As the world’s nations hammered out a new climate-change deal in Paris on Monday, a more intimate gathering of minds was taking place on rue Saint-Honoré. At a dinner for 20 at the Mandarin Oriental, Livia Firth recognized pioneers in ethical sourcing and sustainable development with the Green Carpet Challenge’s inaugural Global Leaders of Change Awards. The event, originally a glitzier affair designed to coincide with the United Nations conference, had been dialed down at the last minute—a matter of security, according to organizers. Still, Firth got on with it, handing out recycled-Perspex trophies to representatives for the four honorees: Caroline Scheufele, artistic director and co-president of Chopard; François-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of Kering; Marc Bolland, CEO of Marks & Spencer; and Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever.
Together with Eco-Age, the sustainability consultancy behind the initiative, Firth wanted to recognize the “real leaders of change—the strategies and practices those businesses adopt on a global scale which should set an example to all.”
Chopard, under Scheufele’s leadership, launched the jeweler’s multi-year “journey to sustainable luxury,” including its use and support of fairly mined gold. Kering under Pinault has blazed trails in ethical sourcing and accountability, such as the development of the Environmental Profit & Loss Account, a “natural capital” accounting and reporting system that assigns a monetary value to the ecological impact of a company’s business activities and supply-chain operations.
Bolland helped create Marks & Spencer’s “Plan A” roadmap to becoming the world’s most sustainable major retailer. Polman, meanwhile, led Unilver to create a “Sustainable Living Plan,”, along with a first-of-its-kind human-rights report.
“As global citizens, we’ve been conditioned to think that the world’s problems exist in separate boxes,” Firth, who co-hosted the shindig with her husband, Oscar winner Colin Firth, said. “We have the climate-change box, the poverty box, the trade-regulations box, the modern-day slavery box, the migration box, and so on. The result? We feel alienated and powerless. The real truth is, they’re all linked by the brands and businesses we interact with every day. And it was important to recognize the critical leadership role of these businesses to address and reverse the appalling degradation of our planet and the misery this creates.”
Tuesday evening saw Firth back in London, where she hosted a screening of The True Cost, a groundbreaking documentary about the impact of “fast fashion” on the planet, with actress and UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson.
Firth was nothing but full of praise for her fellow advocate, who speaks openly about her passion for fair trade.
“Emma is a real example for me of how every woman should be and it is such a pleasure to have hosted the screening of True Cost with her tonight,” Firth said. It has been said that fashion is a feminist issue—maybe it is also about sisterhood and it starts from women in the West holding virtual hands with the women who make, in far away countries, the clothes we wear every single day. Emma lives this reality and embodies this completely.”
Both Firth and Watson are advocates of the “30 wears” philosophy. Firth has said in the past that people shopping for a new outfit should always ask themselves, “Will I wear this 30 times?”
Firth, it must be said, practices what she preaches. At the screening, she wore her Aunt Nadia’s sequined blouse from the ’60s, a pair of Marks & Spencer culottes, and old Roger Vivier shoes, which she said she has worn “on many occasions” over the past three years.