On May 8, we explored ANN INC.'s efforts to foster a new generation of women leaders through CGI. This week, we talked to another fashion giant—Patrizio di Marco, president & CEO of Gucci. The fashion house is scaling up its dedication to women's rights by leveraging its fragrance collection, celebrity star power, and point-of-sale technology in a Commitment to Action launched last year through CGI.
As part of their CGI commitment, Gucci is partnering with P&G Prestige to expand CHIME FOR CHANGE—the girls' and women's empowerment campaign founded by Gucci Creative Director Frida Giannini, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, and Salma Hayek Pinault—and recently pledged $1 million to fund projects that support equal rights through the sales of five iconic Gucci fragrances. Each product, available online and in thousands of stores across the globe, will have a unique code allowing consumers to allocate a $5 donation toward advancing education, health, or justice for girls and women.
Di Marco spoke to us about the role that women play in Gucci's success and the company's approach to gender inclusion.
PENNY ABEYWARDENA: Give us a quick snapshot of your company's efforts to empower girls and women, both internally and externally.
PATRIZIO DI MARCO: Women are at the core of Gucci as a brand and as a business, from our clientele to our executive leadership. Our parent company, Kering, strives to set the example for gender equality in the workplace. Gucci continues to evaluate our HR practices, including recruiting, employee development and benefits, to serve women and foster a culture of support at all levels. We also participate in Kering’s mentorship program, which pairs senior managers with high-potential women to provide support for the development of our female talent, facilitate their access to senior positions, and help change managerial culture.
The company’s increasing commitment to girls’ and women’s issues was brought into further focus through our philanthropy as a result of the 2013 launch of our CHIME FOR CHANGE campaign. Gucci Creative Director Frida Giannini, along with Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Salma Hayek Pinault, founded the campaign to raise funds and awareness for girls’ and women’s empowerment in the areas of Education, Health and Justice.
Through CHIME FOR CHANGE, we have funded 310 projects in nearly 80 different countries across 101 nonprofit partners to date. To further demonstrate our commitment to girls’ and women’s issues, Gucci partnered with P&G, who produces our fragrances, to make a 2013 Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action
. Together we have created an innovative consumer activation aimed at increasing awareness and raising funds to support further CHIME projects.
ABEYWARDENA: Why has this focus on girls and women been important to Gucci?
DI MARCO: A focus on women’s and girls’ empowerment exists throughout Gucci’s DNA: from our parent company Kering, through our Executive Leadership and employees, to our customers and partner organizations. Gucci has a long history of engagement on women’s issues, including a 10-year global partnership with UNICEF in support of girls’ education; the Spotlighting Women Documentary Award with the Tribeca Film Institute; and the Gucci Award for Women in Cinema with the Venice Film Festival. Gucci is also actively involved in the Kering Foundation, created by our parent company, which is dedicated to stopping violence against women and to improving women’s lives.
Women’s issues are the world’s issues, so making a difference for girls and women is important to Gucci and our consumers around the world. Although different geographies and cultures face diverse challenges, we believe girls and women everywhere deserve the right to go to school, to access the health care they need, and to feel protected and given the chance for equal opportunity. We do not just view investing in girls and women as a charitable activity, but also as a part of our business. Gucci is led by a powerful female executive—our creative director Frida Giannini. And many of our other top executives are women.
We do not just view investing in girls and women as a charitable activity, but also as a part of our business. Gucci is led by a powerful female executive—our creative director Frida Giannini. And many of our other top executives are women.
ABEYWARDENA: What are some of the challenges Gucci has faced in its efforts to empower girls and women? Are there any examples of where you’ve had to change course?
DI MARCO: Since the launch of CHIME FOR CHANGE, we have met countless inspirational girls and women, non-profit leaders, high-profile advocates and individual supporters. We have encountered a few instances in which we needed to step back and recalibrate, focus and prioritize where we believe we can have the greatest impact.
One of our key learnings has been to enable our community to choose projects that are important to them, but to keep that choice simple. We have more than a hundred nonprofit partners, but have narrowed our focus to projects addressing three priority pillars: Education, Health and Justice. More so than “change course” we have had to “stay the course.” From the beginning, we knew we wanted transparency, accountability and impact to be key themes for CHIME FOR CHANGE, and we have worked to maintain those principles across all of our activities. Because of our crowdfunding partner, Catapult, the CHIME community can choose exactly where their donations go and track the results. Through impact reporting, we are able to hear about the change this is enabling around the world. Thanks to CHIME FOR CHANGE, 75 sex trafficking victims have been rescued, 600 people in Ethiopia have access to clean water, more than 1,550 women in Darfur have been trained to build their own stoves, and hundreds of girls in at-risk communities have received scholarships for their education—and those are only four examples.
