LVMH's Alexandre Capelli: "We see CSR as a source of growth, rather than an expenditure"

LVMH's Alexandre Capelli:

Second-life packs, phasing out virgin plastics, focusing on a product's end-of-life phase... LVMH has mapped out ambitious targets in its drive towards increasingly sustainable packaging solutions. LVMH Group Environmental Deputy Director Alexandre Capelli gives Luxe Packaging Insight a closer view of the luxury-goods group's packaging initiatives in light of its recently published CSR plan, Life 360.

In the context of LVMH’s environmental roadmap, LIFE 360, the Group is pledging that 100% of its products will be eco-designed by 2030.  How will you get there?

First off, we are deploying life cycle analysis tools for our products and our packaging in each of the Group’s activities. Some of these are in-house developments, like the tool that is now operational in the perfume and cosmetics segment called EDIBox, which tracks our pack’s environmental footprint and which is being redeveloped to be in line with our new objectives. We may also implement tools developed outside of the Group — it’s all about what is most pertinent.

Beyond these environmental indicators, we’ve established four criteria to help us reach our goals. The first is to encourage recycled content, be it for packaging or for the product itself, with ambitious targets for glass and plastic in particular. Another objective concerns the certification of raw materials, and in packaging this will mainly be around FSC carton and paperboard. A third criterion is linked to a product’s end-of-life, with 100% of our packs being recyclable or compostable by 2030. This is particularly ambitious in fragrance and cosmetics, as those packs are often complex and not particularly easy to recycle.

Does this mean that to boost recycling, multi-material packs will be phased out?

If we are looking to make our products more recyclable, it will mean working to cut down on the number of materials, ensuring that they can be separated as easily as possible, and guiding the consumer when it comes to recycling, especially in the bathroom, where the practice isn’t really up to speed, as compared to recycling in the kitchen, for example.

We have a very ambitious roadmap when it comes to recycled content for our packaging — all materials combined — with a target of 70-80% by 2030.

Lightweighting is your fourth pillar for packaging.

Indeed. In fragrance and cosmetics, our target is reduce the weight of our packaging by 20% as compared to levels in 2019. This will entail lightening the amount of materials, and substituting some materials with others. Some of our Maisons have already taken steps in this direction with revamped packs that have resulted in significant weight reductions.

While weight remains a marker for quality in the luxury realm, mindsets are evolving in-house, even among our marketing teams, but also in the market as our clients are beginning to see that beautiful packaging can also be lightweight. Ruinart’s Seconde Peau is one example, as is Guerlain’s Orchidée Impériale skincare jar.

The Group is also pushing for packs to have a “second life”, notably through refills and reloadable formats.

Yes, this is a major focus for many of our Houses. In fragrance, we’re seeing a big push for refills, a model that allows us to develop luxurious primary packs, while greatly reducing our environmental footprint. In wine and spirits, our brands are looking at new second-life functions for secondary packs, such as coffrets that double as wine buckets. We’re seeing a lot of interest across the board for these types of solutions — both internally and from the end-consumer, which encourages us to push ahead with these formats.

What are your ambitions specifically for plastics?

In a nutshell, by 2026 we’ll no longer use virgin plastic in our packs. Instead, we’ll choose from three replacement options: recycled plastics, bio-sourced plastics or simply other materials, such as cardboard or glass. We haven’t set out precise targets for each of these alternatives as it will depend on the products themselves.

What does this mean for your suppliers?

It means that innovation needs to move into high gear. Recycling streams need to be developed for plastics if the industry wants sufficient supply. However, there are certain more technical plastics that are used in the make-up segment, for example, that will be tough to replace with bio-sourced options. But there is a lot of innovation happening in this area so perhaps in a few years we’ll have suitable solutions.

How does glass fit into your environmental goals?

Lightweighting is a major focus. We’ve already seen solutions from our wine and spirits brands and it is increasingly becoming a priority in the fragrance segment. Regarding recycled glass, there is still the constraint of obtaining perfectly clear glass, especially in the beauty sector (but which is less of a constraint in champagne as the bottles are generally colored). Yet some glassmakers are making significant progress in this area, and are able to provide transparent glass.

Will you ban certain materials altogether from your packaging portfolio?

For the moment only virgin plastic will be phased out. But we are also banning the sourcing of raw materials from any region at risk of deforestation, which will mostly concern paper and cardboard.

How is your partnership with recycling company CEDRE progressing?

CEDRE* remains an important component of our environmental strategy. Historically it is strong in the fragrance and cosmetics space, and we’re currently increasing its implication in the fashion sector, with the ability to recycle certain leather goods and textiles. The idea is to continually grow the breadth of products that it can collect and valorize.

We’re also looking to start up operations in other markets. CEDRE is based in France, but we wouldn’t ship products or materials from abroad, as it would make no sense from an ecological standpoint. LVMH is working on setting up a similar project in Italy and potentially in other regions of the world. But the idea of course, is that as few products end up there as possible!

How are you implementing LIFE 360 across your different brands?

First off, the program was validated by the executive board, and presented this year at the shareholders’ meeting. It is deployed in all of our Maisons, which each have a contributing objective; the bigger brands, naturally, weighing in more than their smaller counterparts. Each House defines its own roadmap in the context of LIFE 360, which gives the Board an overview of the progress on a Group scale.

On a more operational level, we have work groups that tackle each of the issues; one that addresses packaging eco-design for fragrance and cosmetics, another for fashion and leather goods... There is an exchange of best practices and information sharing on the various tools available. Although a number of our brands are competitors, this is one issue where we see very fruitful cooperation.

How do you approach the investments side of your CSR strategy?

Being able to responsibly source innovative raw materials, for example, means being able to offer our clients the very best. It all comes down to added value. Yes, of course, a certified ingredient or material will cost more, but we need to look way beyond that. Rather than seeing it as an expenditure, we see it a source of growth.

How will you communicate your sustainable initiatives to the consumer?

That’s also part of our LIFE 360 platform; by 2026 we’re aiming to bring information to the consumer for each and every product, be it concerning sustainability, social or health-related issues. The product needs to be the signature of our environmental commitments. The tools we’re putting into place will allow us generate figures on our progress in these areas (CO2, water consumption…). Of course each brand will choose how they deploy this information depending on their strategy and identity.

Are you calculating the environmental impact of LVMH’s digital activities?

We’ve established the group’s environmental footprint with a focus on climate, water, and biodiversity throughout the entire supply chain, but when it comes to digital, it’s tricky to gather data on impact as there are so many parameters to take into account: e-commerce, communication via social networks, websites, the broadcasting of our fashion shows online… The scope is extremely vast, but we’ve broken it down into three major areas: our in-house tools, where we look to develop the “lightest” solutions possible; the cloud ; and e-commerce, which is set to increase both business-wise and in terms of environmental impact.

While digital’s impact may not be among our top-three areas of focus, our work here is underway.

How does your environmental strategy compare to your competitors?

It’s quite difficult to compare ourselves to the competition given the number of sectors in which LVMH operates. What I can say is that our strategy has four pillars and we believe that we are particularly innovative and ahead of the game on two of these: circular creativity and biodiversity.

Luxury players have often been seen as slow movers. Is the market behind other sectors when it comes to sustainability?

Not necessarily. I think that these issues were always at the heart of luxury: we are very attached to terroir, to raw materials, to preserving areas of expertise and of course to coming out with products that are made to last… Sustainability has long been in our roots!

*CEDRE: Centre Environnemental de Déconditionnement et Recyclage Écologique

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