Gucci eco-friendly initiatives: How committed is Gucci to sustainability really?

If you have been inspired by the ingenious catwalks and happening designs of former creative director Alessandro Michelle, you are not alone. On the other hand, the brand has been aggressively talking about its sustainability efforts, even dedicating a whole other website to it, called Gucci Equilibrium. Given their style and marketing success, as well as their new sustainability communications, it is no wonder that fashion media, celebrities, and consumers alike have fallen into Gucci’s spell.

Gucci eco-friendly initiatives: Gucci equilibrium

We want to know, once and for all, is Gucci ethical? Or are we buying into their green narrative?

Is House of Gucci fast fashion? What is Gucci’s business model?

Is House of Gucci fast fashion? What is Gucci's business model?
Image from Gucci’s latest campaign

Gucci is not fast fashion, it is a luxury brand. Its business model is tied more to seasons than to ultra-fast fashion.

However, with the multiplication of seasons to include resort and pre-fall, and the drop of accessories and shoes, it is not a stranger to overproduction and using our yearning for newness as a way to entice us to shop for unnecessary goods.

Gucci eco-friendly initiatives: Is Gucci as sustainable as it claims in Gucci equilibrium?

What is their sustainability plan? Let’s take a look at their various programs.

What materials does Gucci use: Leather

gucci sustainable materials: leather

Gucci is aiming to make its leather more responsible. This means on the one hand traceable. In 2022, they had achieved 99% traceability up to slaughterhouses, which is good progress, but more is needed considering that one of the most pressing issues with leather is the deforestation of huge CO2 sequestration reserves like the Amazon biome. 

In terms of processing, the brand wants to achieve a 100% metal-free tanning of leather by 2025. This means that to dye your bag they would not be using harmful chemicals. Last year, they had gotten up to 49%.  

Gucci sustainable materials: Regenerative wool

Gucci sustainable materials: Regenerative wool

They also started a program with around 100.000 in collaboration with Chargeurs Luxury Fibers, handled by 10 farms in Uruguay. This program centers around regaining soil quality, biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and community support.  It is a program around wool,  a material that can have a high negative environmental impact if not done in an organic or regenerative way. It is projected to replace 19% of current conventional wool. 

Gucci sustainable materials: Silk

Gucci sustainable materials: Silk

Gucci is also supporting locally harvested Italian organic silk by collaborating on creating a worm-to-garment supply chain with Il Nido de Set. It turns out the morera plant, which the worms feed on, sequesters carbon and its by-products can be used for cosmetics. This program is not only about the fabric but about job postings in rural areas where the making and weaving of silk, an ancient craft, can persist in our modern world. 

Gucci sustainable materials: Nylon

It sources its nylon from Aquafil, which means it is ECONYL regenerated nylon, not virgin. That in the case of Nylon means using virgin petroleum-based fabrics, which are polluting from its making to its end of life. However, when using regenerated nylon –which is better–, Gucci has to be clear on the care the clothes need in order to not shed microplastics into our water streams, like using a filtering bag.

If you want to know more about how sustainable or not fabrics are, you can check our guide here

Is Gucci carbon neutral?

Gucci claimed to have reached carbon neutrality by reducing its greenhouse gas emissions but more importantly by buying carbon credits to offset the rest of its emissions. They bought credits certified by a company called Verra. The Guardian revealed that 94% of forest offsets credited by Verra were worthless, they did not represent any carbon reduction or benefit to the climate in terms of how much deforestation they stopped, and they did pose some human rights concerns. 

It has however purchased 100% renewable energy for all its direct operations, such as offices, stores, warehouses, and Gucci factories. This meant saving 60,148 tons of CO2 in 2022. An example of the former behavior is how the brand installed photovoltaic panels on the rooftops of the HQs based in Florence and Milan. However,  it is unclear if it is doing anything to transition its suppliers to such energy sources. 

Gucci’s waste reduction and durability programs

woman making clothes

With its scrapless initiative, they have avoided wasting 91000 meters of leather as well as 32 tons of water, reducing its environmental impact. It also has developed technology to put its products through the wringer to ensure durability of what Gucci is making, in the Gucci ArtLab. And it has a free in-store repairs program. 

Gucci circular lines and initiatives

From Gucci’s Vestiaire Collective Campaign
From Gucci’s Vestiaire Collective Campaign

On the other hand, Gucci has established Gucci Preloved with Vestiaire Collective for clients that want to trade in their pieces initially with 26 stores in Europe.

