As a topic for discussion, sustainable development featured prominently at Watches and Wonders Geneva, early April. Transforming words into action is proving more of a challenge, although there were some key announcements at the fair. They included the official formation of the Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030, six months after its launch by Cartier, representing the Richemont group, and Kering group. The WJI builds on United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), as well as “strong existing initiatives and organisations in the industry such as Science Based Targets”. It also includes newer areas of focus such as science-based climate targets, biodiversity protection and innovation in materials and business models “with the intent of encouraging and enabling industry transformation and innovation.”
The issues of the century
Marie-Claire Daveu is Chief Sustainability and Institutional Affairs Officer at Kering. She joined Cyrille Vigneron, President and CEO of Cartier International, at Watches and Wonders to discuss the WJI’s first outcomes and its objectives. “These are the most important issues of the century,” said Marie-Claire Daveu, “and even the biggest players cannot tackle them alone. Action must be industry-wide, hence our initiative. It follows on from the Fashion Pact which for the past three years has brought 250 fashion brands together to pursue common goals to support the climate and biodiversity. We can only bring about change through collaboration and I believe we have every chance of success.”
Sustainable development is not something you commit to for competitive advantage.
Launched in October 2021, the Watch and Jewellery Initiative 2030 has already onboarded many of the industry’s leading names, such as Chanel Horlogerie Joaillerie, Montblanc, Rosy Blue and Swarovski. They join Cartier and Kering’s Gucci Watches, Boucheron, Pomellato, Dodo and Qeelin. “We cannot find innovative solutions by going it alone,” insisted Marie-Claire Daveu. “We need to form an ecosystem around the coalition that is taking shape through the WJI. This goes beyond notions of competition. You don’t commit to sustainable development in order to gain competitive advantage but we do know sustainability can have a positive impact on business; yet another reason why it’s part of our DNA.”
Achieving these common goals implies the gradual integration of the entire value chain, i.e. the entire supply chain, which is where many of the difficulties lie, such as the sourcing of diamonds and, to a greater extent, coloured gemstones and gold. “This is where we face the biggest challenges,” said Cyrille Vigneron. “Actual watch production isn’t particularly energy-intensive and we are able to cover these energy needs with alternative sources. Also, the watches we make are, by definition, sustainable products that require very little energy, are repairable and built to last for generations. Hence 99% of our footprint comes from the supply chain which must commit to our common goals.”
The Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030 has hit its first obstacle, namely Alrosa.
This cannot happen without certification. Members of the Watch and Jewellery Initiative 2030 are required to comply with scientifically measurable criteria, hence the partnership with the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) which is the principal reference for establishing good practices within the watch and jewellery industry. However, this dual requirement of certification and traceability across the supply chain is why the WJI, barely off the ground, has already come up against a first obstacle, in the form of Alrosa. Following the outbreak of war in Ukraine, the Russian diamond producer’s membership of the RJC became an immediate source of dissent. Alrosa, which is one-third owned by the Russian state and one-third by regional governments, is responsible for virtually all Russian diamond production and accounts for around 30% of the world’s rough diamond supply. Not only is Alrosa an RJC member; one of its representatives sat as vice chair on the organisation’s board of directors.
Split with the Responsible Jewellery Council
Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine on February 24 has cast a different light on the alliance. Overnight, stones supplied by Alrosa effectively became conflict diamonds funding Russian military forces. In response, a number of high-profile names in the jewellery sector, such as the Richemont group, Tiffany & Co, Chopard, Pandora and retailer Signet, announced they would no longer buy Russian-origin diamonds with immediate effect. The question of Alrosa’s membership of the RJC still hangs in the air, pending legal assessment of the situation. Alrosa stepped down from the RJC board and suspended its membership on April 1, but this didn’t prevent Iris Van der Veken, the RJC’s executive director since 2019, from resigning her post. Similarly, Kering and Richemont have both severed ties with the RJC, including through the Watch & Jewellery Initiative. This unexpected turn of events raises two questions: that of traceability as Alrosa processes most of its diamonds in India and the need to draft new certification standards.
We cannot accept that an organisation does not uphold the standards it has set with regard to governance and human rights.
“We’re not closing the door on the RJC,” said Cyrille Vigneron at the Watches and Wonders opening press conference. “We were one of the founding members, through Cartier, in 2005. The RJC now has more than 1,500 members and has accomplished some very important work. However, we clearly cannot accept that an organisation does not uphold the standards it has set with regard to governance and human rights, particularly when those standards are an industry reference. Other solutions exist and, should we have to, we will find them. The same is true of supply: alternatives exist and we will find them.” Not the easiest of starts for the Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030.
Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030 Goals
Goal 1: Building climate resilience
The first goal of the initiative is about engaging on priority actions to reduce carbon emissions in line with the 1.5°C pathway by 2030 and to achieve Net Zero by 2050. As a minimum commitment, brands joining the initiative should engage in signing and submitting the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) within one year, thus setting science-based emission reduction targets.
Goal 2: Preserving resources for nature and communities
The second goal of the initiative is to ensure that the industry’s sourcing has a positive impact on nature, species and communities. As a minimum commitment within one year after joining the initiative, brands should measure and prioritise their impact on biodiversity and water across their sourcing of key raw materials, using a credible science-based framework.
Goal 3: Fostering inclusiveness across the value chains
As a group, all WJI members will work collectively to define a minimum commitment for this pillar and identify relevant certifications for its supply chain.