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Rossella Ravagli. Image Courtesy of Gucci

Gucci, one of the world’s most iconic Italian brands, is changing the face of fashion by showing us that luxury does not have to come at the expense of people and planet. Today I catch up with Rossella Ravagli, Gucci’s Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility Manager, who dishes the latest on sustainable luxury, the evolved consumer, and Gucci’s new eco gear; namely liquid wood, an alternative for plastic, and 100% recyclable packaging .

Elizabeth: Do you think that sustainable luxury is led by external consumer demand, or internal design?

Rossella: Consumers today are more and more cautious and look for the real value of the purchased product. They look for a high-level shopping experience and pay increasing attention, not only to the product itself and its material qualities; how it is made, but to the intangible qualities; the way it’s done. For example, there is more regard for the history of the people and materials that are behind  it.

In 2004, Gucci emerged as one of the first companies in its sector to launch a voluntary certification process in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility (SA8000) alongside its entire production chain. In August 2007, Gucci was the first to achieve official certification of SA8000 in the field of luxury goods, for the supply chain of  its leather goods and jewellery.

From an environmental perspective, in 2010 the company earned the ISO 14001 environmental certification. In the same year it began a program of eco-friendly initiatives to progressively reduce the company’s impact on the environment.  At the center of these initiatives there was the creation of a new packaging made exclusively with FSC paper (Forest Stewardship Council) which is 100% recyclable.

Is sustainability compatible with the Gucci brand image, and do you think other luxury fashion brands will follow suit?

Besides the values that the world unequivocally associates with the Gucci brand, such as creativity, artisanal craftsmanship, absolute quality and made in Italy, Gucci has always posed a responsible attitude towards people, the environment and its community, with particular attention to the value of sustainability.

Gucci is a concrete example that a luxury brand can develop long-term sustainable behavior. We are still the leader in this sector and we are glad to be sharing our experiences. We have done a lot but there is still a long way to go. For this reason we keep increasing our investment in terms of commitment and resources.

Gucci Eco-Packaging. Image courtesy of Gucci

Seeing as Gucci is a leading multi-national fashion brand, how difficult has it been to trace your extensive supply chains and gain an accurate picture of Gucci’s environmental and social impacts?

Gucci is a truly global brand recognized and appreciated around the world, with revenues over 3.1 billion Euros, more than 8,000 direct employees and over 370 directly operated stores around the world. Gucci remains, however, a Florentine success story. The link with the territory and its people still represents the foundation of this success.

When the company decided to undertake a corporate social and environmental responsibility process, we voluntarily decided to include our supply chain as well. This means that all certification processes are gradually applied to all suppliers and it also means that all of our suppliers and sub-suppliers have to formally adhere to Gucci’s Sustainable Principles.

Having been a qualified trainer of the SA8000 in the past, could you give some background on the standard and explain how your work applies the standard to Gucci’s supply chain?

SA8000 is an internationally recognized standard that considers issues such as the ethical values of business, the respect for people, health and safety at workplaces, as well as workers’ rights and equal opportunities, advising the companies to develop policies and procedures for continuous improvement. Gucci has extended this certification not only within the company but along its entire supply chain and verifies that all suppliers and sub-suppliers respect the standard.

You recently attended the Copenhagen Fashion Summit and spoke about Sustainable Luxury. What, specifically, was the focus of your presentation, and what did you learn/take away from the summit at large?

The Copenhagen Fashion Summit was a great occasion to share our experience with our peers. The focus of our presentation was on Gucci’s CSR and sustainability strategy and the ongoing commitment to promoting “Sustainable Value” in the luxury sector. We highlighted some of Gucci’s initiatives for reducing the company’s impact on the environment, starting from the 14001 environmental certification to the development of new sustainable products.

Could you tell us about the recent unveiling of Gucci’s liquid wood initiative and how you hope it will revolutionise the eye wear industry?

Gucci’s new sunglasses are made from Liquid Wood, a biodegradable, eco-friendly material that represents an alternative to the plastic usually used in the production of eye wear. Liquid Wood boasts a composition from bio-based materials: wood fiber from sustainably managed forests and lining from the paper manufacturing process and natural wax. It is definitely an innovative biodegradable material, and we are confident that our customers will appreciate and enjoy it.

Gucci's Liquid Wood Sunglasses. Image courtesy of Gucci

Would you be able to delve into the details of your new eco-packaging and how this is different from the one that was launched in 2010?

The new recyclable packaging created for the Gucci brand eye wear together with Safilo is a further commitment inspired by the packaging that was introduced two years ago.

The new unique foldable case minimizes stock space, limiting both the weight and amount of shipments and in turn helping to reduce 60% of CO2 emissions. The modern and refined case will bear the Mobius loop, which is an internationally recognized symbol used to designate recyclable materials. Upon purchase, customers will receive an informational leaflet and a pre-addressed envelope in order to send the case to a dedicated center where it may be recycled to make new products. Additionally, the FCS-certified paper shopping bag mirrors the House’s existing sustainable packaging. The new case will be exclusively available from May at Gucci boutiques for men’s, women’s and children’s sunglasses – and from August through the worldwide distribution network for both optical frames and sunglasses.

Finally, do you have any words directly for our Urban Times readers?

A responsible attitude towards people, today and for future generations, as well as towards the environment – together with the values of absolute quality, creativity and Made in Italy  - represent the foundations of our company and will be at the heart of our challenges for a more sustainable future.

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