When it comes to sustainability in the watch industry, one name stands out and that is Oris. While the brand, which is headquartered in Hölstein, near Basel, isn’t the only one making real advances – think of IWC, Panerai, Cartier or Ulysse Nardin –, it is the first to become carbon-neutral. This is big news which Oris isn’t keeping to itself. By communicating widely on the subject, it aims to set an example for watch buyers as well as encourage the industry as a whole to step up its efforts in favour of sustainability.
“We’re proud to be part of Watches and Wonders. This is the first time we’ve taken part in a fair in Geneva,” said co-CEO Rolf Studer, speaking at the event. “We try to put into practice a concept upheld by one of Geneva’s most famous sons, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and that is the concept of citizenship. As a manufacturer and consumer of luxury goods, we have a responsibility to consider the world around us. We’ve inherited a difficult situation but it is our duty to lead by example. When I talk about sustainable development, I’m not giving an opinion or announcing a programme. Sustainable development is an attitude.”
Like Rousseau’s citizen, who enters into a social contract to maintain the common interest, Rolf Studer’s citizen must become part of a plan to save the planet from the increasingly imminent threat of environmental and social disaster. At Oris, the first tangible outcome is the company’s carbon-neutral status, certified in 2021 by ClimatePartner, a Munich-based organisation that works with more than 4,000 companies in 35 countries. “We helped Oris calculate its carbon footprint and identify how it could reduce its emissions and offset residual emissions,” explained Jan Schüssler from ClimatePartner. “In Oris’s case, this is through support of Plastic Bank, a global project to clean the oceans of plastic, and a contribution to a wind farm project in the Caribbean.”
Taking pre-pandemic 2019 as a baseline, ClimatePartner calculated that Oris’s global carbon emissions amounted to 2,300 tonnes. The primary sources were flights, external logistics and commuting. Oris has fully offset this carbon footprint. But as Rolf Studer is quick to acknowledge, “Offsetting is the easy part as it’s mainly financial. We now have to cut our emissions through a planned reduction of 10% per year for the next three years. This equates to 230 tonnes of CO2 in 2022. By improving insulation at our headquarters, where we’ve been since 1904, we have cut energy consumption by 30%. Solar panels now provide 60% of the electricity we use and the remainder comes from renewable sources.”
In its 2022 Sustainability Report, Oris describes measures taken to reduce carbon emissions generated by external logistics. Presentation boxes are made of FSC-certified materials, recycled plastic or an algae-based material. Certain watch dials are manufactured from recycled PET plastic, as are straps. More recently, the brand signed a partnership with Swiss startup Cervo Volante, which collects hides from deer that have been culled as part of wildlife management and which are otherwise burned. Oris uses them to make deer leather straps.
This pragmatic approach hasn’t gone unnoticed among financial observers. For Jean-Philippe Bertschy, analyst at Bank Vontobel, “Actions speak louder than words. Companies which allocate resources and capital to sustainable development will be tomorrow’s winners. Sustainability is no longer optional. Businesses, under pressure from young consumers, will be expected to publish annual, science-based and audited sustainability KPIs.” This shouldn’t be a problem for Oris, whose commitment to reducing its carbon footprint goes hand-in-hand with longstanding ecological partnerships. The brand is currently engaged in four projects. One partner, everwave, operates boats that collect plastic waste from rivers and is also developing a platform that will collect plastic before it reaches the seas. Oris is also partner to #tide ocean material®, a company that upcycles ocean-bound plastic into a raw material with numerous applications.
Other partnerships geared towards environmental protection are with the Reef Restoration Foundation, to preserve the Great Barrier Reef, and with the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat, a trilateral organisation representing Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands to safeguard this tidal flat. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it forms a unique biotope. “We will identify more ways to make a difference with projects that involve local communities,” comments Rolf Studer. “Our message to consumers doesn’t change: don’t throw away what you buy. Give it a second life. Any change in mentality begins at home, by adopting a sustainable attitude. Not so long ago, luxury meant flying people around the world to sip champagne at product launches. Now it’s about beach clean-ups. That’s real change and it stems from the attitude of a responsible citizen. Which is what we are.”