Gucci also did a collaboration called “Denim Project” with Candiani Denim and Promo Studio. It combined 74% regenerative cotton fibers from certified farms and 26% cotton post-consumer fibers collected and re-spun in Italy. Thus ensuring positive environmental impact and end-of-life recyclability.

Picture From Gucci’s Equilibrium Website 

Gucci Grind is a collection made from Econyl, which is regenerated nylon from fish nets and carpets, it also has recycled brass, gold, and palladium hardware coating. 

Gucci Continuum on the other hand invites creatives to upcycle leftover materials. Gucci Up was launched to recover deadstock fabric from manufacturing and reuse it in its supply chain. Whatever can’t be used is donated to social cooperatives in Italy that support the reintegration of women migrants and disabled people. 

Finally, it founded the Circular Hub, the first one focusing on circularity in Italy to accelerate transformation and new solutions. 

Is Gucci an ethical brand?

Let’s take a look at where and how Gucci clothes are made. And then dive deeper in our brand rating to see how they perform in Transparency and Fair Labor.

Where are Gucci’s clothes and shoes made?

Most of the brand’s clothes are made in Italy, with some shoes made in Spain.

Is Gucci vegan and cruelty-free? Does it care for animal welfare?

Gucci is not vegan, it is under the animal welfare policy of its parent company KERING, which covers leather and cool,  from responsible sources. It is fur-free and has been since 2018. This was a milestone in terms of luxury fashion. 

They also premiered an innovative material that is 77% plant-based, called Demetra, as an alternative animal-free solution. 

However, the brand has been accused of buying cashmere from farms that abuse goats in Mongolia by The Post and PETA. They found pieces of cashmere with skin on it at the facilities in Khanbogd.

Gucci’s ethical and sustainable brand rating

This is how Gucci performed using our sustainable brand criteria

Transparency: 9/14

Gucci has a publicly available code of conduct, a whistle-blowing policy, and an antislavery act that its suppliers and subcontractors must adhere to. If any breaches of compliance occur, corrective action plans are put together and then followed up with another audit. However, they do not disclose the results of any risk assessment or audit. Their manufacturing operations are monitored according to SA8000 certification standards. Its suppliers must align with the restricted substances list. 

They have a supplier list that is updated every six months and is publicly available, with countries and addresses. The list also includes whether the supplier has a trade union or not and whether it has any certifications. As well as the number of workers, % of women employees, and the % of migrant workers.

They show 96% of Tier 1 factories and processing facilities and publish raw material suppliers for more than 1 material. So far you can see where they source the raw material for their sewing thread, cotton, wool, nylon, silk, gold, diamonds, and precious and semi-precious stones. Gucci, on the other hand, does not have language stating it intends to increase its traceability beyond that. 

It does not, however, have a program to engage suppliers beyond cut and sew in environmental impact, labor standards, or wellbeing programs.  

Fair labor: 14/33

man making a belt

Since most of the workers in its supply chain, specifically cut and sew, are in Italy and suppliers in the luxury sector are paid at least a living wage there, for the most part, the brands’ makers earn a living wage.

It is missing programs to enhance the lives of its makers and its community or appears to have any programs or tools to engage makers or strengthen worker-manager cooperation. Investing in these would mean a more lasting positive change in their surroundings and its people.

On the other hand, Gucci has been accused of making people work overtime in its Chinese stores, and of forcefully relocating employees to Milan. 

Sustainably made—Gucci’s environmental impact: 22/49

Following what we explained about the materials Gucci uses above, here are some stats on its sustainable material progress up to 2022:

  • The quantity of products made from recycled or organic cotton: 74% 
  • Organic, recycled, or responsibly sourced wool and cashmere: 60%
  • Metal or chrome-free leather: 49%
  • Organic silk: 46% 
  • Responsibly sourced precious metals: 100% 
  • Paper from responsibly-managed forest sources: 100%
Gucci packaging
From Gucci’s Equilibrium website

Additionally, all packaging made with said responsibly sourced paper is paste-dyed and not plastic-coated, for recyclability, and all handles are made with 100% recycled polyester. Dust bags and suit bags are made with regenerated cotton. 

However, in terms of water, it does not disclose how much it uses a year. It also does not appear to have any processes to reduce water at the manufacturing level and does not show if it has wastewater guidelines that are enforceable with its producers.  At the innovation level, it does not appear to invest in any water efficiency, recycling, or manufacturing technologies.

When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, even though the brand was part of the scandal we explained above, it does disclose scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions per year, which were only 20.511 tons of CO2 a year less in 2022 than in 2021. For a company with its resources and with our imminent target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C, it is not enough. 

