INTERVIEW – WJI 2030 is working to achieve a better world in watches and jewellery

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Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030 (WJI 2030), launched in October 2021 by Cartier and Kering, is working towards finding solutions to create a better global watches and jewellery industry, by engaging with the industry to develop more sustainable practices in climate, environment and human resources. Executive Director Iris Van Der Veken, in an interview with Jewellery Outlook Editor David Brough, talks about the progress WJI 2030 has made since its inception, and the main challenges it will face in 2024 and beyond.  

INTERVIEW – WJI 2030 is working to achieve a better world in watches and jewellery

Iris Van Der Veken

How has it been to be in this new role for 18 months now?

It has been the most exciting journey I have ever been on since I started my career. Grateful to work with such a dedicated Board, team and committed members across the value chain.

The Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030 (WJI 2030) sees itself as an accelerator working with its members, key strategic partners and the industry at large to develop impactful innovative solutions and guide its members in delivering meaningful impact on its three pillars of climate resilience, biodiversity and nature (preserving resources) and inclusiveness.

Over 20 years, I have witnessed how far we have come as an industry. But now we need to do more together and accelerate. As we enter 2024 the future is about Integrity & Transparency & Traceability & Circularity. This needs a collaborative approach. We cannot think in silos.

Also, the expectations of consumers, regulators and society at large have evolved. We live in a very different political, economic, and environmental situation globally. Hence, it is incumbent on us to really step up to the plate to meet the needs of a changing consumer base and a rapidly changing (and heating!) planet. This takes a new kind of collaboration.

WJI 2030 was founded by Cartier and Kering driven by the common conviction that the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and aspirations for a sustainable industry can only be achieved through strategic collaborative initiatives.

This takes a strong CEO top commitment. That’s why I am so humbled to work together with our members to act on the three pillars that are at the heart of the Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030 – climate resilience, biodiversity and nature (preserving resources) and inclusiveness with a focus on the operationalization of human rights due diligence, Gender & Equality for all, and ASM engagement.

INTERVIEW – WJI 2030 is working to achieve a better world in watches and jewellery

Cyrille Vigneron (President & CEO Cartier), Anna Falth ( Head UN Women WEPs), Nina Nespesova (Human Rights Expert)

Our work is committed to delivering concrete and measurable impact to the global jewellery and watch industry and society at large.

Everything we do will become open source. We are humble, yet we are ambitious to push the 2030 agenda forward.

Our industry has a double responsibility to care and to act because we are an industry of beauty and emotions.

We have a duty to go further. We need to rethink how we will create jewellery from design to after care.

We need to explore further how we can integrate circularity in our business model. Progress in effecting supply chain sustainability in our industry is never simple or easy, especially given the complexity of our supply chains.

However, we now see deeper collaboration and sharing of best practices that have the potential to enable quantum leaps across all dimensions of sustainability.

Traceability and transparency will need more attention than ever before, and companies will need to adopt disruptive technologies and innovation to help them accelerate the progress towards their sustainability goals through reliable data points. 

INTERVIEW – WJI 2030 is working to achieve a better world in watches and jewellery

Gucci workshop members

People are watching your work closely, Iris. You have always been pioneering and proven to be a person of actions. What have been the main achievements of WJI 2030 to date?

Thank you. Allow me to share no one does that alone. If one can lead and take action, it takes support of a Board and a strong team. I am passionate about our industry. That helps me feel energized to continue to push this agenda I so deeply care about.

Let me humbly share a bit more background on the different areas we have made progress, thanks to my amazing Board, partnerships and team of true experts.

Governance

We have established a  robust governance framework. We recognize, and strongly believe, that a solid governance framework within WJI 2030 is mission critical to establish a solid ecosystem for our members to operate in and support us on our journey in delivering measurable impact.

To determine our governance structure, in 2022 we started governance consultations to first identify topics that were relevant for WJI 2030, covering governance and integrity aspects.

These were derived from internal discussions and exchanges with experts and advisors; the analysis of governance structures and practices of similar organisations; and a review of global governance trends as well as relevant standards and frameworks.

This research and analysis allowed us to draft an initial governance structure for WJI 2030 that was then shared with key stakeholders through our stakeholder engagement process for feedback and further input.  Our multi-stakeholder governance model ensures that industry players from different parts of the supply chain are represented, whilst also ensuring we have two independent directors on our Board, Dr. Anino Emuwa, founder 100 women of Davos, and Georg Kell, founder UNGC.

We have also set up various strategic governance committees that contribute to our multi-stakeholder model.  We also established an independent  Risk & Compliance Committee that has been set up to provide oversight and, where appropriate, provide advice and recommendations to the Board on the implementation and operation of WJI 2030’s compliance framework.

