In practice, it confirms things that, without detracting from the importance of what happened, we already knew and had already written about. That is, that sustainability is a very serious matter, and degrading it, as too many materials and brands do, to a smoky marketing curtain can prove, as in this case, to be an exemplary boomerang. Let’s hope it’s just the first in a long list to combat greenwashing
Sometimes the answers come before the questions. For example, in this case. The question is dated 26 November 2021, the day on which the Italian Court of Gorizia ruled in favour of Alcantara in a case brought against a competing materials manufacturer. The accusation, which became a sentence, is of greenwashing and, in addition to breaking the glass of hypocrisy on this subject, has the merit of opening the door to the fatal question. That is, where is the line between tangible sustainability and the sustainability of talk? For an answer of a certain level, one has to go back a month.
On 18 October, to be precise, Michael Burke, CEO of Louis Vuitton, told WWD the real truth about the difference between a green approach and sustainability. Here it is: “Luxury needs to go beyond good PR office statements. It has to engage in necessary efforts, however tedious and time-consuming. If we want to achieve lasting, truly impactful change, we must have shared ways of measuring it. Otherwise, there will be no progress and we will be stuck with public relations statements.
Judgment won by Alcantara
On 15 July 2021, Alcantara filed a lawsuit against Miko, an international company that produces Dinamica, a registered microfibre “with a suede-like appearance, obtained from an innovative polyester recovery process”, reads its website. Where it specifies that “the recycled fibre content is variable depending on the product and application”. Yet another alternative to leather, one would think. But also to a material that is in direct competition with other high-level players, such as the Italian Alcantara. We felt that Dinamica’s communication was misleading,” explains Alcantara CEO Andrea Boragno, “and the Court has proven us right. It was an epoch-making victory, in some ways, because “greenwashing must be swept away,” continues Boragno, “not least because it risks diverting investments to activities that are not very sustainable compared to others that are more so.
Dinamica promoted itself with several claims that convinced Alcantara to sue it for greenwashing and the Court of Gorizia to rule in its favour. For example: “100% recyclable” and “environmentally friendly”. Or: “The first sustainable and recyclable microfibre”, capable of expressing a “reduction in energy consumption and CO2 emissions of 80%”, “environmentally friendly”. Statements that the Court considered to be part of the “pathological phenomenon of greenwashing“. And far from “green environmental statements” which “must be clear, truthful, accurate and not misleading, based on scientific data presented understandably”. While Dinamica has appealed, we can only hope that this ruling (the first in Italy, among the first in Europe) will not remain an isolated case.
Sustainability is not a gala dinner
The Gorizia ruling has the appearance of a warning. Strong, detailed, even harsh. It is an appeal for action, to get one’s hands dirty because sustainability is not a gala dinner. And the recent words on the subject by Maria Grazia Chiuri, the creative mind behind Dior, reiterate this with particular clarity. “Today we talk about ecological transition, but it has everything to do with it. In our sector, the complexity behind this system is often not explained and how difficult it is to make choices that do not have an even worse impact. The new media do not allow or stimulate reflection or dialogue. Young people are sensitive to the subject, but feasible solutions must be found. I have an extremely young office, with young people who come from excellent schools, but sometimes they say naive things, they don’t realise the complexity“.
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