Kering has been on a ten-year journey to evaluate and improve the way its business interfaces with nature. Now, Kering is focused on giving back to nature.
Driven by a clear vision and framework for action, the global Luxury group has spent the last decade developing the standards and best practices to turn its ambitious goals into concrete impact. In 2020, the company committed to having a net positive impact on biodiversity by 2025. Kering is currently working towards this goal through restoring, protecting, and regenerating two million hectares, representing around six times their land footprint for raw materials. However, as they take the journey of establishing science-based targets for nature there will also be other initiatives to deliver positive outcomes.
Kering’s journey has been rooted in an in-depth understanding of its supply chain impacts and dependencies on nature and climate, made possible by its Environmental Profit and Loss (EP&L) accounting tool. The EP&L measures carbon emissions, water consumption, air and water pollution, land use, and waste production, making the environmental impacts of its activities visible, quantifiable, and comparable.
Textile Exchange spoke to Helen Crowley, Head of Sustainable Sourcing & Nature Initiatives, and Yoann Regent, Sustainable Sourcing, Biodiversity & Animal Welfare Specialist, about how the EP&L tool has been integral in its biodiversity journey so far, and the new collaborative opportunity that transformative and regenerative action represents in the fashion industry and further afield.
Textile Exchange: Kering has been working to improve outcomes for biodiversity for over a decade. How did the company get started in this area?
Helen: It came out of three things: vision, leadership, and a framework for action. Over ten years ago, Kering started with a clear vision to make sustainability a pillar of its business. There was this long-term thinking about what it means to be a sustainable company coming from senior leadership, and a dedicated, senior-level sustainability team was built.
Right from the beginning, we had very clear targets and ambitions that were linked to understanding our impact and dependency on nature and biodiversity. While we knew it was going to take time to get there, we committed to reporting and being fully transparent about the journey that we took. We also made a long-term commitment to improving and enhancing our EP&L account, which was critical to creating a framework for understanding impact and prioritizing action.
Textile Exchange: How exactly did the EP&L help Kering to turn this initial vision into action?
Helen: The EP&L gives you a direction of travel that is science based, highlighting which environmental indicators and impacts you need to focus on, and in which part of your supply chain. It is also a way of showing progress to investors and stakeholders, and it is a very effective internal change management tool. It gives people an understanding of what decisions they can make in their day-to-day work that can address broader goals.
At the start of this journey, the preliminary work that had been done on our EP&L account was starting to show that around 70% of our environmental footprint was around raw material production. This is due to land use patterns, agriculture, and forestry, as well as the water use, chemical use, and greenhouse gas emissions at that point in our supply chain.
But while the EP&L indicates important things to consider, it doesn’t tell you the details of how those things affects natural ecosystems, or specific species. So we took this thinking a step further, and now we have our climate strategy and our biodiversity strategy. These complement our EP&L with more specific actions and framing for our longer-term approach.
Textile Exchange: How is Kering promoting staff awareness on the topic of conservation and biodiversity?
Yoann: Awareness around biodiversity is increasing, but nobody really knows what it means for their everyday life or jobs. So, Kering is making sure that everybody understands these connections across the departments, and how they are contributing to achieving the Group targets through the work that they do.
Every year, all Kering employees complete mandatory training around ethics and compliance. This year we will speak about biodiversity, so that people can understand that even if you are working in retail, for example, you have a role in explaining the relationship between a product, the materials that are used, and biodiversity to the customer.
Textile Exchange: A lot of people are now starting out on the path that you have been following for ten years. What are the key learnings you would share with other companies looking to embark on a similar mission?
Yoann: When we started out in this space, Kering was recognized from the outside for setting goals and ambitions based on what the science was telling us about climate change, and on what needed to be done to reverse the loss of biodiversity, rather than what we thought we could achieve in a practical sense at the time. I think that every company should work in this way: you recognize the problem, and then you figure out how you are going to get there. You invest more money, you put more resources into it, you innovate, and you hire more people. A “sitting and waiting” approach is unacceptable given the climate and biodiversity crises.
Understanding and measuring your impact is the first step. You don’t need to develop a full EP&L, but using resources like the Textile Exchange Biodiversity Benchmark will give you an idea of where you should start focusing. It will take time but it is a prerequisite to ‘doing good’. Then, you can implement more effective projects where you know that you have impacts, and you can then start tracking and measuring outcomes
Textile Exchange: Biodiversity is affected by the combination of companies and other factors working in a particular area. Why is collective action so important in this space?
Yoann: Working as a collective is particularly relevant when it comes to biodiversity because any action you take is at a landscape level and usually, you are not the only one working within that landscape.
You need to come together with the different stakeholders, otherwise what you do individually will have a limited impact and result. So it is imperative that we work within the fashion industry collaboratively, but also with other industries that operate within the same landscapes.
Helen: To be successful you need to take visionary action across jurisdictional approaches, or landscape approaches, with many stakeholders. It is only recently that the fashion sector has been thinking about our raw material sourcing in this way. This is really good as it helps you understand how biodiversity works and what needs to get done to restore and protect it – you then become a system thinker and doer. Ultimately our natural world is a big ‘system’. This is what the planetary boundaries aim to describe, and indeed it is complex but also it provides clear levers for changing the system.
Textile Exchange: How do you believe frameworks like science-based targets for nature will accelerate collective action?
Helen: The science-based targets for nature are in development, and over the next two years they will be refined. But one can already start and the direction of travel is clear: first map and understand your supply and get to know your impacts and dependencies, and then you can prioritize and set targets to mitigate the impact that you have.
But what’s really important about science-based targets for nature, and nature itself, is that it is not just about reducing negative impacts. You have this incredible opportunity for restoration, regeneration, and transformation. There is only an upside to working with nature.
We have a new, interesting, collaborative environment ahead, and we have some work to do in the fashion sector, particularly around raw materials. At Kering, we have our Regenerative Fund for Nature, which is a great example of supporting and operationalizing a regenerative approach, and I think there is a lot more we can do as a sector.
Textile Exchange: What other opportunities do you think there are in the sector? Are you seeing any trends emerge?
Helen: The restorative, regenerative, and transformative element of this (the nature+ piece) is so exciting, thanks to the power of the narrative we have at our fingertips. There is a whole technological approach to climate, and there are also all the natural climate solutions. Nature-based solutions are beginning to resonate with people because as humans, we have a fundamental connection to nature. It is not just about ‘doing good’ – it makes us feel good too.
Once you make the link between nature and how you do business, people relate, understand, and act. For example, when you start to share that you can save snow leopards by buying cashmere from a project where the herders are respecting and caring for them, or you can help guanacos in Patagonia by buying wool from an estancia that allows coexistence of sheep and guanacos, and how you can make soil richer and help farmers’ livelihoods through regenerative agriculture. A few years ago, I was particularly impressed by how fast my colleagues at Kering across the business connected with the potential of regenerative agriculture by getting enthusiastic and ready to support it. There was a visceral connection; it just makes sense.