The watch and jew­ellery in­dus­try fi­nally joins the global con­ver­sa­tion on sus­tain­abil­ity and eth­i­cal pro­duc­tion

Singapore Tatler Jewels & Time - - Contents - Text Nicolette Wong

The watch and jew­ellery in­dus­try is on track to cham­pion sus­tain­abil­ity and hu­man rights

“As of July this year, 100 per cent of the gold we use will be eth­i­cally and re­spon­si­bly sourced.” Thus be­gan Chopard’s commitment at Basel­world 2018. The brand’s an­nounce­ment sparked off a ro­bust con­ver­sa­tion on the topic of sus­tain­abil­ity and eth­i­cal prac­tices in the world of jew­ellery and watch­mak­ing. “It’s a huge is­sue all over the world, in ev­ery in­dus­try from fashion to food and cars,” said Caro­line Scheufele, the artis­tic di­rec­tor and co-pres­i­dent of Chopard, “but in watches and jew­ellery, the ul­ti­mate lux­ury, has some­how been far be­hind these other in­dus­tries.” It is cer­tainly true that the global con­ver­sa­tion sur­round­ing sus­tain­abil­ity and other re­lated is­sues has not of­ten in­volved this in­dus­try. More of­ten than not, the fo­cus is on fashion brands, which have got­ten flak for fail­ing to en­sure ad­e­quate hu­man rights stan­dards along the pro­duc­tion chain and for be­ing en­vi­ron­men­tally un­friendly. With Chopard’s big an­nounce­ment, the spot­light is now on the watch and jew­ellery brands to do its part.

Chopard has been cre­at­ing high jew­ellery pieces using Fairmined gold and di­a­monds cer­ti­fied by the Re­spon­si­ble Jew­ellery Coun­cil (RJC) for a num­ber of years now, un­der the um­brella of its Green Car­pet col­lec­tion. The brand now pledges that 100 per cent of all of the gold used in all its watches and jew­ellery will be eth­i­cally sourced as of July this year. The brand ob­tains its gold in two ways; it buys ar­ti­sanal freshly-mined gold from small-scale mines par­tic­i­pat­ing in Fairmined and Fair­trade schemes, and from mines su­per­vised by the Swiss Bet­ter Gold As­so­ci­a­tion. It also buys gold from Rjc-cer­ti­fied re­finer­ies. On top of

that, the brand works closely with Gem­fields (one of the world’s lead­ing sup­pli­ers of re­spon­si­bly-sourced coloured gem­stones) to pro­cure gems from mines that op­er­ate eth­i­cally. Its emer­alds, for in­stance, can be traced back to the Kagem mine in Zam­bia, and ru­bies to the Mon­tepuez mine in Mozam­bique. When asked why it was tak­ing such a big step for­ward, Scheufele said: “We re­ally care about [the is­sue of sus­tain­abil­ity and hu­man rights]. All our raw ma­te­ri­als come from the planet, and if we don’t take care how we ex­tract [those ma­te­ri­als], and whether the work­ers in the mines are ex­ploited, then that’s not lux­ury. For us, as a fam­ily busi­ness, it’s a moral im­per­a­tive.”

The moral im­per­a­tive is in­deed a com­pelling one, and Chopard is to be lauded for tak­ing the step in the right di­rec­tion—es­pe­cially when the brand is ab­sorb­ing the ad­di­tional costs of this en­deav­our. “We don’t put it on the price tag,” Scheufele as­sures us. This is de­spite the fact that using eth­i­cally sourced gold will cost Chopard some five to 10 per cent more than tra­di­tion­ally sourced gold.

Ab­sorb­ing the ad­di­tional cost is pos­si­ble with Chopard as it is a fam­ily-run busi­ness and is ul­ti­mately free to man­age their busi­ness as it sees fit. Most other big com­pa­nies, how­ever, are less free to do so—prof­itabil­ity, af­ter all, is much of the point of do­ing busi­ness.

