Who’s Winning the Sustainable Luxury Fashion Challenge - Kering vs. LVMH
Posted on 15 August 2015
While Hermès may have been the catalyst tipping the sustainable fashion social media scale recently with revelations of its cruel practices harvesting crocodile skins for Birkin bags, sustainable and ethical fashion is an increasingly recurrent theme in the industry with heightened scrutiny on supply chain.
No longer reserved by erstwhile fringe “organic” brands, luxury brands, too, like Stella McCartney and parent Kering, are leading the ethical fashion discussion, as well as setting sustainability goals and benchmarks in an industry notorious for polluting and creating waste.
In a bold move last year by French conglomerate Kering, whose portfolio of luxury brands includes Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Gucci, Saint Laurent, Stella McCartney, among others, CEO François-Henri Pinault issued a sustainability manifesto urging accountability in the industry be measured by a new P&L—an E P&L, or Environmental P&L.
Stella McCartney’s dedication to building her eponymous luxury sustainable label is well documented and prominently featured in social media on the subject of sustainable fashion. Having Pinault’s ear is a clear advantage in influencing Kering’s E P&L strategy across its entire luxury portfolio.
By 2016 Kering projects it will have an E P&L rolled out across all of its brands. The E P&L will measure environmental impacts across the entire supply chain and provide monetary values for these impacts.
Kering’s EP&L mandates that all fashion brands be environmentally and ethically accountable across the supply chain—from human toll to environmental impact— spanning but not exclusive of fair trade labor practices, carbon imprint, energy and resource conservation, and more.
Predictably, luxury fashion brands in Kering’s portfolio are the darlings of social’s sustainable fashion discourse, capturing 60% of mentions over the past couple of years, Kering included. By contrast, competitor LVMH’s luxury fashion brands—Christian Dior, EDUN, Donna Karan, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs—trailed with only 12% of the sustainable fashion conversation, LVMH included, in the NetBase Crosstab analysis below.
Coincidentally, Vivienne Westwood’s 17% of mentions can indirectly be attributed to Kering, although it isn’t one of their houses, as it reflects the positive buzz surrounding the announcement that Stella McCartney will steward her label’s evolution into a sustainable brand.
What’s interesting about the Kering-LVMH crosstab disparity is that LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault issued his own Environmental Charter as far back as 2001, committing to a high level of environmental performance, including controlling risk of impact and integrating environmental innovation and creativity.
More recently, since 2012 the LVMH LIFE program has escalated its environmental commitment, evidently including a measure of sustainable fashion accountability by imposing nine key elements of environmental performance.
Yet, despite the early entry of LVMH into the sustainable fashion conversation, it isn’t necessarily considered an influencer. When the subject is analyzed in social media, the data speaks loudly, to wit, the NetBase attributes cloud below signaling fervent environmental issues persist.
As the Brand Passion Index chart below indicates, when analyzed for sustainability and ethical fashion practices, Kering receives high marks, earning it a 96% net sentiment and passion ratio of 72. LVMH, while respected for its environmental assertions, netted a distant 67% net sentiment, void of passion, with only nominal social traction compared to the volume of discourse generated by Kering.
Predictably, Hermès was not only the most loathed of the three in the same research aspects, but reviled with passion.
As the timeline comparison chart of potential impressions below reveals, these brands have either amplified or been foiled by their sustainable fashion initiatives in social media.
But there appears to be lots of catching up still to do, even for behemoths Kering and LVMH, as public vetting in the fashion brand sustainability challenge ramps up in social media.
This is evident in the topic comparison chart below, which shows when filtered for their sustainability measure, Kering, LVMH and Hermès collectively lag far behind the overall amplified sustainable fashion social dialogue of the past few years.
Notwithstanding the LVMH-Kering rivalry, their recent individual moves to add greater exposure to their sustainable fashion initiatives are indicative of the evolving attitude of luxury customers and a harbinger of a new luxury goods playing field.
There’s a caveat to the LVMH story—EDUN, a label acquired by LVMH in 2009. EDUN is a global fashion brand founded by Ali Hewson and her husband Bono in 2005 to promote trade in Africa by sourcing production throughout the continent and building long-term, sustainable growth opportunities by supporting manufacturers, infrastructure and community building initiatives in Africa.
The data has spoken. The EDUN model is exemplary, albeit its story, and LVMH, could benefit from more social media promotion. Kudos especially to Stella McCartney for her tenacity and leadership in showing an industry that aesthetic rigueur and exquisite design need not be devoid of environmental and ethical accountability.