How luxury watch & jewellery brands are doing their part for sustainability

by Debby Kwong  /   July 30, 2021

From saving elephants to making ethically responsible decisions, here’s what luxury brands are doing for a more sustainable future

Sustainable luxury is the future. Ethics and aesthetics can co-exist when brands make efforts to end poverty, fight inequality and stop climate change, while creating beautiful watches and jewellery.

Whether through making more environmentally friendly decisions, or making a conscious effort to invest in the education of children, and providing everyday necessities to the underprivileged, luxury watch and jewellery brands are stepping up to make this world a better place.

“It is a bold commitment, but one that we must pursue if we are to make a difference to the lives of people who make our business possible,” says Karl Friedrich Scheufele, co-president of Chopard.

Protecting the sea

Luxury watchmaker Rolex is shining the spotlight on ocean sustainability issues. Through its new film titled Perpetual Planet: Heroes of the Oceans, Rolex takes us on an up-close journey with six marine scientists — including president and co-chairman of Mission Blue and friend of Rolex, Sylvia Earle — witnessing their work in safeguarding our oceans’ precious ecosystems.

rolex perpetual heroes of the ocean
Mission Blue founder Sylvia Earle and Hope Spot champion Angelique Pouponneau join a beach cleanup on Long Island in the Seychelles.
Credit: Rolex

These sustainability heroes have been studying marine life as well as the impact of human activities on sea animals. Through this film, Rolex, Sylvia and the team aim to spread the importance of marine conservation to as many people as possible.

“Each of us can make a difference in inspiring others,” shared Sylvia. “With passion, curiosity and hope, anyone can change everything. We can create a Perpetual Planet for generations to come.”

The hour-long documentary, which features breathtakingly beautiful marine creatures, was released on Rolex’s website in early June to coincide with World Oceans Day.

175-year-old Swiss watchmaker Ulysse Nardin has had a long-standing relationship with marine life. Not only does its logo feature a ship anchor, but the brand is also inspired by the sea. That’s not all; it is said that Ulysse Nardin had provided early explorers and sailors with marine chronometers so that they could navigate the seas.

From 2020 to 2023, Cartier Philanthropy will fund Village Enterprise in Uganda to provide 2,700 women with the knowledge and skills to run sustainable micro-businesses.
Credit: Cartier Philanthropy/Cyril Le Tourneur

Since 2012, Cartier Philanthropy has invested 54 million Swiss francs (around S$79.5 million) in non-profit organisations that are impact-driven, excel in their fields of expertise and share Cartier’s values of trust, integrity and respect. “Modern philanthropy is committed to clear goals, evidence-based and data-driven strategies, rigorous accountability and meticulous evaluation, so that it can continually improve how it helps people to lift themselves out of hardship, strengthen their capacities, and find their own way to thrive,” said Cyrille Vigneron, president of Cartier Philanthropy’s Council.

The aim of the foundation is to implement solutions that allow individuals to regain control over their lives, and shape their own destiny to find a way out of extreme poverty. Almost 50 per cent of the foundation’s funds are spent on giving access to basic resources, such as clean water, ecological toilets and medical care. With a focus on empowering women and children in low-income countries to thrive and reduce social inequality, the foundation also helps victims of domestic violence to recover, and access skills and resources to earn a living.

Cartier Philanthropy believes that access to proper healthcare is important so children can stay healthy and attend school.
Credit: Cartier Philanthropy/Cyril Le Tourneur

Ensuring sustainable ecosystems

Since 2018, 100 per cent of all Chopard’s gold has been certified ethical, having met international best practice environmental and social standards. That means conflict-free mined material or recycled material, and miners working in safe conditions with reduced handling of chemicals. As a family-run business, the Swiss brand has always championed sustainability as a core value, and this is the culmination of a vision that started more than 30 years ago. Today, Chopard is the largest buyer of Fairmined gold, and two mines in Colombia and Bolivia have now achieved Fairmined certification through Chopard’s direct support.

