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  • Mimosa Spencer

LVMH to Tackle Environmental Issues Through ‘Life 360’ Program

The luxury group plans to set concrete objectives over three, six and 10 years and communicate more often on progress — and shortcomings.

Hélène Valade and Antoine Arnault kicked off LVMH's internal climate week conference with a presentation to the press Courtesy of LVMH

PARIS — LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton is structuring environmental initiatives around a program baptized “Life 360,” with objectives set for three-, six- and 10-year time frames.

Plans are to communicate more often on progress — as well as shortcomings — and the climate strategy will be revealed next year, the group said Monday in an online press presentation hosted by image and communications director Antoine Arnault and environmental development director Hélène Valade.

The pair took to a studio in Paris for the presentation, fielding written questions from journalists.

“We already do a lot of things but as industry leader, I think we also have a duty to be exemplary, to educate others and be transparent and it is with this in mind that we are working on a new approach, a new environmental strategy for the years to come,” said Arnault.

Introducing Valade, Arnault also thanked her predecessor, Sylvie Bénard, who worked for more than 25 years for the group and created the environmental department in 1992 — noting such issues were perhaps not so fashionable at the time.

Valade, who led sustainable development at French water and waste group Suez and served on the board of France’s environmental protection agency ADEME, arrived at the group early this year. LVMH on Tuesday will kick off a week of internal conferences linked to climate issues, with the participation of Laurent Fabius, the former French prime minister who negotiated the Paris Agreement to reduce climate change in 2015, and climate scientist Valérie Masson-Delmotte. The two will explain that there remains a huge amount of work to do to achieve the goals set by the Paris Agreement, said Valade.

“Scientists are urging us to move faster and here at LVMH we are taking them extremely seriously,” added Valade, noting the acceleration of rising temperatures and consequences, like droughts and fires.

The executive ticked off efforts at the group over the years, including reducing emissions by 25 percent between 2016 and 2018, thanks in large part to reducing energy consumption in stores, with LED lighting, for example.

The group’s efforts on the environmental front, which have been accelerated by the coronavirus crisis, will entail mobilizing employees and facilitating collaboration between its sprawling stable of 75 brands, encouraging them to exchange best practices, while a system of measuring impact will feature at the center of efforts, according to Valade.

The four-day climate week presentations will address LVMH’s 160,000 employees, and are meant to prompt change in how business is conducted.

“Often things don’t go fast enough because we continue to do things as we have in the past — here we will prod employees to ask environmental questions about each stage of their business, from transformation to production — could we use a certain material that is more environmentally friendly than another, can we recuperate hangers and reuse them,” she said.

“We all have to be creative, each one of us at LVMH, when it comes to sustainability,” said Valade, noting some 49 solutions, including renewable energy, would be showcased during the week. The question of offsetting carbon emissions will be addressed with scientists, she added.

The group’s 10-year climate strategy, to be revealed next year, will be based on a “robust, scientific approach,” said Arnault. Significant means will be dedicated to biodiversity, which the executive noted is vital to the group’s activity.

When addressing topics linked to the environment, luxury companies often stress the importance of nature for their business, both in terms of raw materials and its role in serving as inspiration for creative endeavors. Hermès International, for example, has said higher-quality leather comes from farming methods that are less harmful to livestock and the environment, while executives at Kering have said that nature serves as a source of creativity for designers.

Arnault said the coronavirus pandemic has reinforced the group’s focus on environmental commitments.

Valade showed a slide with intersecting circles — one describing human skills in luxury, with words transmission, art, know-how and quality, and the other describing nature, listing biodiversity of plants and animals, living soil and precious resources — noting that the group’s notion of luxury would reside between the two.

“This is the vision of luxury that we would like to promote,” she said, calling it “luxe nouveau” in a nod to “art nouveau.”

“It’s an artistic movement that emerged at the beginning of the 20th century just after the Industrial Revolution,” she said, noting the importance of bringing more natural style back to design at the time.

“It feels like we are at a period like this today,” she added. The idea today is to build capacity to return to nature what has been taken, she explained.

The term 360 is meant to reflect the group’s holistic approach, noted Valade.

An emphasis on circular systems will include encouraging various luxury houses to make unused materials available to other houses in the group, while, in keeping with the idea that luxury products are meant to last, LVMH plans to help establish repair services for brands that don’t already have them.

Packaging will be another strong focus, as the group shifts away from heavier, traditional forms seen in the past.

On the climate front, goals include using only renewable energy sources by 2030 and LED lighting in stores by 2023.

Efforts in biodiversity, notably with Stella McCartney, will include a regenerative agriculture program and partnerships with public institutions like Unesco to protect species like bees.

The group is also looking at favoring shipping by boat rather than airplane when possible, and using electric vehicles for customer deliveries.

Transparency is another front the group plans to address, noted Valade, citing Guerlain’s ‘Bee Respect’ platform and tags on Loewe garments that identify a fabric’s recycled component. “We need to amplify and accelerate these efforts,” she said.

Asked if the group had to adjust its supply chain following the mass cull of minks in Denmark on fears of a mutation of the coronavirus, the executive noted that the group sources fur from Finland.

LVMH houses are free to choose materials they work with, she added, but have to respect certain criteria when it comes to sourcing. Owning supply chains outright is a way to ensure that animals are raised in a way that respects certain criteria, she added, noting the group owns a number of crocodile farms.

Commenting on McCartney’s presence in the group, Arnault said she’s full of ideas and tapped into an ecosystem of startups that are well-versed on the subject. “She’s like an open source,” he said, noting he thought the group had moved forward on environmental issues since her arrival two years ago.

Valade traced her interest in regenerative agriculture to McCartney and said the group is looking at a number of projects, including one in Turkey, growing cotton with natural fertilizer — allowing the soil to regenerate while improving its ability to stock carbon.

Asked about the secondhand market, the executives noted strong interest on the part of LVMH.

“It’s a new business model we’re looking at closely,” said Valade.

“We’ll integrate it progressively because it’s another way to prolong the life and durability of our products,” she said.

“It’s still a bit early to fully answer the question — it’s an economy that exists, that is growing in importance, so we are looking at this carefully and will likely be able to answer you in a few months,” said Arnault.

When it comes to carbon emissions, the group will base its goals on science based targets for scope 2 and scope 3 emissions — the latter covering activities associated with but not owned by the group — in accordance with the Paris Agreement that seeks to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Valade noted she is still considering the best method, noting that there is some controversy around efforts to offset emissions, which can be seen as green washing, while there are some interesting projects related to the efforts.


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