. Gucci also has a real plan to achieve environmental sustainability, a ten-year plan. Outlined by Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri in 2017, the plan includes ideas such as developing new material sourcing solutions and further decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. The next milestone in the plan will occur at the end of this year, when Gucci is supposed to be using 100% renewable energy. If the fashion house can still meet that goal, despite the difficulties this year has brought the industry, the future looks bright and sustainable for Gucci.

The luxury fashion house is on a mission to separate itself from LVMH and fast fashion brands.

Kering, the group that owns Gucci, was declared the most sustainable fashion company in the world and one of the most sustainable companies across all industries, according to Corporate Knights’ 2019 Global 100 Index. This is an impressive feat for the fashion group and troubling news for its leading competitor, LVMH. While LVMH is more sizable than Kering, it has fallen behind in sustainability. This could potentially have negative consequences for LVMH and its brands as sustainability, and transparency regarding sustainability, become more sought after by consumers. Earlier this year, Antoine Arnault, representing LVMH, spoke with other fashion industry leaders during a New York Times webinar about the future of fashion. He came off noticeably more dismissive of the importance of sustainability than his colleagues and blamed fast fashion instead. Unfortunately for LVMH, the fight against fast fashion is another area where Gucci, and Kering, are ahead. Gucci Equilibrium and the brand’s recent digital presentation, GucciFest, are geared towards younger consumers, one of fast fashion’s most dependable audiences. Among luxury fashion houses, Gucci is the most preferred brand for Millennials and Gen Z, according to Business Insider, suggesting a promising future for the 100-year-old company.

The Bottom Line:

The term “carbon-neutral” has been thrown around a lot recently. Hundreds of large, international companies and even a few countries have pledged to become carbon-neutral in the coming years. Meanwhile, Gucci has already achieved carbon neutrality, and the fashion house isn’t stopping there. Gucci and its parent company, Kering, are leading the way in environmentally sustainable fashion, and hopefully, the rest of the industry will follow.