To get over this stum­bling block, it must make com­mer­cial sense for busi­nesses as well. Aware­ness of and con­cern for sus­tain­abil­ity is­sues is on the rise, par­tic­u­larly among the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion. In a study done by the Busi­ness of Fashion and Mckin­sey, 66 per cent of global millennial­s are will­ing to spend more on brands that are sustainabl­e. And it is the brands, which lead the way in cham­pi­oning sus­tain­abil­ity and hu­man rights that will reap the com­mer­cial ad­van­tages of do­ing so. On the flip­side, not en­sur­ing that these is­sues are taken care of within the sup­ply chain would not only be a detri­ment to the earth and to vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties, but would also be a pub­lic re­la­tions dis­as­ter. Cherie Blair, a CBE re­cip­i­ent and queens coun­sel lawyer and cam­paigner for hu­man rights, put it this way: “You can no longer say that what goes on in the Congo stays in the Congo. Be­cause what goes on in the Congo is a mo­bile phone pho­to­graph away from world­wide con­dem­na­tion.” It is, in other words, in busi­nesses’ best in­ter­est to take is­sues of sus­tain­abil­ity, eth­i­cal sourc­ing, and hu­man rights se­ri­ously.

To be fair, Chopard is not the only brand that has made progress. Tiffany & Co. has made big strides in in­te­grat­ing sus­tain­abil­ity through­out its pro­duc­tion process too, with 99.8 per cent of all of its pre­cious me­tals and 100 per cent of all its di­a­monds di­rectly trace­able to spe­cific mines, sup­pli­ers with mul­ti­ple known mines, or pre­cious metal re­cy­clers

(which form a big part of the gold sup­ply chain). It has also cam­paigned against open­ing mines in ar­eas that could sig­nif­i­cantly im­pact the lo­cal ecosys­tem, such as the one near Yel­low­stone Na­tional Park in the US. Ac­cord­ing to a Hu­man Rights Watch (HRW) re­port pub­lished this year, Tiffany is also one of the few brands (if not the only one) that reg­u­larly con­ducts third-party au­dits of its sup­ply chain. It sup­ports the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute for En­vi­ron­ment and Devel­op­ment in im­prov­ing the liv­ing and work­ing con­di­tions in ar­ti­sanal min­ing com­mu­ni­ties. Most no­tably, Tiffany was one of the brands lead­ing the ef­fort to im­ple­ment the Kim­ber­ley Process Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Scheme, which was es­tab­lished in 2000 to pre­vent con­flict di­a­monds (that is, di­a­monds mined in war zones whose prof­its are used to fund war ef­forts) from en­ter­ing the main­stream di­a­mond mar­ket. To­day, the Kim­ber­ley Process ac­counts for 99.8 per cent of the global pro­duc­tion of rough di­a­monds. How­ever, Tiffany has gone above and be­yond the Kim­ber­ley Process, which it says does not ad­e­quately safe­guard hu­man rights and the en­vi­ron­ment. It re­quires that sup­pli­ers of pol­ished di­a­monds pro­vide a war­ranty that the gems were not sourced from ar­eas known to have hu­man rights abuses such as Zim­babwe and An­gola. This falls in line with the po­si­tion taken by HRW, which also high­lights that the RJC’S mea­sures may not be in­suf­fi­cient to weed out all eth­i­cal con­cerns in the min­ing of pre­cious ma­te­ri­als. Given that many com­pa­nies are heav­ily re­liant on the RJC to con­duct in­spec­tions and certificat­ions in their sup­ply chain, this is an area with room for im­prove­ment.

