PARIS — The Watch and Jewelry Initiative 2030 is gathering pace as it marks its first year of existence at the Watch Forum event in Geneva on Tuesday.
Nine new members were announced at the forum during a panel discussion between its newly appointed executive director Iris Van der Veken, Kering’s chief sustainability and institutional affairs officer Marie-Claire Daveu, and Cyrille Vigneron, president and chief executive officer of Cartier International.
Luxury watchmakers A. Lange & Söhne, IWC Schaffhausen, Jaeger-Lecoultre, Panerai and Piaget, as well as diamond supplier Dimexon, Italian jewelry brand Mattioli, Danish jeweler Pandora and Paris-based diamond dealer Rubel & Ménasché joined the 10 houses already part of the Watch and Jewelry 2030 initiative.
Founding members Cartier and the Kering-owned Gucci Watches, Boucheron, Pomellato, Dodo and Qeelin were joined in April by Chanel’s watches and jewelry division, Montblanc, Swarovski and diamond trading firm Rosy Blue.
But this was also the opportunity to formally introduce Van der Veken, whose experience leading the Responsible Jewelry Council will be an asset to the initiative, Daveu told WWD.
Van der Veken had exited her position as executive director of the diamond organization in March following the withdrawal of several companies, including Compagnie Financière Richemont and Kering, in protest over the RJC’s failure to exclude Russian diamond mining company Alrosa in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Watch and Jewelry Initiative 2030 subsequently severed ties with the RJC, deciding to forge ahead without this key launch partner. One of the initial conditions for joining the new association had been to become a member of the RJC and become certified in its code of practices in the following two years.
Appointed to lead the association in July, the new executive “now has a very important position to recruit new brands, new groups but also manage this initiative because we really want it to be very concrete and very operational” both in speaking about sustainability but also “having a clear program to work with external experts on climate change and biodiversity,” Daveu explained.
Van der Veken described herself very much a “process person” and said she “believes in the process of setting up this initiative,” saluting the leadership of Daveu and Vigneron who want “the right process…the right stakeholder model…the alignment of the NGO world so that we are able to transparently communicate about what we’re doing.”
In the nine weeks since her appointment, she said the association had been making strides in establishing its governance structure; building towards a data-driven methodology and mapping priorities; and meeting with potential partners from the academic and non-government organizations spheres.
Asked if there was any possibility of reopening avenues for cooperation with the Responsible Jewelry Council, Van der Veken said the heart of the Watch and Jewelry Initiative 2030 is “transparency, partnership, accountability, integrity” and that it “will work with every partner that matters in the industry and that will help advance [its] agenda.”
In her opinion, the two organizations “can play a key complementary role,” provided their goals were aligned. She was confident that the coming weeks would see her meet “not only the RJC but also other key industry associations that will be key partners” to the association and its promotion.
Case in point, on Sept. 9, the initiative announced that the World Jewelry Confederation (CIBJO) and the Union Française de la Bijouterie, Joaillerie, Orfèvrerie, des Pierres et des Perles (or French union of jewelry, metalsmithing, gemstones and pearls, also known as UFBJOP) had become affiliate members as part of a strategic collaboration involving active participation in the governance structure being built.
“In talking about coming together, I want to reiterate that it’s not just the members’ views that we’re bringing to the table but it’s also the academic world, the NGOs so that we really have an impactful multi-stakeholder platform,” said Van der Veken, although she declined to disclose names as discussions were in early stages.
Plus, given the 2030 deadline, “the world is not perfect but it’s time to act,” she pointed out.
Like Kering’s Fashion Pact, launched in 2019, the Watch and Jewelry Initiative spans high and low players, including brands, distributors and suppliers, regardless of size. Members must commit to progress in three areas — building climate resilience, preserving resources and fostering inclusiveness — and are required to report on progress on a regular basis.
“As you know, [whether] we are in soft luxury or hard luxury, most of our environmental impacts come from the supply chain and if we want to really change the supply chain, we have to reach a level of volume to be able to really transform it,” Daveu said.
She further emphasized the group will be inclusive of brands at the sourcing stage in order to clean up the supply chain. “If you want to transform your industry, you have to develop a collective approach and not work alone,” she added.
But as keen as the organization is to build momentum and see more companies join the movement, Van der Veken cautioned against rushing to add to the roster.
Entry into the initiative hinges on executive commitment to “starting [the] journey in a systematic, strong movement” to deliver meaningful impact in the areas of climate action, resource preservation and inclusivity, she said.
“I think [many] more CEOs see the real urgent need to tackle climate in a more systematic way as part of the business value and protection of the reputation,” she said, explaining that as extreme weather events and natural disasters multiply, “[executives] have to be ready with a plan because it’s a business necessity.”
And any plan will “have to be adaptable because we can go and start prioritizing certain roadmaps [but] everyone knows sustainability is not an easy topic,” she cautioned.
An in-depth understanding of where the “real, true impacts” lie is therefore like to take a few months, but Van der Veken remained confident that big steps could be placed on the roadmap by January 2023 — “that’s 100 days, which is nothing,” she noted.