IWC Schaffhausen headquarters

PARIS — IWC Schaffhausen has issued a new set of sustainability targets over the next two years that includes increasing the proportion of women in management positions, using only renewable energy sources and obtaining external certification that it follows strict environmental and ethical standards when sourcing watch components.

“The client has the right to know that the product he or she buys is carefully sourced,” said Franziska Gsell, the brand’s chief marketing officer who chairs the sustainability committee, speaking with WWD on a Zoom call.

“Once you publish your goals and you talk about what you want to do, you get feedback, you get a response and that’s what we want, we want this dialogue, we want to have a conversation with our customers,” she added. 

The Swiss luxury watch brand, which belongs to Compagnie Financière Richemont, is issuing its third sustainability report. The company said it was the first in its sector to publish a sustainability report, which it did in 2015, and was also the first to meet the 2019 code of practices set out by the Responsible Jewellery Council, a U.K.-based nonprofit organization that sets environmental and social guidelines. 

The report comes at a time when consumers are paying closer attention to social and environmental issues as upheaval from the coronavirus crisis causes people to rethink their consumption habits.

Parent company Richemont recently embarked on a more proactive approach, talking openly about its goals whereas in the past it had been more focused on “mitigating risk” in the supply chain and work environment, and on preserving the longevity of its products, businesses and skills, as WWD reported last week.

“This is the second report, we set eight goals and we have set them for the next cycle, that’s quite important that it is a journey — it’s never achieved — it’s a journey, and that’s why we have these two-year business cycles, you set goals and you’re transparent, you talk about it,” explained Gsell.

“You would be amazed at how many customers come back to us and ask questions,” she continued. 

In its second sustainability report, the house said it had reached its two-year environmental and social targets, including lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent, reaching gender parity for training and recertification of the Responsible Jewellery Council Code of Practices. Over the next two years, it will seek to double the proportion of women in management compared to 2017, obtain equal pay certification, set up a “green” technology strategy and establish a blueprint for holding sustainable events. 

The company handles sustainability matters through a sustainability committee that was established five years ago, and includes all departments of the company, she explained. 

“If you don’t do that, it’s difficult to have sustainability on the agenda for whatever position you take, that has been our recipe,” said Gsell, who noted that chief executive officer Christoph Grainger-Herr is also involved in the topic. The company also has a sustainability manager, Sarah Vowles, who is also the secretary for the committee.

One of the tougher tasks on the last round of goals was changing packaging to reduce waste, Gsell explained.

The company reduced weight and volume of packaging by coming up with a small, travel pouch for clients that she described as a product in itself, rather than just the shell of the product as before.

Some resistance came from markets that had “different gifting expectations,” when it comes to hard luxury presents, which are meant as a statement, she explained.

“We said ‘no’, let’s try it,” she said.

“We are super proud we achieved that; all our colleagues are supporting it — it even has a price tag,” she added.

It’s still possible to have a bigger gifting box, but it has to be paid for, she explained. 

“That has been quite a shift — it was not an easy goal and we are especially proud,” she said.

The executive noted that setting up a system of reporting helps get the ball rolling on such issues and open dialogue and transparency and said she hoped other luxury watchmakers would follow suit.

“As soon as you have these conversations and you get feedback, you get pushed to think about maybe new territories and new topics,” she noted.

“You might not be perfect from the beginning, but you start that journey and you challenge what you do and it’s uncomfortable, because it’s easier to just go on as you did,” she said.

“Sustainability is about being interested in what happens around you.”

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