Fashion titans Chanel, H&M sign pact to curb environmental damage

HONG KONG - 2019/05/15: French multinational Chanel clothing and beauty products brand store is seen in Hong Kong. (Photo by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

By: Robert Williams

Fashion giants including Nike, H&M, Armani and Chanel have signed onto an agreement intended to curb the apparel industry’s environmental impact.

The pact, spearheaded by Gucci-owner Kering and a French environmental ministry, is one of several private-sector accords set to be unveiled as President Emmanuel Macron prepares to host the G7 summit, which takes place this weekend in Biarritz, France.


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Companies signing the pact produce nearly 150 brands and represent more than 30% of the fashion industry’s output by volume, French officials said in a press briefing. The brands agreed to targets including elimination of disposable plastic packaging by the end of the next decade and becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.

Recent years have seen fashion companies race to show consumers and regulators they’re willing to fix their damaging impact on the environment, but efforts have not offset the industry’s rapid growth. Fashion is responsible for roughly 8% of the world’s carbon emissions, a 2018 Quantis report found -- as well as water pollution from fabric dyes, chromium used to tan leather, and pesticides from growing cotton.

While fashion makers have been working separately to improve practices, “taking a united approach will lead to deep change,” Marie-Claire Daveu, Kering’s chief sustainability officer, said.

Real Business Problem

Fashion companies have incentives to tackle climate change and protect the environment that go beyond just doing what’s right, Daveu said.

“Fashion owes everything to nature,” she said. “If we can’t find good quality supplies of materials like cotton and cashmere, in addition to ethics you have a real business problem.”

Other targets in the agreement include transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2030, providing incentives for suppliers to do the same, and ensuring brands do not contribute to the loss of natural forests.

Participants include retailer Carrefour, Zara-owner Inditex, Calvin Klein-owner PVH Corp., and luxury names like Burberry Group, Prada, and Hermes International.

LVMH, France’s most valuable company and the owner of brands like Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, declined to participate.

Getting a critical mass of companies to sign on to the goals sometimes meant compromising on deadlines, Daveu said. A shorter timeline for eliminating plastics, for example, would have discouraged some members from signing, she said.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.