Sustainability has become a bit of a buzzword this year, with many companies claiming to uphold this title, but actually falling short.
In the jewellery industry this word has been thrown out a lot, and often where it shouldn’t, but the majority would agree that when it comes to sustainable luxury the Swarovski Group really is on the right path.
The Group’s recently published fifth annual sustainability report reveals the company’s ongoing progress towards understanding and responding to ethical issues across its value chain.
Among many other highlights the 2019 report reveals that 35% of Swarovski’s energy now comes from renewable sources at its manufacturing and water production locations; 76% of the company’s total water demand in 2018 was met through recycled sources across its manufacturing and production locations; and since its inception in 2015, the Conscious Design Program has provided designers and design schools with over 6 million upcycled crystals.
Furthermore, the company’s Positive Production Program has been rolled out to 15,000 employees in seven manufacturing and production locations globally; as of May this year the Group now has 39% female employees in top and senior management positions; and Atelier Swarovski Fine Jewellery products are crafted using responsibly sourced gold.
The company’s luxury jewellery brand now adorns its pieces with Swarovski Created Diamonds — an effort fronted by Spanish actress Penelope Cruz and most recently supported by Harrods, which will later this year joins Harvey Nichols as a stockist of Atelier Swarovski in the UK.
Swarovski very much has a heritage of sustainability, with the Group striving to remain true to company founder, Daniel Swarovski’s, vision to build a responsible business that not only has its employees’ well-being at the heart, but also cares for the environment and society as a whole.
Executive board member, Nadja Swarovski, tells Professional Jeweller: “A commitment to sustainability and positive social impact has been in the DNA of Swarovski since my great-great-grandfather founded the company in 1895.
“In striving to use responsibly sourced materials we are following our own cultural values, and we are committed to driving positive change within our industry — inspiring the designers we work with to embrace sustainability through education and material support.”
The company’s current crystal collections feature Swarovski Advanced Crystal, the world’s first lead-free crystal, which is produced responsibly, with 1/3 of the energy from renewables and 70% of the water use met through recycled sources.
As a business, Swarovski is also certified by the Responsible Jewellery Council and has extensive internal programs to protect its people throughout the supply chain; manage environmental impacts across operations; and ensure it contributes positively to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
On the company’s move into sustainable fine jewellery via Atelier Swarovski Nadja Swarovski remarks: “Working with Swarovski Created Diamonds builds on our 125-year heritage of innovative materials and on Swarovski’s 50-year experience of as master cutters and producers of genuine gemstones and created stones.”
She outlines: “We had initially launched our Diama collections in 2016 in the US, using created diamonds, and we expanded into Atelier Swarovski Fine Jewellery with pieces created for the Oscars in 2017. Today we are working with Swarovski Created Diamonds alongside a mix of other responsible materials including Fairtrade and recycled gold and responsibly sourced Swarovski Genuine Gemstones to offer consumers a conscious and informed choice.”
The consumer reaction so far has been extremely positive, and the Swarovski Group’s showcase at the Couture trade show in Las Vegas revealed high industry demand for its ethical jewellery products.
“We have been delighted with the response from our customers and from the industry,” says Nadja Swarovski, adding: “Even if there are instances where we disagree on the relative merits of created and mined stones with some of our peers, we are encouraged by the openness of the conversations, and we are pleased to be opening up an important dialogue to help create a more positive and responsible industry.”
When it comes to striving for sustainable luxury, Swarovski believes collaboration is crucial.
Nadja Swarovski advises other jewellery businesses looking to be more ethical: “Collaboration across the industry is key. We are proud to be members of the Responsible Jewellery Council and founding members of the Coloured Gemstones Working Group – alongside Cartier, Kering, Gemfields, LVMH, Muzo Mines, Tiffany’s and VCA – to work towards fully traceable and responsible coloured gemstones.”
Looking to the future, Swarovski has gone further into the bridal market with the introduction of a new collection at Couture, with Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, which has been inspired by the symbolic knot motif of the royal House of Savoy.
The company also plans to continue with its commitment to programmes such as the Swarovski Waterschool and Swarovski Foundation, as well as inspiring the next generation and championing female empowerment.
Nadja Swarovski concludes: “We are looking to the next generation as we evolve on our journey towards what we call ‘conscious luxury’, a new way of doing business with consideration and care at its heart.
“We believe in offering consumers a choice across a range of different responsible materials, collections and price points, and we are excited to evolve and help the industry think outside the box of traditional jewellery retailing. Millennials have strong considerations with regards to ethics, sustainability and the environment in their purchases — I can see from my own daughters’ commitments to conscious consumerism just how important this will grow to be in the future.”