It is for all of the above­men­tioned mea­sures and more that Tiffany & Co. was the only com­pany (out of 13 sur­veyed) deemed to have strong re­spon­si­ble sourc­ing poli­cies by HRW. The com­pre­hen­sive re­port se­lected brands re­flect­ing dif­fer­ent geo­graphic mar­kets and asked them to make clear their ef­forts to­wards re­spon­si­ble sourc­ing, which in­cludes whether they supported small-scale ar­ti­sanal min­ing and whether or not they pub­lished the names of their gold and di­a­mond sup­pli­ers. Un­for­tu­nately, none of the brands on the re­port was rated ex­cel­lent with Tiffany & Co. the only com­pany that was rated strong (mean­ing it had taken sig­nif­i­cant steps to­wards re­spon­si­ble sourc­ing)

In the case of Chopard specif­i­cally, HRW cited a lack of pub­lished in­for­ma­tion on the brand’s due dili­gence to­wards safeguardi­ng hu­man rights, and the re­luc­tance to name its sup­pli­ers as rea­sons for its poor per­for­mance. When asked, Scheufele explained: “We are happy to share a lot of in­for­ma­tion, but we are not go­ing to give away all our sources, be­cause this is con­fi­den­tial.”

It is dif­fi­cult to achieve a bal­ance be­tween the need to be trans­par­ent and re­spon­si­ble, and the need to main­tain cor­po­rate se­crecy. The case of Chopard also high­lights that

“You can no longer say that what goes on in the Congo stays in the Congo. Be­cause what goes on in the Congo is a mo­bile phone photo away from world­wide con­dem­na­tion.” — CHERIE BLAIR

while much work has al­ready been done, there re­mains much more to do. Blair also ad­vised mod­er­a­tion in chastis­ing com­pa­nies that have not per­formed well in their due dili­gence re­ports, say­ing “if we pun­ish those who pub­lish [neg­a­tive data], then there will be fewer com­pa­nies will­ing to do that re­port­ing.”

Ad­dress­ing hu­man rights is­sues, and sourc­ing for jew­ellery and watches re­spon­si­bly are ex­tremely dif­fi­cult and com­plex, with many as­pects wor­thy of com­pa­nies’ at­ten­tion and ac­tion. It is not a prob­lem that can be solved overnight. “What we’re look­ing for is en­gage­ment and ac­knowl­edge that there is a prob­lem and work to­wards a so­lu­tion,” said Blair. “What should not be ex­pected is that we can solve the prob­lem to­mor­row. Be­cause no one com­pany can solve the big is­sues— Chopard can’t sud­denly trans­form the places they source their ma­te­ri­als from into places with de­vel­oped world stan­dards in ed­u­ca­tion and job op­por­tu­ni­ties, but they can do their part in mov­ing the nee­dle.” And as Scheufele put it, “True lux­ury lies in know­ing that that beau­ti­ful thing you fell in love with has been man­u­fac­tured eth­i­cally, and hasn’t been tar­nished in any way through­out the pro­duc­tion process. If it’s not beau­ti­ful in its soul, then it’s not lux­ury.”

Caro­line Scheufele, the co-pres­i­dent of Chopard, says that tran­si­tion­ing to eth­i­cal gold is a morally-led de­ci­sion for the com­pany, which is owned by the Scheufele fam­ily

The is­sues of ethics and hu­man rights in min­ing ar­eas are multi-faceted and com­plex. Even in­sti­tu­tions deemed re­li­able, such as the RJC, may not be suf­f­i­cent to en­sure their pro­tec­tion

Chopard uses only eth­i­cally sourced min­er­als in its Green Car­pet col­lec­tion

Tiffany & Co. is per­haps the only jew­ellery com­pany to have a Chief Sus­tain­abil­ity Of­fi­cer, Anisa Ka­madoli Costa (left)

The Kim­ber­ley Process, which was im­ple­mented to re­move con­flict di­a­monds from the mar­ket, is not strin­gent enough to en­sure the pro­tec­tion of hu­man rights along the sup­ply chain, say both Tiffany & Co. and Hu­man Rights Watch

Tiffany & Co.’s di­a­monds are cut and pol­ished by lo­cal­ly­hired skilled work­ers in its own fa­cil­i­ties, al­low­ing the brand to en­sure a pos­i­tive work­place en­vi­ron­ment

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