In the context of its Environmental Profit & Loss Account (EP&L) initiative, Kering has published the results of its first consumer behavior survey. The report examines how the consumer’s use and disposal of a luxury item affects the product’s environmental footprint. The exercise is meant to pinpoint key areas where progress needs to be made.
Luxury-goods group Kering created the EP&L, an in-house initiative, to measure the environmental impact of its operations across the supply chain and attribute a monetary value to that same impact. In a report published last month, Capturing the Impacts of Consumer Use and Product End of Life in Luxury, the French player puts the focus on a product’s life — ready-to-wear, shoes, leather goods and accessories — following the initial purchase.
The study revealed that the consumer use and end-of-life phases account for just more than 8% of a product’s impact throughout its life cycle: 7.9% for the use period and 0.2% for end of life. Of these two, the use phase accounts for the lion’s share of the impact — 98% — due namely to the energy needed to clean and press the items and the ensuing greenhouse gas emissions.
Yet of all phases of a product’s life cycle, use and end of life have the lowest impact compared to the other steps: raw material production topped the charts at 57%, followed by manufacturing (10.6%), raw material processing (9.5%), warehouses, stores and offices (8.8%) and assembly (6%).
By product segment, ready-to-wear items have the highest environmental impact, which Kering estimates at €8.90 per item, mainly because they have the “shortest expected use, and therefore their supply chain impacts are distributed across a shorter lifetime,” notes the report. Shoes come in second place, followed by leather goods. Accessories, with the lowest impact, has a cost of €2.12. “By elongating the life of the products purchased, the annualized impact can be reduced considerably,” adds the report.
The report shows that 65% of luxury items in the four product categories under study have a second life, either through donations or resale. Purchasing a second-hand luxury item has an environmental impact cost of €0.29 versus the cost of €5.46 when buying the product new.
Leather goods have the longest life span at nearly seven years, followed by ready to wear, shoes and accessories.
“Improving the durability of products is a key challenge for the fashion industry. The consumer survey and assumptions developed for this preliminary analysis only account for one additional life for a product. However, it is possible that many products, particularly leather goods, will go on to have multiple lives,” notes the report. In light of this, Kering affirms that it is making “considerable efforts to manufacture products using the highest quality materials and production techniques with the intention of increasing the lifetime of their products.” Forging partnerships with secondary market platforms, like Gucci and The RealReal, is another area of development.
In terms of its next steps, the group has outlined three priorities: to include the impact of marine plastics and microfiber release from synthetic materials in its calculations; to gauge the impact of a product beyond just its country of sale and to take into account the fact that some luxury items can go on to have “multiple lives”. Watch this space.