The fast-growing fashion brand has reduced its environmental impact by 35% per kilogram of raw material

For Stella McCartney, founder of the eponymous fashion brand, being a responsible business involves managing the company’s supply chain in a way that does the least harm to people, animals and planet.

This touches every part of its business. “It isn’t just organic cotton – it’s organic cotton, plus wind energy, plus not using PVC, plus thousands of other little steps that eventually make a more responsible and environmentally conscious company,” says McCartney herself, who admits that “In many ways we are just beginning our journey towards becoming more sustainable."

The company, which is part of the giant Kering group, has never used leather, skins, feathers or fur in any of its products. This is not just an ethical decision, but an environmental one, McCartney says, citing studies showing that the meat and leather industry is one of the most environmentally damaging in the world.

The toxic chemicals used in leather tanning include chrome, lead, formaldehyde and even cyanide, which are found in groundwater near some tanneries in developing countries.

Since autumn 2013, the company has been using a material called Eco Alter Nappa, made from polyester and polyurethane with a coating made from vegetable oil, as an alternative to leather in its shoes and bags. It sources organic cotton wherever possible and all its handbags are lined with polyester from recycled water bottles. From the Spring 2017 collection all of the brand’s ready-to-wear viscose will come from sustainably managed and certified forests in Sweden.

Last year, the brand published its first Environmental Profit and Loss Account, which reported that its environmental impact per kilogramme of material used was 35% lower than in 2013, although because of sales growth, this translated into an absolute growth in impact of 7% over the period.

“We’re one of the fastest-growing brands that Kering has, and yet our business has reduced its environmental impact by 35%,” McCartney said. “More fashion brands need to realise that sustainability can be more profitable. It’s not rocket science, in fact it’s a bit about going back to where we all started."

The chief sustainability officer at Kering, Marie-Claire Daveu, says McCartney’s “courageous” approach, “has inspired all of us at Kering. We look to her and her brand as a role model for the entire group …. She has set an example for the industry on how to innovate in its approach to luxury.”


This article is part of our luxury goods briefing. See also:

Sustainability no longer a luxury for premium brands

How coffee connoisseurs are helping farmers in war-torn Sudan

BMW miles ahead on road to more sustainable transport

Taking the rough edges off diamonds

Brilliant Earth mines millennials’ desire for ethical jewellery


fashion  sustainability  luxury goods  Environment  leather  animal welfare  climate 

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