PJ surveys some of the biggest names in the UK industry to find out their tips on saving costs amid the energy crisis while also making your business more sustainable. Sponsored by Betts Group.
This year has been something of a perfect storm when it comes to ethics and sustainability, for businesses even more than for the individual.
The last 12 months or so has seen the frustrating combination of a series of factors: the ever-increasing consumer demands for sustainable product and business practices; the ailing economic situation caused by the pandemic; and the war in Ukraine. This last factor has had a multitude of effects. On the one hand, it has increased energy bills and other costs for both the consumer and companies, meaning businesses must tighten their purse strings as their customers do exactly the same; it has likewise meant an increased scrutiny of companies’ business practices and supply chains, as Russian-sourced products become at best frowned upon and at worst illegal.
Given all of that, it is no wonder that our industry and most others are feeling the pinch. Betts Group managing director Charlie Betts explains to PJ candidly: “There’s no denying that these are difficult times for businesses.”
Fortunately, PJ has surveyed some of the most ethically conscious players in the industry, asking them for their tips on how to navigate supply chain issues and make your business more sustainable at the same time, and they were only too happy to help.
Sticking with Betts, the company is built on an ethos of sustainability and traceability, so it knows a thing or two about how to achieve these goals. It has been a champion of Single Mine Origin (SMO) gold for some time now, meaning the metal in any piece of its gold jewellery was all sourced from the same mine, making traceability a great deal more simple and reliable. It also uses Fairtrade and Fairmined gold, (and as discussed on the previous page, is now pioneering the recycling of silver used in medical X-ray film for its jewellery).
These are just the routes Betts has chosen to certificate the trustworthiness of its supply chain, however. Whichever certification a company chooses, Betts believes this is a good step in the right direction. Charlie Betts says: “Our top tip for jewellery businesses is to ensure that they have audited their supply chain. Using things like Fairtrade and Fairmined mean you can have absolute clarity around exactly where your metal has come from and confidence that it is a responsible, conflict-free source.
“Second,” Betts goes on, “we recommend using suppliers who are members of the RJC, which can reasonably be seen as a clear sign that a business takes responsible practices seriously.”
Betts offers sage advice: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” He elaborates: “It’s difficult to get everything right on day one and it can be very daunting. I think it’s more important to try to engage with a philosophy of engagement and continuous improvement.”
The managing director’s final tip was one that others PJ spoke to also mentioned, and one that helps with both sustainability and cost-saving at a time when prices are rising. “We believe small changes can ultimately add up to make a significant difference,” he reveals. Gecko Jewellery general manager, Ruth Johnson, was one of several to concur. She says: “Costs across all businesses are certainly on the rise, but operating in a sustainable way does not have to be expensive. Looking at ways to reduce waste is a first step.” She says that at Gecko the team sources all new packaging made with recycled paper and reduces the size of boxes, which also reduces cost as well as carbon footprint. “We are also looking at ways we can upcycle point-of-sale displays, rather than throw old ones away,” she adds.
Reeves & Reeves director, Heath Reeves, agrees that small, cost-saving measures can benefit both the environment and your pocket. “The rise in the price of goods recently is tricky. We are having to absorb that along with the poor pound-dollar exchange rate. This has led us to being a lot more careful with energy usage. We have thought through every stage of the production and distribution process to try and reduce energy usage in every way, from small things like reusing padded envelopes to changing to hybrid cars.”
Finally, respondents to PJ’s survey agreed that certification is the way to go when it comes to sustainability. This applies to both your company and your suppliers, says Rajiv Mehta, director of Dimexon: “This confirms to customers that you do not source supplies from Russia. Even with such assurances in place, it is very important that companies do due diligence around their suppliers. For example, investigate the sources of their supplies to better understand which companies, countries and mines goods originate from. Kimberley Process-certified suppliers, as well companies that have been certified by the Responsible Jewellery Council, are good places to start.” Dimexon has also itself recently signed up to the Watch and Jewellery Initiative 2030, which is leading the way in corporate social responsibility.