A fashion model posing on the sand
NO BUSINESS CONVERSATION can overlook the impact the year 2020 had on everything from supply chain management to advertising and marketing to finance and investing. As businesses pivoted to stay afloat when the pandemic hit, many expected the growing focus on ESG to lag, yet the opposite happened.

“In this year alone, global assets under management in the ESG category increased by an astounding 96%,” said Donna Rapaccioli, PhD, dean of the Gabelli School, in her opening remarks at the spring PVH 2021 Market Forces conference. “This unprecedented growth shows that our attitudes toward sustainability are changing more rapidly than we could have imagined.”

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on investing and consumer behavior, the need for clear and consistent sustainability standards, and the ways in which consumers and investors are reshaping ESG in fashion were key topics of the conference. The virtual event, sponsored by fashion giant PVH Corp. and the Gabelli School’s Responsible Business Coalition, featured 18 speakers from around the globe more than 350 attendees tuned in.

Reflecting on the past decade in the fashion industry, PVH Corp. Chairman and CEO Emanuel “Manny” Chirico, BS ’79, noted a movement toward the broader purpose of business and corporate responsibility. While financial success will always be important, he said, companies are now being asked about their sustainability, supply chains, and positions on social issues.

“We need to be judged by more than just our bottom line,” he said. “And consumers want an emotional connection with your brand. In the past, that would be more about image, but today it’s about what you stand for as a brand and as a company.”