hopard’s initiatives in the social and environmental field go back a long way. Co-president Caroline Scheufele believes this sensitivity is inseparable from the company’s status as a family firm. “As a family company, responsibility and ethics have always been an integral part of our philosophy. Sustainable development is at the heart of Chopard’s values.” The Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or, which the manufacture has been making with ethical gold since 2014, is probably the first example that comes to mind, but the approach goes much further.
Nevertheless, a 2018 report by the WWF skewered Chopard for a lack of transparency. What is the situation four years later?
“Major efforts have been made and our communication has evolved considerably in this direction,” explains Pauline Evequoz, Head of Corporate Sustainability. “Our website now includes many figures and infographics that explain our commitment in concrete terms. In addition, we are increasingly taking part in round tables on the subject of sustainability, such as those organised at the Watches and Wonders fair over the past two years. We are happy to respond to the press on this subject and we meet many students at universities and colleges. The concern is major and we do feel the need to know more from all sides.”
- In 1978, Chopard set up its own gold foundry, in Meyrin in the canton of Geneva.
Although the company does not yet publish a global ESG report, that is about to change, as Pauline Evequoz points out. “As a private family business, Chopard does not actually have any obligations other than those the brand imposes on itself. In fact, we have greatly increased the resources we allocate to our various actions. On the other hand, European regulations are being strengthened with the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, which will impose a reporting obligation from 2023. Publication will probably become mandatory from the following year.”
“A new European directive will impose a duty to report from 2023. Publication of ESG reports is likely to become mandatory from the following year.”
Third party monitoring, the biggest challenge
By 2025-2030, Chopard will need to be totally transparent in terms of its qualitative and quantitative objectives, says Pauline Evequoz. “We are in the process of committing to the Science Based Target Initiative, with precise objectives that will be published on our website via an annual progress report. We also need to maintain our certifications at group level. Sourcing ethical gold from Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) is a major challenge, as it accounts for 60% of our gold. We only work with mines that are Fairmined certified or in partnership with the Swiss Better Gold Association, and we organise regular site visits. The rest is recycled, and we also need to ensure ever greater traceability. Our partnerships with refiners are going from strength to strength and the segregation of batches is becoming more and more precise.”
- The first watch made by Chopard from Fairmined certified gold, the L.U.C. Tourbillon QF Fairmined model launched in 2014.
The biggest challenge for Chopard, which has worked exclusively with “ethical gold” since 2018, lies in the traceability of the sources of supply. Because the brand does not own its suppliers, monitoring has to be entrusted to third parties. “It is a permanent process of improvement,” Pauline Evequoz continues. “We have to influence our partners towards the most environmentally responsible development possible. The increase in regulations, such as the OECD Due Diligence Guide, is a good thing in this respect.” Other sources of environmental and social impact monitored by the brand are related to production sites.
“Sourcing ethical gold from Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) is a big challenge, as it accounts for 60% of our gold.”
Blockchain for traceability
It’s a long-term endeavour, but at the same time, opportunities to reduce environmental impact are emerging all the time. Pauline Evequoz identifies two ways in which efforts could be improved, to make a real difference. “First of all, a change is needed in everyone’s consciousness. The pressure generated internally and externally is pushing people to think and to look for solutions. We see this on all sides, both locally and internationally. Public policies also need to move in the same direction. On our side, we are working on better traceability by evaluating blockchain processes, on better efficiency of existing processes, on new materials and eco-design processes... but it’s a bit too early to talk about it.”
- Caroline Scheufele and Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, co-presidents of Chopard
The social aspect of the ESG approach – i.e. supporting communities, craftsmanship and know-how – is proving just as important as reducing environmental impact. This involves taking as much control as possible over production processes, as Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, co-chairman of the group, explains. “We have reached major milestones in our journey towards sustainable luxury because, more than 30 years ago, we invested in the vertical integration of our production. We brought in-house all the skills necessary for production, from the creation of our own gold foundry as early as 1978 to fostering the skills of our many high-level craftsmen who work in jewellery and watchmaking.” The company also emphasises that its gold is sourced from artisanal mines, on which local people rely heavily.
- Since 2019, Chopard has been involved in a project to support the Barequeros, a community of more than 700 artisanal gold miners in El Chocó, Colombia.
- ©César Nigrinis – Minenergía
Internal and external pressures
Geopolitics also has a strong impact on ESG initiatives. Does the crisis affecting the Responsible Jewellery Council following the war in Ukraine call into question Chopard’s involvement – and therefore the certifications awarded? Pauline Evequoz answers in the negative: “Chopard is not part of the governance of the standard, but the standard is very important. The crisis, however dramatic its origin, does not call that into question. Our hope is that it will emerge stronger.”
- The 2022 Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or, made by Chopard from Fairmined certified ethical gold
- ©Federal Studio
For some industry leaders (such as Cyrille Vigneron, the president of Cartier), the transition towards sustainable luxury means taking a more understated approach.
A more frugal approach to luxury? It’s a thorny question, and one not without paradoxes, for the entire sector.
“Luxury creates the exceptional, it is the opposite of overproduction and overconsumption,” notes Pauline Evequoz. “The central problem is that of dwindling resources. We are already being forced to produce differently, and we’re incorporating some profound changes into our business model. This starts with the way we now design our products. We must continue to minimise our impact on the environment internally while managing increasing external pressure – from customers, and from legislation. It is by tackling all these challenges head-on that our industry will remain viable.”