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At IWC, sustainability is part of strategy

At IWC, sustainability is part of strategy

Sunday, 23 August 2020
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

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4 min read

IWC Schaffhausen’s recently published sustainability report takes stock of progress towards objectives set two years ago and fixes new goals for 2022.

For the luxury industry in general, and for watchmaking in particular, taking up an environmental cause has become almost an obligation for brands with a sustainability agenda. Initiatives abound, all aimed at preserving natural resources from the negative impact of human activity, with ocean conservation foremost among them. While ecology is clearly an element of marketing messages geared towards new consumers who show concern over industry’s environmental footprint, we can also point to a genuine upsurge in environmental awareness among manufacturers battling against planned obsolescence. Panerai, for example, is organising a fully subscribed experience that will take a group of customers on a North Pole expedition with Mike Horn to see for themselves the consequences of climate change; it has also promised the first 100% recycled watch for 2021.

An ongoing process

IWC goes much further. The Manufacture, still based in Schaffhausen where it was founded in 1868, was the first Swiss watch brand to take Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards as a benchmark for its first sustainability report. That was in 2018 and already laid down ambitious objectives. “When we published the watch industry’s first sustainability report to GRI standards, we provided a window into our world which had never before been offered by a Swiss luxury company,” explains Chief Executive Christoph Grainger-Herr. “Living up to our commitment to transparency has brought us closer to customers, suppliers, communities and colleagues in ways we had not anticipated. It has been a truly inspiring journey and I am proud of IWC’s momentum so far. Acting sustainably is a collective, continuous and collaborative effort with no end state, so we are the first to recognise that even more progress can be made. We will continue holding ourselves accountable in having a positive impact.”

Christoph Grainger-Herr, CEO IWC Schaffhausen © IWC
Christoph Grainger-Herr, CEO IWC Schaffhausen © IWC

This declaration coincided with the publication, at end July, of the second sustainability report from IWC, which describes its watches as “built to last for generations by combining centuries-old techniques, cutting-edge technology and long-term thinking.” In the report, the company describes progress towards objectives set at end 2017, and not without a hint of pride. Two years ago, it committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 10% and to reducing average packaging weight and volume by 30%. As a responsible employer, its priorities were to reduce the absence rate by 10% by promoting health and wellbeing, reach gender equality in training, and double the number of annual corporate volunteering hours. Each of these quantified goals has been achieved. The brand has missed only one, which was to have doubled the proportion of women in management, and will continue to work towards this target over the next two years.

Every decision counts

This isn’t the only goal IWC aims to reach by 2022. The first luxury watch brand to meet the Responsible Jewellery Council’s revised and more stringent Code of Practices, which covers business and supply chain practices, IWC is working towards achieving Chain of Custody certification for its watch components. Environmental performance is another area under scrutiny, with goals to purchase only renewable energy globally, to implement a Green IT strategy, and to encourage a circular economy whereby waste is avoided or reused. This means, for example, recovering heat generated by production, recycling gold and developing sustainable materials. The brand intends to hold on to its “Great Place to Work™” certification – the first watch brand to obtain this label, with 90% of staff declaring themselves proud to work there. In a similar vein, another 2022 goal is to achieve Equal Pay certification.

Franziska Gsell, chief marketing officer and sustainability committee chair © IWC
Franziska Gsell, chief marketing officer and sustainability committee chair © IWC

In the words of Franziska Gsell, Chief Marketing Officer and Sustainability Committee Chair, “our commitment to publishing sustainability reports biennially is one of the ways in which we are holding ourselves accountable towards managing our impacts responsibly, and we are determined to make further progress in integrating sustainability into our decision-making on an ongoing basis.” A rare pledge among watch brands and an example to all.

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