Spend a few moments speaking with Gisele Bündchen about sustainability and it becomes clear her passion and commitment to caring for the planet runs deep. The supermodel’s environmental credentials speak for themselves—in 2020, she launched the Viva a Vida initiative that raised enough funds to plant 260,000 trees in the Amazon Rainforest, and in the same year, celebrated her 40th birthday by planting 40,000 trees. Bündchen is also a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme and was an Executive Producer on the Netflix documentary Kiss the Ground about regenerative agriculture.
A fashion icon without doubt. But one gets the sense that her environmental advocacy, and her connection to nature, is a cause closer to her heart. Having grown up with her five sisters in a small town in Brazil, the family spent a lot of time at her grandparents’ small farm, where her appreciation of nature and seasonality developed. Since becoming a mother (to Benjamin, 12, and Vivian, 9), protecting our planet has become her mission. “My sense of responsibility for what kind of world I’m leaving for my children became a priority,” Bündchen says. “It became not just, ‘I want to have a positive impact’—I want to leave the world better than when I got here.”
The earth campaigner believes we can all play a part in reducing our environmental impact by taking small steps in our everyday lives and having awareness about our choices. “It’s very important to analyse our consumption, to understand the impact it has,” she says. “Because every choice we make has an impact, from what we are buying at the grocery store, who we are buying it from, [how] it is packaged; being mindful in what is necessary.”
Reconnecting to nature and living by the three R’s—reduce, reuse, and recycle—is a binding way of life for Bündchen. “No little change is too small,” she says. “It can go from making sure you always have bags in your car so you don’t have to get plastic bags at the grocery store, [avoiding] plastic bottles, having a garden, finding your local farmers instead of buying from big grocery stores. It’s all of those little things, and just being aware and mindful, because all those little things become the big things.”
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Helping to educate her children, and the next generation, is an important responsibility for Bündchen and she is a firm believer that children learn by example. “[My children] see that we don’t have plastic bottles, that we buy from local farmers, we grow our food as much as we can in our garden—they understand that’s important. It becomes natural to them. And if that’s important to you, it’s going to be important to them.”
Far from indulging her children with an abundance of toys and gifts, Bündchen reveals they receive one gift at Christmas that is eventually passed on to another child. “They get the pleasure to see another little kid playing with their toy, they get pictures and they’re very excited to share, but still that toy is not going to go away,” she highlights. “Just because the toy is gone, it doesn’t mean it has disappeared. I don’t have a magic wand to make it go away. Everything that exists can end up in landfill, in rivers, in oceans; it comes back to us. Nature always comes back.”
Understanding and respecting nature plays a huge role in Bündchen’s family life, and her passion for nature provision is both inspiring and contagious. “I feel like the garden is the most amazing teacher because nature is the best teacher,” she says. “Having a garden is a great way of teaching children about timing, they learn they have to wait, they understand the cycles of nature, they understand seasons. They learn patience. I think one thing that gets lost in our world is that we want something instantaneously and nature doesn’t work that way. Anything that is worth it in life doesn’t happen [instantly]. And I think this desire, as humans, is wanting to speed things up so much to the point that we forget to reflect.”
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Bündchen forged a reputation built on hard work and discipline in her modelling career, traits she readily applies to her environmental advocacy, leveraging her brand to promote a mindful lifestyle and sustainable practices within the corporate world. The planet warrior has recently been announced as IWC Schaffhausen’s Environmental and Community Projects Advisor, a role she says is based on collaboration and mutual learning. “I was very impressed with their purpose as a company. It’s about how can we learn from each other, make the most positive impact that we can, and then hopefully inspire other corporations to do the same.”
The brand has released its Sustainability Report, which details its environmental targets, including key achievements such as certifying the gold and platinum that are used in its supply chain are traceable and responsibly sourced, and initiatives to phase out the purchase of forestry products such as paper, cardboard, wood and furniture, that are non-FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified. “I felt very inspired and I thought: How can I learn from what they’re doing and share that with as many people as possible, and how can I also share some of the things that I’ve learnt in almost 20 years working and having [sustainability] as a guiding principle in my life,” Bündchen says.
Bündchen hopes the report and ongoing environmental transparency will inspire other businesses to commit to innovation and transparency. “Other companies can look at it, get ideas from it and think, how can we better our practices?”
The benefits also extend to consumers, who can make an educated decision based on the environmental credentials of a company. “How can we make informed choices and decisions on what we are going to purchase for families if we don’t know exactly how things are being done?” Bündchen asks. “The more information you have about something, the better choices you can make, so this is why I think transparency is key. I wouldn’t work for a company that does not have an environmental and social agenda because that’s important to me, so why would I buy from a company that’s not doing that?”
And when it comes to investments, Bündchen puts her money where her mouth is. “I only do impact investing,” she says. “I’m not going to go and work hard [for the planet] and then go and invest in a company that is going to destroy the very thing I’m trying to protect.” Bündchen’s own favourite IWC timepiece (aside from the IWC watch she bought for the father of her children, legendary US footballer Tom Brady, 16 years ago for his 30th birthday— “I love that he can pass that watch on to our boys once they are older, and that has an emotional value to me”) has a band composed of plants, minerals, and recycled rubber, and is part of the company’s commitment to providing customers sustainable alternatives to leather.
In fact, the MiraTexTM (miraculous textile) strap, which can be seen on IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41, is 100 percent recyclable. The material, free of petrochemicals and plastic, consists of plants and minerals, including natural rubber and cork powder. It is far less resource-intensive to produce than animal and synthetic leather.
“I think innovation is very important because that’s what’s going to help us get out of the place where we are, right? We can always keep learning so we can improve and do things better.”
This article originally appeared in Harper’s BAZAAR Australia.
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