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PARIS – Bernard Arnault, the 70-year-old CEO of French luxury group, LVMH, has illustrated just how breathtakingly out of touch some industry executives are on sustainability issues by describing environmental activist Greta Thunberg’s discussion on climate issues as overly pessimistic and “demoralising” for young people. While the 16-year old is a hero for many, Arnault claimed Thunberg’s discussion, “has a demoralising side to it for young people. She’s not proposing anyway, aside from criticism … I prefer positive solutions that allow us to get towards a more optimistic position.”

Arnault made the comments during discussions around LVMH’s sustainability strategy in which he said the group was bringing in a charter to ensure full traceability of raw materials by 2025. LVMH, which includes brands such as Fendi, Christian Dior and Givenchy, continues to make accessories such as handbags from exotic skins like python or crocodile as well as using animal furs in its collections, as other brands shift away from fur.

Thunberg criticised world leaders and executives at a United Nations climate summit in New York this week, claiming they had “stolen her dreams,” by not acting decisively on climate issues.

Perhaps an even more remarkable element to this story is that Stella McCartney recently sold a stake in her namesake brand to LVMH. The latter is clearly hoping its partnership with McCartney – the current darling of sustainable fashion – will help it push its sustainability credentials. Arnault said at the time: “It is the beginning of a beautiful story together, and we are convinced of the great long-term potential of her House.”

We have contacted Stella McCartney’s representatives for comment.

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