The L.U.C Tourbillon QF Fairmined was the world’s first haute horlogerie watch made with Fairmined gold, and since then, there have been new timepieces launched at Baselworld such as the L.U.C Full Strike and Happy Palm. “True luxury comes only when you know the handprint of your supply chain, and I am very proud of our gold sourcing programme,” said Caroline Scheufele, co-president and creative director of Chopard.

Celebs have also lent their star power to the cause: Rihanna collaborated with the brand to design an Ice Cube collection crafted from 100 per cent responsibly sourced gold, while Julianne Moore, Marion Cotillard, Cate Blanchett and Arizona Muse are friends of the brand who have worn the designs on the red carpet. “This commitment to ethical gold and to the continuing support of artisanal gold will really make a difference to the people at the beginning of the gold supply chain – people who are often forgotten,” says actor Colin Firth, a long-standing advocate of the Swiss brand’s commitment to sustainability.

True luxury comes only when you know the handprint of your supply chain.

– Caroline Scheufele, co-president and creative director of Chopard
A watchmaker from Longines demonstrates his craft to kids from the Children For Tomorrow foundation in Hamburg.
Credit: Longines

Supporting children and under-represented communities

For a more direct approach to charitable giving, Harry Winston launched the Hope collection – which includes a bracelet and a charm with a white gold and engraved mother-of-pearl design, set with a 0.04 carat round brilliant diamond in the centre – in 2014. Proceeds from the sales are donated to charitable organisations, as part of the efforts from the Harry Winston Hope Foundation.

The foundation supports programmes that remove barriers for disadvantaged youth to obtain a quality education and skills necessary to be successful in life. For example, the American jeweller supports Chance for Children in Japan, which gives children access to after-school programmes and tutoring, including English lessons. The company is committed to donating annually a minimum of 5 per cent of its pre-tax profits to charitable organisations.

Watch brand Longines, on the other hand, provides something more basic – food. It has provided more than 300,000 nutritious meals to children around the world in the seven years that it has funded non-profit organisation Justworld International. Many children living in the communities Justworld serves come from families who struggle to provide basic living conditions, and such meals are often the only sustenance they receive.

The Swiss watchmaker has also supported former tennis champ Stefanie Graf and her foundation Children For Tomorrow for more than a decade. “For over 20 years we have specialised in treatment, with our trauma therapy providing care to as many children as possible who have suffered through war, exile and violence,” says Graf. The non-profit organisation has a qualified team of specialists to help children and teenagers overcome trauma through different psychological treatments and activities, such as art therapy.

(Left) Farmers learn tried-and-tested agricultural techniques to fight erosion, and improve water and soil conservation. (Right) Chopard’s Palme Verte collection is made from Fairmined gold.
Credit: Chopard

Saving animals and wildlife

“Tiffany has historically used the power of its brand and voice to speak on important issues like wildlife conservation,” said Anisa Kamadoli Costa, chief sustainability officer at Tiffany & Co. “In particular, Tiffany has long been dedicated to the environmental, social and economic well-being of Africa, where we source many of our rough diamonds and operate state-of-the-art diamond cutting and polishing workshops.”

Nature is what inspires Tiffany & Co. designers, and the source of the precious materials used in iconic jewellery pieces – and this includes its Save The Wild collection. All profits from this collection benefits anti-poaching, anti-trafficking and ivory demand reduction projects around the world.

The brand is also committed to the Elephant Crisis Fund (ECF), an initiative of Save the Elephants and the Wildlife Conservation Network, which aims to stop the slaughter of elephants and the trafficking and demand for their ivory. Up to 30,000 elephants are killed each year, so this jewellery collection aims to raise awareness with elephant charms and brooches in 18K rose gold with diamonds and sterling silver accented with tsavorites, a stone discovered in a region near Tsavo National Park in Kenya. The park is also home to the big tuskers of Africa – elephants whose tusks have grown so large they reach the ground.

Her World's sustainability issue

This article was first published in Her World’s June 2020 issue, and updated subsequently.