High fashion: The Sustainability Initiatives of Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent

In previous posts, I have already discussed the sustainability initiative of Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Prada, as the sustainability initiatives of Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, and Dior. These high fashion brands are among the most popular in the world, but there were still some missing from my posts. 

Therefore, in this post, I will discuss the sustainability initiatives of Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent.

Armani was supposed to be on this list, but they have a sustainability report so extensive that it needs a post on its own. So the sustainability initiatives of Armani will be posted sometime in the next few weeks, so keep an eye out.


Chanel is a French luxury brand that was founded by courtier Gabrielle Chanel, as known as Coco Chanel, in 1909. Coco designed simple, elegant clothing for women that was very different from the luxurious, constrictive clothing from the 19th century.

In 1983, fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld took over as chief designer until he died in 2019.

Coco Chanel (left) Karl Lagerfeld (right)


Unlike many luxury brands, Chanel is privately owned, by Alain Wertheimer and Gerard Wertheimer, the grandsons of Coco Chanel’s business partner, Pierre Wertheimer.

The brand focuses on ready-to-wear women’s clothing, luxury items, and accessories.

Chanel is most famous for its suits for women and of course Marilyn Monroe’s Chanel No. 5.

Mission 1.5°

In 2020, Chanel released a climate report where the brand introduced “Mission 1.5°”. With this climate action plan, the brand aims to transform its business so it falls in line with the goal set during the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, to limit the average global temperature to 1.5 degrees.

The brand has created Science-Based Targets to reach the goal. By 2030 the brand aims to reduce its carbon footprint by 50%, as well as decrease the emissions from the value chain by 40% per unit sold. 

The targets are validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). This initiative ensures that the carbon targets set are in line with the scale of reduction necessary to keep the global temperature increase below 2° (it ensures that the targets are valid, and can be reached).

Next to the reduction in carbon emissions Chanel also aims to use 100% renewable energy sources in 2025.

N°1 De Chanel

Earlier this year Chanel came out with their first eco-responsible makeup line N°1 De Chanel. The products are made with up to 97% natural ingredients. 

The product packaging is made through eco-design and the weight was reduced by 30%. The bottles also can be refilled, which according to an external life cycle assessment reduces the carbon emission of the products by 50% when twice refilled.


Chanel is also considering sustainability in its fashion products.

For the 21/22 collection four eco-responsible tweeds were produced in partnership with the tweed atelier Lesage. The tweeds were made from more than 70% responsible yarn, including GOTS-certified yarn.

On Good On You Chanel has received a rating of ‘Not Good enough, and the 2021 Fashion Revolution transparency index rates it with a score of 11%-20%.

The climate report shows that Chanel is working on improving the sustainability of the brand, but there is still a lot that needs to be worked on.

However, In the climate action report little is mentioned about the treatment of the workers across the supply chain, or inclusivity and diversity. It also does not mention the use of animal products, and not much is set about the materials other than the small section on eco-responsible tweeds. 

Nevertheless, the science-based targets that they set are achievable, and they have extensive information on their carbon emission.

Interested in reading the climate report of Chanel? Click here.

Yves Saint Laurent

Yves Saint Laurent or YSL was founded in 1962 by the French fashion designer Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent. He wanted to help women feel confident by looking both comfortable and elegant at the same time. 

Saint Laurent passed away on the first of June in 2008 after his battle with brain cancer.

Like many other high fashion brands such as Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent is also owned by fashion group Kering. 

Their sustainability initiatives are therefore put forward by Kering and are aligned with their other fashion houses.

Sustainability initiatives

Yves Saint Laurent aims to reduce their environmental impact by 40% by 2025. According to Kering’s environmental profit & loss (EP&L) account, the brand is right on track to reach this goal. On the Kering website, they mention that this tool “measures carbon emissions, water consumption, air, and water pollution, land use, and waste production along the entire supply chain to make the impact visible, quantifiable, and comparable”.

Based on the findings from the EP&L, Yves Saint Laurent has found that 70% of the impact happens in raw material production and processing. Thus based on this outcome the brand has created a sustainability strategy.

Yves Saint Laurent aims to have net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 2050.

The fashion house expects to use 100% renewable energy in the ateliers, stores, and offices in 2022, however, I was unable to find out if they have reached this goal. 

The brand is 100% carbon neutral, because of carbon offsetting through verified REDD+ projects. REDD+ projects focus on reducing deforestation and degradation through sustainable management and the conservation of forests in developing countries by simultaneously supporting the local communities.


By the year 2025, Yves Saint Laurent wants to achieve 100% traceability for their raw materials and wants to 100% comply with the raw material standards set by Kering.

In 2020, 60% of the cotton produced was GOTS-certified, and by 2021 this was 80%. Next to this, in 2020 40% of the silk and wool was either GOTS certified or was up to the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS). Less than 5% of the fabrics used are synthetic. 

In its products, Yves Saint Lauren does use leather, however, the brand ensures complete traceability from farming to finish.


Through innovation, Yves Saint Laurent embraces the transition through the circular economy. The ateliers of the brand use advanced technology to reduce the waste from leather cutting. Next to this, the technology allows scraps to be used in smaller leather goods.

Moreover, to reduce waste Yves Saint Laurent started an initiative to give a second life to the offcuts from the atelier floors. With this initiative, the house saved 200 tons of leather, and 28,000 squares of fabric. 

Last, Yves saint Lauren includes reuse and recycle in their business model by donating excess fabrics and textile remnants to various organizations.


Most of the manufacturing process takes place in Italy, which according to Good On You is a medium-risk country for labor abuse. The rest is located in eastern Europe, France, and Spain. Here roughly 50% of the employees are women. The remaining 1% of suppliers are either located in India or China.

On Good On You, Yves Saint Laurent has received a rating of ‘it’s a start’, and the 2021 Fashion Revolution transparency index rates it with a score of 41%-50%.

Yves Saint Laurent is well on its way toward sustainability, however, like the other brands, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to reach it. I would also like to see the brand put more information forward on the workers in the supply chain (living wage, fair treatment, etc.)

Interested in reading about the sustainability approach of Yves Saint Lauren please click here to visit their website.

For more information on the sustainability initiatives of Kering please click here.

All pictures are taken from the internet and contain a link to the sites where I found them. All credits to the rightful owners.

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