DEI: 4/4

Gucci DEI
From Gucci’s Equilibrium Website

Gucci is actually not doing so badly in diversity and inclusion. 57% of the brand’s management are women, and 49.9% are BIPOC. Additionally, the brand has Gucci CHIME: a global campaign founded in 2013 to convene, unite, and strengthen the voices speaking out for gender equality.

It also has a school where artisans train new generations on the craftsmanship required for luxury called Gucci École de l’Amour. It has also been recognized as the best place to work for Disability Inclusion by the Disability Equality Index®.

Our principles: -10

We rate brands also according to our three principles. We look for brands that aren’t fast fashion, brands we can trust, and ones that are doing work so beyond what’s expected that they inspire us and other brands to do better. 

Gucci is not a fast fashion brand. When a brand is fast fashion, we take off 25 points. Gucci here is safe. 

However, it is not a brand that inspires us. They have a cult following and the money to do more; especially with the community of their garment workers. When a brand does not inspire us, they get -10 points. 

Do we trust them? This is a tricky one, considering what happened with their carbon-neutral campaign above. But for a luxury brand, they are extremely transparent and have achieved a truly great traceability level up to some raw materials. Indeed, they scored second 2 out of 250 in the Transparency Index of Fashion Revolution of 2023. They are also pay living wages. So for now we do trust them, but we reserve our right to change our mind. Here Gucci is also safe, so we did not deduct the 10 points we would for not trusting a brand. 

How sustainable is Gucci? Overall score: 39/100

Given all the information above Gucci has failed our criteria for considering a brand sustainable. A brand has to earn 50 points to pass, that’s a lot of doing good. Gucci fell short, the brand’s overall score is 39. If it truly committed to social impact, perhaps in the future it would earn the points it has left to go. 

6 Ethical Alternatives to Gucci

If you are into luxury fashion but want to do good while buying into the glitz and glamour, we have your back: 

1) A vegan alternative to Gucci: Stella McCartney

From Stella McCartney’s website

The designer who grew up on a farm has been a beacon of sustainable and vegan fashion since the start of her brand: no fur or leather is used in her products. She has been known to spearhead and invest in alternatives like leather made from mycelium with the company Mylo. 

2) An alternative to Gucci with bold prints: Marimekko

From Marimekko’s website

The brand sells jackets, skirts, dresses, and nightwear made with bold patterns. Marimekko has actually achieved carbon neutrality, something Gucci has struggled with. It has also used its waste as fuel for energy production or as recycled material.

3) An alternative to Gucci essentials: Filippa K

From Filippa K’s website 

A long-time sustainability advocate, Filippa K offers classic closet essentials like tank tops, blouses, jackets, blazers, sweatpants, and sweaters. It traces its clothes with blockchain technology through TrusTrace. It works with FairWear to achieve Fair Labor conditions. It also sells its secondhand clothing through its website Filippa K Preowned. 

4) An alternative to sports and loungewear: Pangaia

From Pangaia’s Facebook

Pangia is a materials science fashion brand that offers an array of athleisure options from hoodies to tank tops, made with next-gen materials. Materials like rubber filled with wildflowers instead of down feathers; wood pulp and seaweed; and natural and food dyes achieved with the likes of Blueberries, Matcha, and Rooibos; as well as antimicrobial/odor control finishes made from Mentha piperita plant or rain-fed hemp. 

5) An alternative to Gucci bags and accessories: Parker Clay 

From Parker Clay’s website

Is a B Corp-certified, luxury bag and accessories maker. They are made by Ethiopian women who may come from or could end up in a scenario of prostitution if left unemployed.

The brand provides women with the “skills, tools, and means” to uplift their communities themselves; not just jobs or living wages. They source their leather from local Ethiopian providers, which means they have access to and knowledge of their supply chain back to the farms, who are paid a fair premium. 

6) An alternative to Gucci party/red carpet dresses: Fite Fashion

From Fite Fashion’s website

Each dress you get from them is made-to-order, which means no unnecessary materials are used and no unsold stock will be leftover to end up in a landfill or incinerated. Their creations are also made with eco-materials: fair trade, certified organic, low-impact dyes as well as deadstock from other designers for high-impact materials such as sequins (sourced from Fabscrap). Whatever waste is left is either made into accessories or if it is too small, it is taken to Fabscrap to be turned into insulation.

Where to find more ethical fashion

You can get your fix of luxury buying from any of these certified brands. And if none of them fit your style, no worries, we have a whole directory of sustainable brands that have been vetted for their transparency, fair labor, and how sustainably made their garments are. Check them out.

Where to find more ethical fashion: Eco-Stylist

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