And while companies continue to swell the ranks of the Responsible Jewellery Council, which campaigns for responsible practices through certification, only a rare few have incorporated these practices into their development strategy. Chopard is clearly one of them, having embarked on its Journey to Sustainable Luxury in 2013. As the watchmaker and jeweller explains, “The Journey, launched in partnership with Eco-Age, began with a world first that saw Chopard forge a philanthropic relationship with the influential South American mining NGO, the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM). Chopard became the world’s first watch and luxury jewellery company to support and enable gold mining communities to reach Fairmined certification and provide training, social welfare and environmental support.”
Chopard first began working with the Coodmilla Cooperative in La Llanada, in the Nariño region of Colombia. Close to 2,000 people rely on the mine for their livelihood in a region whose economic development is almost entirely dependent on gold mining. Earlier this year, Chopard added a new stage to its “journey”, this time in Bolivia where the brand now supports the 15 de Agosto Cooperative, a gold mine located in the Andes mountains, 4,000 metres above sea level. It is managed by one of the country’s largest independent cooperatives, having almost 200 members including 78 women. “Chopard will work with ARM and its representatives in the field so that 15 de Agosto can also benefit from Fairmined certification. Chopard will provide the cooperative with financial support that will enable it to begin exporting its gold in full confidence. The cooperative will also receive funding that it will reinvest for the benefit of the community.”
A snowball effect
At the Baselworld watch and jewellery fair, Chopard Co-President Karl-Friedrich Scheufele spoke proudly of the initiative: “Investing in these mines is crucial to supporting the lives of people who make our business possible, and something we impose on ourselves that goes above and beyond requirements made by the Responsible Jewellery Council. We have control over the entire chain from supply to end product. Chopard’s ultimate objective is to create a Fairmined range in a similar vein to the L.U.C collections. The amount of Fairmined certified gold is as yet insufficient, although the good news is that the situation is improving year after year. This has enabled us to go from 25 pieces for the L.U.C Tourbillon QF Fairmined, presented in 2014, to 250 pieces for this year’s L.U.C XPS Fairmined, which gives me high hopes.”
This Eurocantera mine is an integrated operation that is committed to the highest ethical, social and environmental practices.
Cartier embarked on a similar endeavour over five years ago. “Our gold suppliers have unequivocally committed, in writing, to responsible gold sourcing practices, as described by the Responsible Jewellery Council in its Code of Practices. They have also pledged to implement every possible measure, within their operations and sphere of influence, to prevent gold which may be used to finance human rights violations from entering the watch and jewellery supply chain, particularly when it comes to the gold products they supply to us.” Putting principles into practice, in 2009 Cartier entered into an agreement with Goldlake, a family-owned group that operates a model mine in Honduras. This Eurocantera mine is an integrated operation that is committed to the highest ethical, social and environmental practices. It reserves its entire production for the “king of jewellers, jeweller of kings.” As Cartier explains, “Although we currently purchase the entire output of Goldlake’s Eurocantera mine, it represents but a fraction of our gold sourcing. We hope to see our agreement with Goldlake set an industry-wide example and encourage the emergence of alternative gold-mining models that can secure a meaningful social and environmental impact.” Clearly, much remains to be done.