Rendez-Vous with Marie-Claire Daveu

At 11 am on March 9th, Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of International Institutional Affairs at Kering, engaged in a Q&A session with Polimoda lecturer Francesco Brunacci to tackle the hot topic of sustainability in fashion and how the company plans on crafting tomorrow’s luxury.

Specialized in ethical agronomy and public administration, Daveu is responsible for the continued development of Kering’s environmental and social policies and the direction of the group’s institutional affairs.

Everything starts with the fact that François Pinault, our chairman and CEO, put sustainability, or consciousness, really at the heart of our strategy… When you are in luxury, you have a very specific responsibility because it sets the trends, and if we want to continue to develop the company, if we want to continue to develop our brand, [sustainability] is not an option but a necessity.

Marie-Claire Daveu

Of the many facets of sustainability stressed during Daveu’s Polimoda Rendez-Vous, the urgency of climate change dominated the narrative, serving as a call to action to address fashion’s position as the second-most polluting industry in the world. In luxury, explained Daveu, raw materials used to produce garments derive from nature, meaning the failure to build a resilient business model damages both the environment and a brand’s future prospects. From reducing our environmental impact to preserving raw materials, the sustainable wave absorbing the fashion industry, it seems, now splashes far beyond eco-oriented trends; no longer an in-vogue choice, sustainability has become a question of survival.

Daveu joined Kering from the public sector, working as chief of staff to French politician Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet within the Ministry of Ecology from 2007 to 2012. Prior to this, she was senior director of sustainable development at Sanofi-Aventis Group in 2005 and previously technical adviser to the cabinet of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and Principal Private Secretary to Serge Lepeltier, Minister of Ecology and Sustainability. In the corporate world of Kering, Daveu is dedicated to the implementation of key programs aimed at reducing the company’s environmental footprint. Among these, she introduced the Rendez-Vous audience to the ‘environmental profit and loss account,’ a program that measures a company’s environmental footprint in all sectors, from daily operations to the supply chain. As Kering’s newest strategy aims to reduce the company’s environmental footprint by 25% and greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2025, programs of this caliber allow companies to clearly identify sectors that contribute most to their environmental footprint, which is, stressed Daveu, the indispensable first step for fueling long-term change.

The journey towards sustainability is long but undeniably necessary, she concluded, placing communication strategies at the center of this process: “Sustainability is not at all a constraint for creativity.” Framing sustainability as a creative tool rather than a limitation is key to propelling the industry towards embracing radical changes. Looking forward, Daveu underlines the importance of adopting a collaborative approach with other sectors and competitors, as Kering does. “Because beyond students,” she clarifies, “beyond the company, we are all citizens, and we are citizens everywhere on the planet. [Being sustainable] is not something linked to a country or continent: we all have a responsibility to act.”