Chanel announces sustainability partnership with the University of Cambridge

During the three-year partnership, Chanel looks to draw on ‘expertise’ from across the University to ‘accelerate sustainable innovation’ at the company


On 27th April, the luxury French fashion house Chanel announced a new three-year partnership with the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL).

The partnership will combine “tailored sustainability education programmes, innovative operational projects, and scholarships focused on driving greater inclusion”, according to a statement from Chanel. They are also looking to build an education and sustainability leadership programme and support students through sponsorships.

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

This will be alongside a series of three innovation “sprints”, each lasting up to 18 months, and each sprint will frame key questions and bring together expertise from across the University to accelerate innovation at Chanel, both within its specific products and processes and within its wider business.

CISL and Chanel will work with the Institute of Manufacturing, and the Cambridge Judge Business School and its climate 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”, according to Chanel.

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

According to Fashion United, Chanel is hoping that this partnership will allow them to “accelerate sustainable innovation” in their products and processes by “drawing on expertise from across the university.”

Chanel is also looking to support “tomorrow’s leaders” by sponsoring individuals from underrepresented backgrounds to join CISL’s Masters in Sustainability Leadership Programme over the next three years, providing what is being termed as the largest support of an MA programme by a single company.

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

‘Sustainability is one of the critical challenges facing the our society today and a key strategic priority for Chanel’

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.”

‘This is a really important partnership with Chanel that can generate long-term benefits at a global scale’

Clare Shine, Director and Chief Executive Officer at CISL, added: “For over 800 years, the University of Cambridge has been at the forefront of driving change. CISL has an unrivalled track record of building leadership capability, advancing knowledge and delivering real-world solutions.

“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.”

Feature image credit: Spixey via Flickr (Creative Commons Licence) and Ella Fogg