May 22, 2023
by Sofia de la Cruz
Gucci Navigates Scrutiny as Carbon Offsetting Schemes Prove to Be No Silver Bullet
by Sofia de la Cruz
May 22, 2023

Back in 2019, Italian business executive and CEO of Gucci, Marco Bizzarri, made waves with his poignant declaration, “The planet has gone too far.” This thought-provoking statement prompted the luxury brand to take decisive action. Despite Gucci already implementing a 10-year sustainability strategy in 2015, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, water use and waste production by 50 percent, the company made a bold commitment to achieving complete carbon neutrality by 2020.

This promise set in motion a comprehensive strategy that seamlessly integrated throughout its supply chain and fashion shows. The approach employed a combination of reduction, elimination and offsetting measures, all intending to address what Gucci referred to as “Inevitable emissions.”

In Bizzarri’s viewpoint, the path to carbon neutrality appeared straightforward. Management drew a direct correlation between the attainment of carbon neutrality and the pivotal task of eliminating an equal amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as emitted, a system certified by Verra. Recognizing that Gucci’s supply chain was responsible for a substantial 90% of its emissions, the strategy embraced a multifaceted approach that zeroed in on this facet of the business. With a keen focus on production, transportation and external entities like tanneries and packaging, Gucci aimed to leave no stone unturned in its quest for sustainability.

However, the journey towards achieving carbon neutrality is far from a linear path. While Gucci collaborated with Redd+, a United Nations initiative focused on reducing emissions from deforestation, participating in four projects that support forest conservation in Peru, Kenya, Indonesia and Cambodia, the luxury brand soon realized that attaining carbon neutrality was not as straightforward as initially thought. Fast forward four years, and shortly after hosting its cruise show in Seoul (whoop, carbon emissions!), Gucci is now facing scrutiny as it allegedly modified its approach to minimize its environmental footprint.

Reportedly, Gucci has removed its statement of achieving “Complete carbon neutrality” from its website and terminated its partnership with South Pole, the Swiss carbon credit consultancy that played a role in this commitment. However, it is important to note that this decision may not have been made solely by Gucci. Recent reports from The Guardian indicate that the UK’s advertising watchdog, The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), is poised to ban advertisements claiming product carbon neutrality through offsets unless substantial evidence of their effectiveness is provided. The article highlights Gucci as the latest company grappling with the challenges of upholding a high-profile environmental commitment based on offsetting.

While the parent company, Kering, has not made any official statements or provided recent updates on its sustainability commitments and initiatives across its Group, a spokesperson shared some insights with The Guardian: “At Gucci, we are regularly reviewing our environmental claims to uphold the best science-based standards, as well as align with the global regulatory framework. Since setting our carbon neutral goal in 2018, our strategy has evolved progressively and now encompasses a nature-positive approach, including protecting and restoring biodiversity, investing in regenerative agriculture and supporting local communities.”

Whether we view it as a positive stride towards enhanced transparency or a mere facade, the reality is that discerning which companies truly practice what they preach is a more challenging endeavor than it appears. Furthermore, despite some notable progress, the unfortunate truth is that greenhouse gas emissions are still on the rise, garment workers continue to face exploitation and excessive production persists to exist. It is through a meticulous examination of brands’ sustainability efforts, including a rigorous evaluation of their carbon offsetting practices and certifications, that we can begin to distinguish companies that genuinely prioritize reducing their environmental impact.

The scrutiny faced by luxury powerhouse Gucci is undeniably surprising, particularly given the recent introduction of its groundbreaking initiative “Circular Hub” in partnership with Kering. Just a few months ago, it unveiled this innovative open platform, specifically designed to foster and promote circularity and sustainability within the Italian luxury fashion sector. It represented a notable leap forward in their unwavering dedication to transforming the industry into a more sustainable and environmentally conscious realm.

As Gucci navigates the complexities of sustainability, it is evident that its pursuit of environmental responsibility fluctuates as it continuously evaluates, adapts and aligns with the evolving understanding of best practices. This serves as a reminder of the inherent challenges involved in achieving and maintaining meaningful sustainability commitments in the fashion industry, specifically showing there is no silver bullet.

Watch this space as we await further developments and insights.