With raw materials and ingredients born from the earth itself, Bvlgari’s approach to sustainable practices is embedded into each and every product the company makes. And its CSR efforts reach beyond the walls of its offices and facilities, extending to the communities it serves as well as to society at large.
Here, Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO of Bvlgari, explains the company’s sustainability ethos, the “three CSR pillars” it is built upon and how the renowned brand is putting this approach into practice while taking on a leadership role across the industry.
Fairchild Studio: How would you describe Bvlgari’s approach to corporate social responsibility and sustainable practices?
Jean-Christophe Babin: Sustainability is one of the biggest subjects capable of mixing business with social elements, the environment and philanthropy. It is the one language that unites it all. And we’re in a privileged position to do it because we can embark on this journey with our shareholders, our consumers and our suppliers. We have started working on corporate social and environmental responsibility for years, acknowledging that a responsible business can unlock positive value for both our organization and, more broadly, for Society. We are not only producing and selling jewels or perfumes, we are crafting the gems, ingredients and vegetals given to us by Mother Nature — working with the very essence of Planet Earth, with elements created over millions of years.
Our mission is to glorify that natural beauty by turning it into objects, memories and emotions that will last forever — like a beautiful necklace.
A more responsible business approach can improve the way we manage risks inside the organization and across our value chain. It enables also a more efficient use of resources, with positive environmental impacts. On the other side, it reassures our customers. Today, as never before, leadership is strongly linked to credibility. Bvlgari is a byword of excellence. Our clients and stakeholders fully rely on the fact that this dedication to excellence is reflected in extremely high standards of behavioral integrity and business practices at Bvlgari.
FMG: How does Bvlgari lead in ethical practices and sustainability? Why is it important to take a long-term view?
J-C.B.: History has taught us that the only way to remain relevant is to think long term, to be respectful and to adapt ahead of time. That’s why sustainability, innovation and stakeholder consideration are at the very heart of our concerns and of how we operate. As a leader and pioneer in the luxury industry, Bvlgari has embraced the challenge to foster sustainable, socially responsible and ethical practices in all the fields the Brand operates, from design to production, through the entire supply chain. But the Company’s long-term vision and commitment went far beyond putting in action unique and distinctive initiatives to create a generation of healthy and educated children and youths.
Bvlgari anticipates the future, operating for the world of tomorrow. Furthermore, conscious of the role that human creativity and artisanal craftsmanship play for its long-lasting success, Bvlgari gives back to the local community through inspiring patronage initiatives and by sustaining many form of art and craft.
Watch Bvlgari’s Jean-Christophe Babin’s Interview with WWD Below:
FMG: How does Bvlgari put into practice the principles of its three CSR pillars? Can you share some examples of your initiatives in the industry and communities served?
J-C.B.: When we talk about CSR in Bvlgari, we work on two levels of action and communication. The first is mandatory and speaks of sustainability and inclusion. It incorporates the long-term partnership with RJC, the international non-profit organization that sets standards to promote ethical practices across the jewellery and watch value chain. Bvlgari is committed to craft responsible products is strengthened by its association with the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), of which it has been a member since 2006. At this level, we are also talking about ethical gold. In 2015, and in the following years, Bvlgari achieved the RJC Chain of Custody Certification (RJC CoC) for its gold jewellery lines. This certification promotes the usage of responsibly sourced gold across the entire supply chain. Since 2019, 100% of our gold is sourced from RJC-certified suppliers and, in the same year, Bvlgari used 100% recycled gold. Another important topic related to this first level is related to environment. Bvlgari’s environmentally responsible approach closely reflects the Brand’s overall values of sustainability, innovation and care for its communities, and extends to all its operations, business units and production sites. Each of us as members of a community have an impact and an important role that we cannot ignore and we must do everything possible to become protagonists of this evolution.
The second level is more specific and equally important. It’s about education and art. When you invest in education programs, you invest in the future of the planet and humanity. For 12 years, Bvlgari has been a partner of Save the Children to which it has donated more than 100 million dollars invested in four projects involving around 35 countries. In 2009 we started from education, aware of the importance of helping children to lay the foundations for their future. Then we implemented projects with support for the Emergency, the Fight against Poverty and finally the Youth Empowerment, which deals with helping adolescents to approach the world of work in a structured and conscious way.
