Luxury brands, particularly those associated with jewellery, exude a seductive aura of prestige, wealth and exclusivity. No doubt because of the highly decorative, but hardly practical nature of its products, this industry wouldn’t seem prone to ethical and socially responsible behaviours. Yet, you’ll be surprised to learn that in recent years, the luxury jewellery industry has been taking such business ideals as sustainability, ethics and traceability very seriously.
Luxury and sustainability – an oxymoron?
In today’s booming luxury jewellery industry, sustainability – for a product that ultimately is dug out of the earth – seems like a paradox. You probably wouldn’t expect to find those two words in the same sentence, and many even see them as oxymorons. For the average consumer, luxury denotes pricey, high(est) quality, beauty and rarity; whereas the term sustainable means durable, renewable, green and eco-friendly. Can luxury therefore both foster values of quality and sustainability? In an industry relentlessly tormented by the spectres of environmental destruction and pollution, human rights violations, smuggling, armed conflicts, corruptions and other abuses related to precious stone mining, it is no longer possible to to turn a blind eye to these ugly truths! For many big players in this traditionally consumer-centric industry doing the ‘right thing’ has become an imperative, including educating buyers about the importance of ethically sourced raw materials.
“Positive Luxury” for happy beautiful people!
Fuelled by demand from China and India, the luxury jewellery industry, now worth €13 billion according to Bain & Co, emerges as the driving force for the overall luxury market. And, due to this steadily growing demand, it has become essential for the industry to embrace the new ethical gold standard of social and environmental principles. By placing social and environmental priorities on par with the quality of material, beauty of design and innovative technological processes, the jewellery industry has committed itself to proving that sustainable luxury is far from being an oxymoron! Legendary companies such as Cartier are striving to create a more transparent, collaborative and socially responsible luxury industry. Only recently, this renowned French jeweller even joined the Sustainable Luxury Working Group, a consortium of socially responsible firms – including Chloé, Kering, LVMH, Mulberry Group, Ralph Lauren and Tiffany & Co – who have pledged their commitment to promoting sustainable practices in business operations.
Chopard, Tiffany & Co, Asprey and Fabergé were the first sustainability pioneers – who blazed the trail for an ever-increasing number of brands willing to commit themselves to bringing long term change to this multi-billion dollar industry. With a reputation unhappily tarnished by political and medical issues, the jewellery industry’s sincere efforts to endow its ethics and working conditions with the golden lustre of social conscience and ecological sustainability is a gain for everyone, consumer and producers alike.
Is sustainability a response to outside pressure, or rather a driver of creativity and innovation?