ABEYWARDENA: What are some of the mistakes or pitfalls you’ve seen in the way that the private sector invests in the issues pertaining to girls and women?
DI MARCO: As a global company, Gucci could choose to simply write a check; however, there are so many other ways we are able to make an impact. We saw an opportunity as a globally influential brand to use our voice, partnerships and influence to help promote girls’ and women’s issues as a priority. Every organization has a unique set of skills and experience that can be applied in new and innovative ways, and
that’s what we aim to do with CHIME FOR CHANGE.
ABEYWARDENA: How and where do you think the private sector can better measure the outcome—the successes and the shortcomings—of their girls and women initiatives?
DI MARCO: I think many companies have an even greater opportunity to maximize the impact of the work they are doing for girls and women. Of course it is important for companies to give financial support, but that is only one way to measure our philanthropic impact. As a global brand, when we consider our employee network and our client engagement opportunities in every region, we see a vast sphere of influence. It is our goal to create advocates for the campaign across all of our constituents. We have so much more potential in this regard, but we are already seeing a groundswell of support. The pride and emotional connection to the brand that this inspires is invaluable.
Those working in the private sector should also not forget that their support of women starts right in front of them in their own board rooms, stores and offices. We should continue to emphasize the value of recruiting talented employees and pursuing gender equity.
ABEYWARDENA: Why has Gucci chosen to participate in CGI’s Girls & Women efforts, and what do you hope to get out of our focus in the year ahead?
DI MARCO: It has been an honor to be a part of the Clinton Global Initiative network. Working within CGI’s girls’ and women’s programming has enabled us to connect to other passionate organizations, both for- and non-profit, focused on creating meaningful change. We’ve found valuable intersections with many new and existing partners.
As an example, Francois-Henri Pinault, chairman of our parent company, Kering, had the important opportunity to participate in a special convening about girls’ and women’s strategy at the September 2013 Annual Meeting, alongside notable leaders in the space including Theo Sowa, Melanne Verveer, Valerie Jarrett, and Secretary Clinton. We are honored that the Gucci and Kering family is able to be a part of the progressive conversations that CGI encourages, bringing together private sector, government and the development community.
(WATCH: Francois-Henri Pinault joins Secretary Hillary Clinton, Valerie Jarrett, and other leaders at the Girls and Women Strategy Session, during the 2013 CGI Annual Meeting)
ABEYWARDENA: What emerging or future opportunities do you anticipate within your sector for engaging girls and women as both consumers and producers of your goods?
DI MARCO: Companies must make a conscious effort to engage women as both consumers and as employees. Women are the largest growing economic force in the world.
From a workforce perspective, it is simply common sense: we cannot afford to neglect 50 percent of the talent pool. Women have brought some of the most creative and innovative ideas to Gucci, as I’m sure they have for many other organizations. A company that is attractive for talented women has a strong competitive advantage—gender diversity plays a major role in the global performance of any organization. For these reasons, companies must continue to reevaluate internal practices and cultural norms to ensure women are working in environments in which they can thrive.
About Patrizio di Marco
Patrizio di Marco, 51, was appointed Gucci’s president and CEO in January 2009 having originally joined Gucci Group in 2001 as president and CEO of Bottega Veneta.
Di Marco’s comprehensive 20-year career has yielded an extensive knowledge of and unique sensibility for the luxury marketplace. His professional experience is truly international, having held senior positions in Asia, Europe, and America at various of the world's most respected luxury brands.
After starting his career at the sportswear division of GFT, di Marco spent five years in Japan where he worked as Prada’s CFO and marketing & merchandising director. From 1993 to 1998, di Marco was president and CEO of Prada America. He was then named senior vice president of marketing and communication at Louis Vuitton Americas, where he further developed important ties to the U.S. market. Prior to joining Gucci Group, he was president and CEO of Celine, Inc.
Over the last five years, under his tenure, revenues at Gucci grew more than 60% and today the brand has achieved higher-level positioning and exclusivity, recapturing the more knowledgeable client as it continues to attract aspirational customers.
Di Marco has given new life to the long lasting values of the brand—which include the mission of Made in Italy, outstanding quality and superior artisan craftsmanship—while perfectly combining them with its fashion authority and versatility. That duality is also complemented by an increasingly firm commitment to ensuring that all aspects of our business are run responsibly and with integrity.