Featured case: Gucci: Positive Luxury

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The case

Marco BizzarriWho – the protagonist

Marco Bizzarri, President and CEO of Gucci.

What?

Gucci is a famous Italian luxury brand of fashion and leather.

Why?

Gucci is almost a century old and has always shown a particular attention towards sustainability, starting from its core values based on quality and craftsmanship.

In the past decade, human rights and environmental NGOs had targeted premium brand companies for having infringed ethical or labour standards. As a consequence, these companies started engaging with sustainability, in order to recover their damaged corporate image.

Gucci was ahead of the game, and decided to formalise its sustainability approach without being confronted by a sustainability crisis or a request from its parent company. 

When?

Gucci logoMarco became CEO of Gucci in 2014 when the brand faced declining revenues.

In the space of four years he had turned around the declining trend and placed a renewed emphasis on sustainability.

Where?

Gucci was founded by Guccio Gucci in Florence in 1921. Investors saved the brand in 1988 after Guccio’s son Rodolfo died in 1983, which led to five years of internal strife.

Key quote

“Being socially responsible is one of Gucci’s core values, and we will continue to strive to do better for the environment and animals and therefore fur will be banned from Gucci collections as of 2018.” – Marco Bizzarri, President and CEO of Gucci.

What next?

Despite Gucci’s commitment to sustainability, it wasn’t something they ever shouted about.

Marco wanted to change this, he wanted to educate readers and customers about what sustainability really looked like.

Marco’s job was to convince Alessandro Michele, Creative Director, of his vision.

 
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Gucci: Positive Luxury
Ref 319-0210-1
Teaching note
Ref 319-0210-8

The authors

Ashok Som and Lavinia Ricciolio

Ashok Som and Lavinia Ricciolio

Ashok and Lavinia discuss the reasons for writing a Gucci case and the difficulty of producing it via published sources.

Power of sustainability

Ashok said: “The history of Gucci represents a suitable example of a luxury company which has always embodied sustainability in its DNA and which, spontaneously and at the right time, has decided to communicate externally these positive practices. With the Kering Group, Gucci has promoted and communicated from the beginning the common values, which are the timelessness of lasting worth, and the passing on of knowledge, as well as the protection of talents and natural resources.” 

Reasons for writing

Gucci shopAshok continued: “My hunch is Lavinia did not start writing the case because students would be attracted by the Gucci story. She was interested in the concept of sustainability and found out from her research that Gucci is a very good example to discuss. Having said that, the issue is very topical as the quality of luxury is based on fine materials, respect for the material, and for the craft itself that result in a rare and beautiful object.” 

Published sources difficulty

He added: “Building a case study based on Gucci’s sustainability practices has been very challenging.

“While we know a lot about the second part of the case, because a lot of information about Gucci’s sustainable and CSR policies are now easily accessible from their websites (there is now a dedicated website called Gucci Equilibrium), rebuilding the first part of the history of the brand by integrating sustainability into that narrative has demanded a lot of effort.

“Yet, there is not a clear and detailed brand history available on the web but only short and scattered information accessible on a number of different websites.”

Putting it right in the classroom

Lavinia commented: “After undertaking some research, I came to understand that I wasn’t the only person who wasn’t aware of the difference between Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability.

Green globe“I discovered that there is still uncertainty in the minds of readers and students as to how Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability should be defined. Many definitions and theoretical frameworks have been developed but to a postgraduate student, it may not be clear. So, together with Professor Som, we decided to use this case to shed a light on this difference.” 

About the authors

Ashok Som is a Full Professor of Global Strategy at ESSEC Business School.
som@essec.edu

Lavinia Ricciolio was an MSc student at ESSEC Business School under the supervision of Ashok Som when the case was written.
B00753040@essec.edu

 

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