We are proud of the results achieved together and are happy to have just signed this unique partnership in the world of luxury for another 5 years. Bvlgari has always firmly believed in art, it is part of its DNA. As a patron of Roman heritage, Bvlgari contributed to restoring iconic monuments and archaeological areas of its home city. All our initiatives are a tribute to Rome, our constant source of inspiration (we have just announced our support to open the Sacred Area of Largo di Torre Argentina in Rome to the public for the first time)
The historical period we are experiencing has also allowed us to enter a new field such as that of Health, in this moment very important. We started with the production of hand sanitizer gel by converting the fragrance production at the beginning of the pandemic, to support the health facilities that were lacking at that time. We donated a high-definition 3D microscope to the Spallanzani Research Institute in Rome to accelerate the work of researchers engaged in the fight against Covid-19.
Finally, the establishment of the Bvlgari Virus Free Fund, born to finance high-end institutions pursuing innovative research strategies to achieve remission and cure of different types of virus. Through the Bvlgari Virus Free Fund, the Company is supporting the Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, which brings together investigators who are designing and developing numerous vaccines. The collaboration includes also the establishment of two Bvlgari Scholarships that cover four years of a PhD programme. Furthermore, the Bvlgari Virus Free Fund supports also The Rockefeller University, the worldʼs leading biomedical research institution, housing 75 laboratories led by distinguished scientists, through the establishment of the Bvlgari Women & Science Fellowship in COVID-19 Research. The collaboration with this latter one includes also the creation of the Bvlgari Clinical Fund for the development and clinical testing of new therapies, drugs, and vaccines to combat COVID-19 and related coronavirus strains
FMG: What role does the brand’s heritage play in putting into practice CSR principles?
J-C.B.: Bvlgari strongly believe in the principle of giving back. To nature, to its communities and to its origin. Art has always been one of the greatest sources of inspiration for every Bvlgari creation. As Bvlgari we know we have a debt of infinite gratitude towards Rome which has always been a source of inspiration for our creations. The architecture, the monuments and the colors of the Roman sunsets have strongly determined the design of the brand. Giving back to Rome means not only passionately preserves the Eternal City’s unfading beauty with dedicated patronage initiatives but also supports the visionary creative minds of today, promoting and leading contemporary art initiatives and partnerships. A meaningful link between past and future, giving new life to traditional arts and crafts, safeguarding their inestimable value and guaranteeing they are being handed down to the next generation.
FMG: Why is it important to follow the LVMH Code of Conduct?
J-C.B.: Because is set the core values on which the Company rely. Bvlgari’s culture of integrity and excellence is deeply rooted in the principles of the LVMH Code of Conduct, which has been formally adopted by Bvlgari. The Code establishes values and actions to drive responsible, socially aware behavior, to provide a fulfilling work context, to protect the environment and to gain the clients’ trust. The Code of Conduct has been widely spread in the whole organization through a comprehensive online training, which gives the opportunity to everyone to know the expectations in term of business practices.
FMG: In regard to ethical practices and sustainability, how do you see Bvlgari evolving over the next decade — as a brand and leader in CSR?
J-C.B.: We want the company to continue its successful way into the field of CSR and Sustainability in the future and ensure that it becomes more and more part of the brand’s DNA. We will keep promoting the Circular Economy approach and the importance of a transition toward it. We need a complete change of mindset, in order to exploit its full potential, incentivizing the reuse of products and materials and to make the most of the so-called industrial symbiosis, a new way to create synergies between industries.
We must realize that what can be a waste for one, can be a source for the other one. I think this will be a natural evolution of the future. It is an actual and urgent topic to be addressed and on which the European Union is actively working. Another major project is packaging. Bvlgari developed a strategy to drastically reduce the environmental footprint of its activities and starting from mid-2021, and aims to introduce a plastic-free packaging for its jewels, crafted from responsible sourced paper and wood-waste, guaranteeing a more eco-sustainable life cycle for its products. In this important initiative, we will be pioneers in the world of luxury.