It is made up of independent recognized experts with relevant experience in the fields of legal and/or compliance, due diligence, anti-money laundering and KYC, auditing, investigation, grievance mechanisms.

INTERVIEW – WJI 2030 is working to achieve a better world in watches and jewellery

Dr. Anino Emuwa – Board Member WJI 2030, Founder 100 Women of Davos

SBTi

We have been building a strong foundation to support our members in integrating the SBTi journey in their business strategy. When we take WJI 2030 climate resilience goal, which aims to reduce carbon emissions in line with the 1.5°C pathway by 2030, brands and companies joining the initiative should engage in signing and submitting the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), thus setting science-based emission reduction targets.

We have supported our members in stepping up through guidance and practical webinars. Today WJI 2030 has 15 Member Companies committed to SBTi (8 of which are committed at group level), and 14 of which have set targets.

Nature

We recently launched our Nature Primer. The WJI 2030 Nature Primer is a step towards an Industry level Nature Positive Roadmap.

It is a basic toolkit to enable our members to start their journey with concrete steps and actions. The Roadmap will focus on how the Watch and Jewellery industry can contribute to a Nature Positive world. Impacts on people and climate are very much part of the nature equation.

This Primer is here to provide our members with a starting point and to guide them in their journey. We acknowledge that every company is at a different stage and has its own material topics to manage.

Our industry sources raw materials, such as precious and non-precious metals, gemstones, leather, from many parts of the world and these materials are transformed through processes requiring skill and precision — sometimes ancient and traditional, other times highly technological.

Raw materials are either extracted from the Earth (mined) or cultivated from plants or animals (e.g., leather) as a result all companies have a dependency and an impact on nature. Yet, nature-related risks and opportunities will look very different depending on the material itself, the stage of production, and the geography or landscape of its origin. Our members are now starting their risk assessment.

Gender and DEI

At the General Assembly in NY we launched a case study on gender responsive procurement. UN Women has recently introduced the WEPs Gender-Responsive Procurement Assessment Tool to help companies gauge their progress on GRP policies and practices.

To test this Tool, UN Women partnered with us  to launch a pilot programme that evaluates gender-responsive procurement in the jewellery industry. Nine members of WJI 2030 took part in this pioneering global initiative, marking the first-ever endeavour to apply the tool within an industry-specific context, and aiming to assess and enhance gender equality practices within the jewellery sector.

Companies participating in the pilot included Cartier, Dimexon, Gucci, Italpreziosi, Julie Sandlau Vietnam, Monica Vinader, Rosy Blue, Rubel & Menasché and Swarovski.

As the first phase of the pilot project on gender-responsive procurement concluded, pilot companies’ demonstrated real commitment to gender equality, speaking volumes about companies’ dedication to fostering positive change for gender equality in the workplace, marketplace and community.

However, the report also brought to light common challenges evidencing the need to move forward faster to create gender equality now more than ever. We need a gender lens throughout the procurement processes.

WJI 2030, and UN Women and the pilot participants are now exploring a second pilot phase to involve their suppliers, and to co-design GRP tools and resources to continue to strengthen gender equality in global supply chains.

If we truly want to empower women , they need to have decision making power and they need to be partners in our supply chains. Women are uniquely positioned to act as powerful agents of change. For our industry this is a critical topic as women influence 90 % of consumer behaviour. Today 34 Member Companies have signed the WEPs.

We also recently did an in depth survey on DEI under the leadership of Dr. Anino Emuwa and we are guiding our members in integrating DEI at a strategic level through learnings, best practices, data references.

Human Rights Navigator

Last December at the BJOP we launched our Human Rights Navigator. As the legislation is accelerating we believe it is critical to give practical solutions that help our members to be fit for purpose and build capacity in due diligence throughout their extended suppliers network.

If we do not get the SMEs on board, there is no responsible supply chain. We will piloting this navigator with suppliers in the coming months. 

ESG Reporting aligned with evolving regulations

We are in the final stage of shaping our accountability mechanism. For more than a year we have worked with experts in ESG and different industry stakeholders to up an ESG Framework to strengthen transparency and reporting on progress.

We will continue to invest in education. Our strategic collaboration with the Global Compact and CIBJO is instrumental. In January we launching our Solutions Lab that is a curated digital space open to our members and suppliers free of charge to receive training on the material topics like climate, bio diversity, human rights due diligence etc again.

Looking ahead to 2024, what are the organisation’s main challenges? 

I see it more as a great opportunity – Accountability & Education. We need to continue to move the needle and monitor progress of our members. Key is accountability. As shared earlier, we are finalising our reporting mechanism (12 months of hard work) in collaboration with ESG Book.

