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Editorial - The Mindboggling World of Sustainability

Editorial The Mindboggling World of Sustainability

Are lab-grown diamonds and banana skin straps the future of watchmaking?

I got invited to a parent’s evening at my son’s school recently where all the parents were invited to take part in a quiz about making good sustainable decisions. Keen to show off our knowledge on the subject (being the modern parents that we are), we embraced the first question with gusto: What is more sustainable, a coffee made in a traditional Italian pot, or a Nespresso expresso? All the hands went up for the Italian coffee with its zero packaging, natural ingredients, lifetime guarantee metal pot, etc. No brainer, right? Well, we were so wrong. 

The students took great pleasure in explaining how even if Nespresso expresso creates waste, the coffee capsules are recyclable, and more importantly, the coffee is flash-heated, heating only what is needed in your cup. The machine then automatically turns itself off, winning the competition hands down. 

The Mindboggling World of Sustainability

Why am I telling you this story when I should be talking about watches? Well, after attending the Watches and Culture Forum on sustainability last week and plunging into some research of my own, I have found that there are similar surprises in the world of watches, especially when it comes to raw materials. 

Take straps for example. Over the last few years, alligator skins have been dwindling in favour of straps made of apples, banana skins, corn, mushrooms and more. But depending on the energy used to produce them, they aren’t necessarily better for the planet. 

One thing that may surprise some people is that, done properly, the trade of exotic leathers can be totally sustainable as it can not only directly finance robust conservation programs but benefit local people and rural livelihoods too. Take the industry away and this can create significant economic and social problems for communities, possibly even leading to the increase of poaching of genuinely threatened species. So, helping people and biodiversity to co-exist can often be the most sustainable solution of all. Now, whether you agree with the use of wearing animal skins or not is another question for debate, but the science in terms of sustainability is there. 

The same is true of mining for gold and precious stones. There is no arguing that mining is hugely damaging to the environment. It causes deforestation, water contamination, environmental pollution, as well as endangers wildlife and human health, and more. So, should we stop purchasing gold watches with rainbow dials? Not necessarily. Forty million people work in the artisanal and small-scale mining industry worldwide, and mining is a vital source of income for them. Rather than foregoing purchasing timepieces with precious metals and gemstones entirely, many experts would argue that purchasing from brands that have invested in mines to help them operate using clean and sustainable practices is a far better solution. 

The Mindboggling World of Sustainability

Happy Sport, in Fairmined gold © Chopard

Another surprise arises in the world of lab-grown diamonds. These perfectly formed diamonds avoid all the environmental damage caused by mined diamonds, but they are created using microwave-heat generators, replicating a million-year process in the space of a few weeks. Just imagine how much energy that takes? In some cases, these lab-grown diamonds are produced using renewable energy, but not always, causing more damage to the planet than the consumer can even begin to imagine. 

So, how to navigate the world of watches when nothing is quite what it seems? Well, don’t hesitate to ask questions about the provenance of the elements in a watch. And if you aren’t convinced by the answer, don’t rush, go back home, have a coffee (preferably a Nespresso expresso) and do your own research, before returning to the boutique with more questions. Because what happens over the watch counter always makes it way up the chain of command and how you spend your money is always going to be the best promoter for change.

 

Lecture 2 Comment(s)

26 September 2022
benjamin teisseire
Chère sophie, Nestle produit 10 milliards !!! de capsules nespresso par an, moins de 25% sont recyclées et c'est sans compter la pollution plastique générée par les milliards de bouteilles en plastique qu'ils vendent a travers le monde...abonder dans leur greenwashing ne reglera pas le problème. c'est ce mode de vie de surconsommation qu'il faut changer, les capsules jetables en font partie ! Bien a toi, benjamin.
26 September 2022
Worldtempus
Cher Benjamin, Merci d'avoir pris le temps de commenter. Vous avez tout à fait raison concernant le taux de recyclage des capsules Nespresso, même si Nespresso reste la meilleure option en termes d'émissions sur un seul produit. C'était juste un exemple qui montre que les choses ne sont pas toujours ce qu'elles semblent être. Il est vrai que j'aurais peut-être dû donner un autre exemple. Bonne journée, Sophie
26 September 2022
Dan-Andrei Kluska
DEAR SOPHIE, UNFORTUNATELY, WE LEAVE IN A WORLD WHERE, ALTHOUGH WE HAVE ACCESS TO INFORMATION FROM THE DEVICE IN OUR HANDS (IN THIS VERY IRONIC LIFE), WE DON'T KNOW WHAT TO SEARCH, OR WHAT TO ASK (IN CASE IT CROSSES OUR MINDS TO DO SO...). MANY OF THE BRANDS ARE NOT TRANSPARENT ENOUGH REGARDING RAW MATERIALS. ON THE OTHER HAND, BESIDES MISINFORMATION, THERE IS A LOT OF HYPOCRISY FROM PEOPLE ALL-KNOWING AND THERE IS A LOT OF MISCONCEPTION ABOUT WELL-SOURCED MATERIALS OR COW / CROCODILE LEATHER. I THINK HERE, WE AS JOURNALISTS HAVE A DUTY TO FIND OUT AND INFORM AS CORRECT AS POSSIBLE ABOUT THE REAL IMPACT OF ONE OR ANOTHER. CHEERS, ANDREI
3 October 2022
Worldtempus
Thanks André for leaving a comment. Sustainability is such a complex issue, and as you say, it is hard for comsumers to know what to ask, or what answer to accept, but I feel that just the act of asking is already going to make brands sit up and take note. The WWF have produced some interesting reports on the matter, if ever. I'm happy to send them to you. 

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