Victoria Waugh

Following COP26 in Glasgow last week, climate change is firmly on everyone’s agenda.

Founder of V&V Sustainability Consultancy, Victoria Waugh, gives advice on how the jewellery trade can help address what is arguably the biggest challenge affecting business and the wider world…

How does jewellery contribute to climate change? Through our business activities we churn out greenhouse gases (GHG), which contribute to global warming. Carbon emissions (CO2) make up the majority of GHGs, and the amount we produce is called our carbon footprint.

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For jewellery businesses, they come from three main sources:

  1. Fuel for heating, running vehicles and on-site production processes;
  2. Electricity used by your business;
  3. Indirect emissions linked to your company’s operations, including things like staff travel, waste disposal, the materials you buy, the production of your collections or the courier you use.

There are lots of free calculators online that can help you estimate the amount of CO2 you generate for the first two points on our list, including one from the Carbon Trust aimed at small businesses.

Once you’ve worked out your carbon footprint you can put a plan in place to monitor and reduce it over time. Start by identifying the areas in your business that have the biggest impact or where you can make quick improvements.

This could be a small change, like ensuring the light bulbs in your premises are energy efficient, or bigger ones like using electric vehicles for company cars and switching to a renewable energy supplier.

Your business’ website even generates a carbon footprint. Put your website address into www.websitecarbon.com to find out how much and what to do to reduce it.

Dealing with your indirect emissions is more difficult. According to the World Gold Council 99% of the CO2 produced during jewellery production happens during the mining process.

Choosing metals that have been certified as recycled could help to cut the emissions in your supply chain. Pandora certainly think so, as they’ve committed to sourcing solely recycled gold and silver by 2025 in a bid to become carbon neutral.

Pandora store

But, don’t forget to incorporate some metal from certified artisanal mines in your collections too, as your support to these groups helps them protect against climate impact on their communities.

Offsetting your carbon emissions should be a last resort when you have reduced your output as much as possible.

This means supporting projects that aim to decrease the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

There are a growing number of schemes supporting companies to offset. Choose wind or solar powered projects, rather than tree planting, and make sure you can track the impact.