WJI 2030 have been building a Reporting Framework with metrics aligned to WJI 2030 Goals and inspired by dominant regulations and frameworks.

This is key for us, as we cannot report on progress without it. Actions need to be concrete, as well as measurable. And that is why education is so mission critical, we need to work together and guide our members and their extended network of suppliers to deliver on our ambitious actions.

INTERVIEW – WJI 2030 is working to achieve a better world in watches and jewellery

Gaetano Cavalieri and Iris Van der Veken at GemGeneve

Progress to achieve which SDG goals is moving slow across the world, how to act  in the watch and jewellery industry, in your view? How to remedy that? 

At the halfway point to 2030, the world is not on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed in 2015. At the midpoint between 2015 and 2030, 85% of all SDG indicators are off track and none of the SDGs are on track for achievement by 2030, according to the 2023 Sustainable Development Report.

We are at a critical moment, and the world must change course to put sustainable development back on track. Businesses contribute to all 17 SDGs and their actions will be key to meeting – or missing – the goals by 2030.

However, most private sector contributions today in our industry just like many other industries are not properly measured, and as result the business community struggles to understand, report, and manage their impact on the SDGs.

We as an industry need to step up more than ever and include the SMES in the journey, supporting them with education, practical tools to help them advance in actions.

Today we see often too much burden on the suppliers with many questions to understand risk. We need to build solid supply chains together that focus on the opportunity to make them more resilient through decent wages, a diverse workforce, accelerate climate action, improving water resilience,  protect and restore nature, invest in circularity.

I invite the readers to check out the SDG Stock Report of the Global Compact that gives excellent recommendations. 

Do you see any fresh concerns, points of interest, important topics or priorities for 2024? 

There has been a huge shift across various dimensions. First, we are looking at a very different set of consumer desires and expectations. Millennial and Gen Z consumers are asking brands to deliver on purpose, they are asking for coherent brand narratives with proof points, and they can see through greenwashing when they see it. They want brands and CEOs to step up to the multitude of collective challenges we face today. This trend is here to stay.

Second, regulatory frameworks have evolved significantly. Never have I such a surge in regulations that are touching our industry, all focused on increased transparency and reporting including of course stronger due diligence on human rights, biodiversity, and climate. We need the whole industry to be educated and prepare for this.

And we should not forget the workforce of the future want to work for companies with Purpose. Today we see more and more the concept conscious quitters, people who leave because their values are not aligned with the values of the company they work for. Employees do care, and many care deeply, so we as an industry have a duty inspire and to be attractive and see we can continue to find talent in artisanal skills and innovation.

At an accelerated pace, I see companies are realising that they need to mature in the journey. There is also a huge positive push from the brands where they only want to work with reliable companies who take sustainability seriously.

A priority topic for us all is traceability, which is the heart of integrity within our industry. My opinion here is that we should view this not just from the lens of risk mitigation, but from a perspective of how this can help companies craft a positive narrative and an ‘origin story’ of impact for their products. As a consumer, if I am holding a diamond in my hand, I am now much more interested and curious about how my choice (and my spend) might be empowering communities, how it might be impacting climate resilience or biodiversity preservation. These linkages were considered far-fetched until recently but luckily that has changed now.

There was also a time when transparency wasn’t just low on the priority list, it could be quite difficult to get accurate information and data. Given the changes in both the supply and demand for accurate data and reporting, we will continue to see companies invest in integrated technology solutions to track data not just on traceability but on all key topics like human rights, nature impact, climate etc. The recent G7 measures will only accelerate this trend.

Lastly, as an industry we need to remember that we are perceived as a unified category by our consumers. Behaviour that is viewed in an unfavourable light, even if it is the result of only one of the players, ultimately impacts us all.

INTERVIEW – WJI 2030 is working to achieve a better world in watches and jewellery 

Iris Van der Veken with Pure Earth Award in New York City

The industry knows one of your Leadership strengths is your  to create meaningful strategic partnerships? What is the current status there and next steps? 

We all need to redefine stakeholder relationships, it is key to work in a multi stakeholder ecosystem with genuine authentic social engagement, yet true societal impact is not easy to achieve. It takes hard work, time, and requires strong strategic partnerships to act on the right topics with the right stakeholders and stay ahead of the curve

Yes, we believe partnerships are the only way forward. We are proud of our  key collaborations with the Global Compact in NY, UN Women, Unitar, ESG book and the Global Fashion Agenda. Every partnership we have built has a real value to our members in helping them accelerate in their sustainability journey.

It is critical not to reinvent the wheel but grow our work with the right partners and go deeper into topics to support our members and the wider industry.

Stay tuned as more news to come in this area.

Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030