The Jewelry industry has a significant impact on ESG in terms of environment and social aspects. Consumers shopping for jewelry are favoring companies and brands that prioritize sustainability, recyclability and diversity. Brands have leapfrogged their position in environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics as it can propel positive sentiments among stakeholders, venture capitalists and investors. Incumbent players foster their ESG performance with values and measurable goals that help them stay ahead of the curve. The year 2023 could be a defining year for leading companies in the jewelry industry as stakeholders and shareholders navigate opportunities and challenges while bolstering their sustainability profile. Brands have exhibited traction for transparency and traceability protocols amidst evolving demand across advanced and emerging economies.
Artisans and customers alike have emphasized sustainability, gender equality and responsible consumption & production for unparalleled social and environmental practices. The incorporation of social, environmental and governance integrity to craft, process and source jewelry has become a game changer. Stakeholders are fostering the jewelry supply chain through responsible mining and sustainable sourcing of raw materials. Prominently, sustainability has served as a foundational element, prompting industry leaders to rev up efforts on all fronts, including responsible mining.
Ever since the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) introduced the Standard for Responsible Mining in 2018, the world has observed leading practices in social and environmental responsibility for mining operations (large scale). More than 62 mining companies are reported to have been engaged in IRMA as of August 2022. Besides, the Responsible Gold Mining Principles (RGMPs) have mustered up the confidence among investors and stakeholders as the World Gold Council asserts it will address major ESG issues for gold mining companies. Responsible gold mining has come on the horizon with stakeholders favoring brands, products and services prioritizing transparency, accountability, combating corruption, resolving grievances, women participation and promotion of diversity and prevention of bullying.
Key companies in this theme
• Tiffany & Co.,
• Chow Tai Fook
• Louis Vuitton SE
• among others.
Pandora Brings Lab-created Diamonds to the Fore
Diamonds grown in labs have become the next big thing with the U.S. and China leading from the front. Innovative companies are leaving no stone unturned to tap into the ESG potential through investments in lab-grown diamonds. Escalating concerns pertaining to the working practices and environment have prompted investors, governments, employees, supply chain partners and communities to seek alternatives to mined diamonds. Leading jewelry brands and lab-grown manufacturers are adding lab-created diamonds to their product offerings to keep up with ESG goals. For instance, in August 2022, Pandora announced the rollout of lab-grown diamond jewelry in the U.S. and Canada.
With social welfare and sustainability at the top of the mind for trading, mining and retail companies, industry players are likely to manufacture lab-created diamonds with lower carbon emissions. However, there is a caveat—lab-made diamonds are infamous for taking plenty of energy to produce in a high-temperature and high-pressure technology. In a bid to negate the sustainability concerns, industry participants are expected to count on using renewable energy. The Danish company claims its diamonds are made using 100% renewable energy with a carbon footprint of around 5% compared to a mined diamond. It has an audacious goal of crafting all its jewelry from recycled gold and silver by 2025. Besides, Pandora’s Sustainability Report 2021 suggests around 97% of waste was recycled at its crafting facilities, while 54% of gold and silver in 2021 stemmed from recycled sources.
Tiffany Banks on DEI Initiatives to Stay Ahead of the Game
Soaring popularity and awareness around sustainability have enabled major players to boost their non-financial performance, including social aspects. Millennials and the Gen Z population have exhibited traction for gender diversity, women in leadership, workers’ health & safety, social impact and community investment. Prominently, Tiffany has underscored its ESG metrics to keep abreast with the trend. In December 2022, the U.S.-based company released its 2021 Sustainability Report to embark on an equitable and sustainable future. While it alluded to contemplation to move towards 100% traceability of all newly sourced and individually registered diamonds, the company has taken a giant leap towards gender representation.
Tiffany states women account for more than 70% workforce and they contribute significantly (more than 60%) in manager and above positions. Moreover, women represent around 49% of Vice President and above roles. Furthermore, in 2021, the company rolled out the “About Love Scholarship Program” and pledged USD 2 million in scholarship funding for arts and creative fields students at five Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) through 2024. It contemplated launching a social impact platform in 2022 to foster opportunities for underrepresented communities in creative fields and fine jewelry.
The company has taken a quantum leap to propel diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. It introduced an Interview Brilliance pilot program to foster inclusive hiring practices. In 2022, the high-end luxury jewelry company added Juneteenth and a Culture Day—two floating holidays—to underpin an inclusive workplace culture. It has also introduced foundational tools and messaging on DEI to garner an 85% company-wide inclusion index score. Meanwhile, it is worth noting that Tiffany & Co. is no longer a publicly traded company following its acquisition by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE in January 2021.
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Leading Players Navigate Opportunities in Governance
Governance has gradually gained ground as a primary driver for long-term value creation and safeguarding corporate interests in line with environmental and social issues faced in the business. Sound governance offers transparency and accountability in decision-making to reinforce sustainability strategies. Signet has taken a giant stride in its governance portfolio with an increased focus on ethnic- and gender diversity and inclusion of LGBTQ+. Notably, women chair around 80% of Standing Board Committees. Meanwhile, its governance and technology committee nominates Directors and provides inputs on implementing corporate governance guidelines, board composition, data privacy risks and protocols and cybersecurity.
Incumbent players have also emphasized the significance of independent directors to propel corporate compliance and shared values. According to LVMH’s 2021 Social and Environmental Responsibility Report, around 57% of its BOD members are independent directors, while the attendance rate stacks at 98.4%. Furthermore, auditing has also been an invaluable proposition to propel the governance profile. According to Pandora’s Sustainability Report 2021, the consolidated Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions and recycled gold and silver total were included in the Sustainability Report. Besides, in 2022, the company established a Responsible Marketing Committee and formed an Inclusion and Diversity Committee to oversee the implementation of new plans and policies.
The competitive landscape is such that industry participants could boost their position in identifying sustainability risks, opportunities and challenges. ESG pillars could also act as a viable and strong marketing tool to enhance sustainability initiatives. Sustainable production and a transparent supply chain have become indispensable to tapping into the global landscape. An increased focus on 100% traceability, environmental synergy, social responsibility and sound governance could be the way forward. For instance, in March 2022, Brilliant Earth Group revealed its first Sustainability Report emphasizing the commitment to Transparency, Sustainability, Compassion and Inclusivity principles. Notably, it reportedly provides blockchain-powered diamonds, leveraging customers to track the diamond from its origin.
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