Every time I meet someone and let them know that I work for Greenpeace they usually picture me with a helmet on my head, hanging from a rope or under the pressure of a water hydrant in the middle of the ocean. And every time I arrange a meeting with a top executive from some company to deliver them our demands there is often a look of surprise on their faces when I show up in a suit, minus the helmet and climbing rope.
The truth is that although I’d love to don a helmet more often and join our brave activists putting themselves directly in the line of fire to protect our oceans, rivers, forests and climate, the bulk of my time at Greenpeace – as for many of my colleagues around the world – is dedicated to corporate campaigning, and this work requires a multitude of tactics (not all of them requiring a helmet).
The fact is, large swathes of the world’s forests are being trashed and transformed into consumer goods every single day. Irreplaceable rainforest in Congo and Indonesia becomes timber, palm oil and paper pulp, while large parts of the Amazon are being destroyed to produce meat and leather.
The same story is true for another of earth’s life supports systems: our great rivers and lakes, which are currently on the receiving end of huge amounts of toxic pollution, much of which comes from the indiscriminate and often unregulated release of hazardous chemicals from industry. As with the forests, much of this destruction is fuelled by a relentless demand for products and packaging, with the dying and printing of our clothes being a major contributor to the toxic cocktail found in many of our lakes, rivers and seas.
Without demand, these activities would cease, which is why our work convincing corporations to operate in a sustainable manner is unavoidable if we are to give these precious ecosystems a chance to survive.
Signs of Progress
In 2009, following an extensive investigation in the Amazon Biome, Greenpeace published the Slaughtering the Amazon report that revealed that the cattle sector in the Brazilian Amazon is the largest driver of deforestation in the world. Following our demands to the leather sector, many companies committed and start supporting the Cattle Agreement.
Here in Italy, the first company that proactively started acting was Gucci.
The company not only decided to put in place all necessary measures to avoid the risk of being part of the problem but has also worked in recent years with us and other organisations to become part of the solution.
'Fashion Duel' Action at Chanel Catwalk in Paris. ©Nicolas Chauveau / Greenpeace
This solution has now become a tangible product. Gucci recently launched the mini-collection "Gucci for the Green Carpet Challenge", made up of three of the iconic Gucci bags – including the New Jackie Hobo – recreated in a version made with “zero deforestation” leather from farms located in the Amazon region. To provide additional transparency, the bags come with a neat little passport that details where the leather came from, helping to shine a light on a previously murky and hidden process.
With these products, Gucci shows that sustainable production (even from Amazon raw materials) is not only possible, but also desirable, and as an organisation we are delighted to see the company taking credible action on such an important environmental issue. That said, leather is just one segment of Gucci’s complex, global supply chain, and there is reason to believe that this step forward could also be applied across other issues.
An opportunity to lead
Last month, we challenged 15 luxury brands with our Fashion Duel demanding these luxury houses eliminate all traces of deforestation and hazardous chemicals from their supply chains and products. So far, Valentino tops the list as the only brand to have made credible commitments across the issues of leather, pulp and paper, and the use of hazardous chemicals.
Gucci was also one of the fifteen brands ranked as part of the Fashion Duel, and although the company is not languishing at the bottom of the list, it is still some way off being a publicly recognised leader across all issues.
We hope that will soon change.
As one of the world’s trendsetting labels, Gucci now has an opportunity to use its power and influence to help spark one of the most important transformations needed in the fashion industry right now.
People have a right to know what is in their water, and consumers have a right to demand that the clothes and products they buy are free from hazardous chemicals and remain untainted by toxic water pollution.
Now is Gucci’s chance to build on the great work done so far and become a true champion of clean, sleek and conscious fashion.
Make your voice heard. Join the Fashion Duel at: www.thefashionduel.com
Chiara Campione is the Fashion Duel Campaign Coordinator