Though Cartier has long been concerned with corporate responsibility, it notched up its commitment to ethical practices four years ago with the creation of a department devoted to the subject.
This story first appeared in the May 18, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Headed by Pamela Caillens, the jeweler’s corporate and social responsibility department was devised to allow Cartier to become more proactive in measures dear to its heart, including promoting environmentally clean practices and managing the jewelry supply chain with an eye on human rights.
“It’s become a priority at the heart of our business,” explains Caillens, who added Cartier is particularly involved with the formation of the Responsible Jewellery Council, a not-for-profi t group of about 80 companies.
When it was formed four years ago, the RJC was conceived as a vehicle for firms to survey and promote human rights, responsible ethical, social and environmental practices in a transparent and accountable manner throughout the industry, from mine to retail.
Caillens says Cartier used its clout in the business — every year it purchases about 1 percent of gem-quality diamonds and 3 percent of gold used in jewelry — to get other industry players to jump on the cause’s bandwagon.
“We believe we can have industry leverage [in promoting responsible practice],” says Caillens of the RJC, which started with 13 members, including Cartier. “We think it’s important to have an industry-wide, clearly defined code of practice with a serious verification system. Cartier is a leader, so we need to lead by setting an example.”
Weeding out the use of conflict diamonds is one of the RJC’s most serious concerns. Cartier already was influential in stopping usage of Burmese rubies. “We have to be very careful with our reputation and image,” says Caillens.
But Cartier has many initiatives outside of the RJC. It was among the first jewelry companies to become involved in the Kimberly Process, an initiative to eliminate the use of conflict diamonds in Africa.
The firm has invested in improving working conditions in jewelry polishing, including the development of a new workbench. “The bench is not proprietary, because we want to improve working conditions across the industry,” explains Caillens.
Cartier also recently donated a large stockpile of precious gemstones to gemstone institutes to help promote the recognition of natural gems against treated ones.
“Our opinion at Cartier is that corporate and social responsibility is part of our core business of jewelry,” Caillens says. She adds that eco-friendly manufacturing and paper purchasing policies are also top focuses for her department.
Meanwhile, Cartier has taken up the banner of promoting entrepreneurship among women. In 2006, it created Cartier’s Woman Initiative prize to sponsor women around the world who are starting their own businesses. Each year, five winners are selected from five different world geographies. They are awarded $20,000 and provided with coaching to streamline their business.
A sign of the initiative’s success is this year more than 800 applications were received for the seed money. The next honors, which will be the third since the awards were started, will be given in October.