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Actress and activist Emma Watson has just joined the board of French luxury fashion group Kering as a director, and has also been appointed as the chair of the board’s sustainability committee. Kering, whose fashion brands include Gucci, Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen, is the second-largest fashion group after LVMH.
Watson, who rose to fame playing Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film series, has been increasingly known for her work in activism. She previously worked with sustainability consultancy Eco-Age on its Green Carpet Challenge, where she wore an outfit by Calvin Klein made out of recycled plastic bottles to the 2016 Met Gala.
Aside from her work in sustainability, Watson is a vocal advocate for gender equality and women’s advancement. She has been invited by French president Emmanuel Macron to sit on the Gender Equality Council, an advisory group of the intergovernmental organisation G7, consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In 2014, Watson was also appointed as a United Nations Women goodwill ambassador, where she launched the HeForShe initiative, a campaign dedicated to involve men in the fight for women’s rights and equality.
In recent years, the fashion industry has taken a big hit from figures highlighting its astonishing role in global pollution – 92 million tonnes of landfill waste, 20% of global water wastage and 10% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Kering, recognising that brands can no longer afford to operate through a business-as-usual approach and must adopt greener practices to appeal to conscious consumers, hosted a sustainable fashion conference during Shanghai Fashion Week last year. During the conference, the owner of Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent took the initiative to recognise eco-forward technological innovations in the Chinese fashion industry.
It followed Kering-owned Gucci’s announcement that it has offsetted all its greenhouse gas emissions to make its entire supply chain and operations completely carbon neutral.
Over the past few weeks, businesses across all sectors have also been facing additional scrutiny over its diversity and inclusion practices, as nationwide protests in the United States against racial discrimination and police brutality, sparked by the death of George Floyd, continues to steer the global conversation.
Alongside Watson, the luxury fashion giant has added two other big names to its board of directors – Tidjane Thiam, the former chief at investment bank Credit Suisse, and Jean Liu, the president of Chinese ride-sharing company Didi. The three new appointments suggest that Kering is acknowledging that they will not last unless they take consumer concerns about sustainability and inclusivity seriously, backed up by demonstrable actions.
Last week, the founder and CEO of eco fashion darling Reformation – arguably one of the most successful sustainable fashion brands to date – stepped down from her role after multiple accusations of deep-running workplace racism embedded in the company.
It shows that all brands, including those that are already dedicated to green credentials, must be progressive on all fronts – from issues of social justice to animal welfare and environmental sustainability.
Lead image courtesy of Karwai Tang / Getty Images.