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Responsable sourcing - The Sourcing Shake Down

Responsable sourcing The Sourcing Shake Down

The watch industry has been a bit slow to the sustainable game, and even slower when it comes to responsible sourcing. Has that begun to change?

With Earth  Day on April 22, it’s great time to take a look at the watch world and see how brands are making efforts not only toward sustainable products and recycling, but also toward responsible sourcing of gemstones, diamonds and precious metals.

The Sourcing Shake Down

Luminor Marina eSteel © Panerai

Granted, during the recent Watches & Wonders Geneva show, we heard a lot about brands cleaning up their carbon footprints, offering vegan and other material straps and packaging that are recycled or recyclable. Some brands are even going a big step further, with companies like Panerai creating a concept watch whose movement and components are recycled, and with Cartier going solar. Other brands are really supporting environmental causes that include clean water, ocean and animal conservation and more.

The Sourcing Shake Down

Tank Must Watch © Cartier

With big strides being made on that front, the question still remains: How many brands are jumping on the responsible sourcing bandwagon and why is it taking so long. The jewelry industry has been a leader in the world of responsible sourcing, ever since the book (and later the movie) Blood Diamonds came out in 2002 exposing the issue of conflict diamonds and raising awareness to new heights. That book sent blood-curdling messages out to the public about the abuse of miners and the horrible conditions many endure. It was a game-changer in the world of diamonds and gemstones, where responsible companies were already investigating abhorrent conditions.

In fact, as a result, in 2005, The Responsible Jewellery Council was founded, and its members and  board worked for years to create a Certification System (that became operative in late 2009) to ensure diamonds were tracked and certified as being conflict free. Hundreds of companies from around the world opted in and agreed to purchase only conflict-free RJC certified diamonds. It took watch brands longer to understand the value of this certification for their diamond timepieces. In fact, the first to join RJC were predominantly the high-end brands that belonged to big groups that also own jewelry companies.

Over the past decade, though, the majority of watch brands have come to recognize the importance of ethically sourced diamonds and more and more have become members of RJC. However, RJC can only go so far with  its code of practices and chain of custody standards in place mostly for diamonds. Although the company also traces platinum and gold, now, as well. Of course, it can’t police the world. It can only certify conflict-free via tracing.

As such, it is up to brands to conscientiously source their gemstones (mostly mined in regions of Africa and South America where conditions are still questionable) and their precious metals. Some are leaders in this field. For instance, Chopard, a top-notch jewelry and watch house, has long made it a point to source metals from Fairmined and ethical roots. It turns to mines that offer small-scale gold in accordance with Fairmined Standards (which include prohibiting child labor) and Fairtrade certifications. Most are members of the Swiss Better Gold Association (SBGA) system.

By extending its commitment to responsible sourcing and creating a long-term Journey to Sustainable Luxury across its entire supply chain, Chopard has led the way for other brands to follow. It has drafted its own Code of Conduct that expects its partners to adhere to. A few other large jewelry and watch houses, including Bulgari and a few Richemont Group brands like Jaeger-LeCoultre and IWC, have done the same thing, seeking out artisanal mining organizations to source metals and stones from, where there is some certification in place, and also where the environment isn’t harmed on a large scale and where replenishment of the land takes place concurrent with and after mining.

The Sourcing Shake Down

L.U.C XPS Fairmined © Chopard

It is slow going, though, because even if brands want to be totally transparent, their suppliers may not be. One of the issues with tracing gold is that often, when it is sent to the refining plants, gold from different areas is all mixed together, making it difficult to trace where the material originated.  This is  the root of the tracing problem. Still, brands need to review the policies and promises of their suppliers and, if necessary, change their mineral supply chains.

This higher awareness of materials sourcing brings a new dimension to the words corporate and social responsibility. With this in mind, we are witnessing more and more brands creating their own new alloys of gold and platinum. By using less pure gold and adding other substances to it – to create stronger gold, more scratch-resistant gold, different gold colors – brands may more readily be able to responsibly source.

Lip service to the subject won’t cut it any more with today’s socially minded consumers, but luckily there are organizations (such as RJC and SBGA) that can help brands put their best foot forward when it comes to certain certifications so they can offer a clean supply chain. Unfortunately, though, this may not be enough. Brands have to be diligent if they want to trace and disclose the origins of their raw materials, and they should. This is the band wagon to jump on today to ensure a better tomorrow for everyone.


Brands

Characterised by audacity and inventiveness, Cartier’s watchmaking history reflects a unique state of mind: “jeweller of kings and king of jewellers”. Its renown is bound up in the tradition of...

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Maison Chopard epitomises the alliance between watchmaking and jewellery. It has always known how to meet the expectations of its day, relying on four essential values: expertise, tradition,...

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Every Panerai watch is as unique as the story it tells. Since 1860 Panerai has produced high-precision instruments and watches, developed and created to meet the most rigorous military standards....

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