Amid a lawsuit over a hot-then-cold acquisition deal, Tiffany & Co. has other big news to share: its 2025 sustainability goals and 20-year philanthropic milestones.
“Our 2025 sustainability goals underpin our business and strategy,” said Anisa Kamadoli Costa, Tiffany’s chief sustainability officer, referring to the goals as a “north star” in the coming years. A few years prior, Costa was promoted to her current role from president of the Tiffany & Co. Foundation and vice president of corporate social responsibility — a title change that signals a growing importance in metrics-driven sustainability.
She joined the company over 17 years ago, first overseeing the philanthropic efforts of the jeweler while working to build out the company’s metrics-driven Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance effort, now in its 10th year of reporting.
Hitting its 20th year, the foundation was established in 2000 to support stewardship of natural resources in mining, coral and marine conservation. Since then, it’s awarded more than $85 million in grants, including $4.52 million worth last year alone.
“What you saw was a recognition and importance of sustainability to the brand and to the company,” reiterated Costa on her newest role. Today, the New-York based jeweler has what Costa calls an “integrated” team that oversees reporting and assurance efforts, human rights and climate strategy in line with the U.N.’s sustainable development goals.
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The targets center on three core areas — product, people and planet — and include the familiar goals: elimination of single-use plastic and reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.
“Fundamentally, since our founding in 1837, our designs are inspired by nature,” reiterated Costa. It has inspired the company’s work in fostering improved industry-wide responsibility and traceability.
Last year, Tiffany launched its Diamond Source Initiative to provide provenance information for every newly sourced, individually registered diamond it sets. The move followed the launch of the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance, multistakeholder standards for responsible mining, to which Tiffany is a founding member.
In 2005, Tiffany helped found the Responsible Jewellery Council, as one of 14 members, including Cartier, Signet Group, Diamond Trading Company (part of De Beers), and Zale Corp., setting global standards in the jewelry and watch industry.
No timeline would be complete without mention of the Kimberley Process, a commitment established in 2003 to resolve conflict in the diamond industry. But even among diamonds with Kimberley Process certification, many jewelers cannot trace their diamonds back to a country of origin, no less the mine, once a stone is cut. Last year, Tiffany reported 100 percent of rough diamonds traceable to a known mine or supplier and 91 percent of “directly purchased” raw metals traceable back to the mine.
Today, about 90 percent of Tiffany jewelry is made at its facilities in either New York, Kentucky or Rhode Island with other process work in the Dominican Republic. As for carbon emissions reduction progress, Tiffany reported an 8 percent decline in total emissions between 2013 and 2019. This overall figure omits Scope 3 emissions (or those not directly owned by the company, like mining) but as Costa affirmed, Scope 3 targets are coming in 2021.
Even the iconic Tiffany Blue boxes and bags fall under a responsibly sourced protocol and are already made with 50 percent recycled content today.
Tiffany may be less ambitious than competitors in chasing recycled metals, with goals to source half of its precious metals from recycled sources by 2025, and 5 percent of gold, for example, from responsible artisanal and small-scale mines. But it is ambitious in improving its representation and already counts a 50-50 gender split in its board, with plans to ramp up diverse representation across management levels.
With the pandemic, jewelry is showing resiliency despite some obvious blows to business. Despite total profits being down 77 percent in August, to $31.9 million from $136 million in a comparable period, Tiffany has grown e-commerce by 123 percent during the quarter, year-over-year.
Industry-wide, the bridal clientele has helped bolster jewelry brands in lieu of open storefronts. And as with the rest of the industry, Tiffany looks to rebound with the growing consumer sentiment of “fewer, better things” as well as embodying the digital-first characteristics of “the next-generation jeweler,” which means the company has, respectively, “moved away from the word ‘bridal.’”
“To us, fundamentally, [a next-gen jeweler] is about building a sustainable and thriving business. Knowing that everything is interconnected,” said Costa.
As digital natives gear up for holiday spending, luxury jewelers prepare their talking points in the mined-versus-lab-grown diamond debate. Last year, Tiffany bolstered resource-rich Botswana with over $59 million in economic benefits.
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