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Chanel announces sustainability partnership with the University of Cambridge

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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courtesy of Chanel; autumn/winter 2021

Luxury French fashion house Chanel has announced a new three-year partnership with the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) to focus on sustainability solutions and leadership.

The multi-faceted partnership will combine “tailored sustainability education programmes, innovative operational projects, and scholarships focused on driving greater inclusion,” said Chanel in a statement.

Chanel is hoping that by teaming up the University of Cambridge it can help accelerate sustainable innovation with regards to products and process by drawing on expertise from across the university.

This will include working with the Institute of Manufacturing, the Cambridge Judge Business School and its climate change initiative, Cambridge Zero to “advance practical sustainability solutions to specific business and societal challenges including how to reduce and avoid carbon emissions and address biodiversity loss”.

Chanel teams up with the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

The partnership will initially focus on three main streams - building an education and sustainability leadership programme, developing innovative operational projects and supporting students through sponsorships.

The CISL will help Chanel structure a “customised educational programme” for its management and key operational teams to help “raise awareness and deepen knowledge on diverse topics ranging from biodiversity and climate change to the use of materials and resources,” added Chanel.

This will be alongside a series of three innovation “sprints” each lasting up to 18-months. Each sprint will frame key questions and bring together insights and expertise from across the university to accelerate innovation within Chanel. These will initially be related to specific products and processes in fashion along with its wider business.

CISL will also bring together a “pool of experts” to help accelerate innovative ideas and to prototype solutions for direct application within Chanel.

Chanel to sponsor “under-represented” students

The final stream of work will be to support what Chanel calls “tomorrow’s leaders,” with the French fashion house looking to sponsor individuals from under-represented backgrounds to join CISL’s Masters in Sustainability Leadership programme over the next three years, providing what is being billed as the largest support of an MA program by a single company.

Chanel will also work with students from across the university “to help them apply smart ideas to real-world problems and advance Chanel’s sustainable transformation strategy”.

Andrea d’Avack, chief sustainability officer at Chanel, said in a statement: “Sustainability is one of the critical challenges facing our society today and a key strategic priority for Chanel. We are delighted to partner with one of the world’s most prestigious universities and academic institutes.

“This new partnership reflects key pillars of our business transformation: from research and insights that deepen our understanding to finding tangible solutions that positively impact our supply chain and wider communities. This is underpinned by educational initiatives that will help to embed a sustainability mindset to accelerate change.”

Clare Shine, director and chief executive officer, CISL, added: “This is a really important partnership with Chanel that can generate long-term benefits at global scale. Many of the solutions required for truly sustainable economies and societies do not yet exist, are not commercially viable or are not yet fully scalable.

“We believe that this bold research-backed initiative will help Chanel in its ongoing efforts to shape the future of luxury, inform leadership and best practices, and inspire responsible businesses around the world.”

University of Cambridge