Going green isn’t always easy – but as consumer engagement in sustainability heightened during the coronavirus crisis, shoppers’ loyalty to brands that embody social and environmental responsibility also strengthened and intensified, shifting market dynamics and expectations.

A report by Boston Consulting Group said that the pandemic significantly impacted environmental awareness, with some 70 percent of survey participants saying they were more aware now than before COVID-19 that “human activity threatens the safety of people and the planet.” Forty percent said they intend to adopt more sustainable behavior in the future, while 87 percent of survey respondents said that “companies should integrate environmental concerns into their products, services, and operations to a greater extent than they have in the past,” all according to the report.

But for companies such as Pandora, the groundwork for a more sustainable future has already been laid. The largest jewelry company in the world has changed the paradigms of sustainability on an industry-wide level by leading with a series of firsts for green initiatives in the sector – and its strategy is to keep carving its own path forward as other jewelry brands follow in its steps.

Headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, the brand known worldwide for its customized conversation piece charms and trinkets designs, manufactures and markets hand-finished jewelry made from high-quality materials, at wholly accessible price points. Its jewelry is sold in more than 100 countries through 7,400 points of sale, including more than 2,700 concept stores.

Working Like a Charm

Sustainability for Pandora starts at its core. The brand’s modern and energy-efficient crafting facilities are based in Thailand and use 100 percent renewable energy sourced from local energy providers. More than 90 percent of Pandora’s greenhouse gas emissions occur in the value chain outside the company’s own operations – that’s due to most emissions stemming from the procurement of raw materials, while other sources include the manufacture of jewelry parts, packaging, franchise stores, and transportation, the brand said.

Pandora announced last year that by 2025, the brand will fully shift from mined to recycled silver and gold and buy only from recycled sources, which will ultimately reduce its CO2 emissions, water usage and other environmental impacts as the recycling of metals uses less resources than mining new metals, Pandora explained.

Mining requires a lot of energy – and carbon emissions from sourcing recycled silver are one-third compared to mined silver, while recycling of gold emits approximately 600 times less carbon than mining new gold, according to life cycle assessments*.

Its decision to use recycled precious metals follows Pandora’s ambitious decarbonization targets announced in January of last year. In 2020, Pandora began sourcing 100 percent renewable electricity at its two jewelry crafting facilities in Thailand, and by 2025 the company said it will be carbon neutral across its entire operations.

To date,  60 percent of the silver and gold in Pandora’s jewelry comes from recycled sources. Alexander Lacik, the Chief Executive Officer at Pandora, said that “Silver and gold are beautiful jewelry materials that can be recycled forever without losing their quality. Metals mined centuries ago are just as good as new.”

Lacik added that its recycled metals will never tarnish or decay. “We wish to help develop a more responsible way of crafting affordable luxury like our jewelry and prevent that these fine metals end up in landfills. We want to do our part to build a more circular economy.”

“The need for sustainable business practices is only becoming more important, and companies must do their part in response to the climate crisis and the depletion of natural resources. For many years, Pandora has used recycled metals in our designs. Now we are ready to take the next step and stop using mined silver and gold altogether. This is a significant commitment that will be better for the environment and make our jewelry more sustainable.”

Silver is the most used material in Pandora jewelry, accounting for over half of all purchased product materials measured by weight, and it also uses smaller volumes of gold, palladium, copper, and man-made stones such as nano-crystals and cubic zirconia, Pandora said. “The decision to use only recycled silver and gold covers all use of these metals in Pandora’s jewelry, including grains, semi-finished items such as chains, and other parts from suppliers,” the company explained.

And part of its industry-changing mission to be carbon neutral by 2025 means combining powers with other major players in the space, such as the Science Based Targets initiative, a collaboration between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI), and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), as well as its goal to publish a plan to reduce carbon emissions in its full value chain in line with the Paris Agreement.

Marissa Saretsky the Director of Corporate Sustainability at Pandora, told WWD that an emissions reduction target is defined as “science-based” if it is developed in line with the scale of reductions required to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (2C) from pre-industrial levels.

“[The] Science Based Targets initiative is the leading corporate collaboration for action on climate change and we are committed to setting a science-based target this year to reduce emissions across our full value chain.”

Evolving Sustainability Landscape

For retail, the sustainability landscape is ever-changing, and stakeholders pay growing attention to a variety of sustainability issues, Saretsky said, which takes form in employees’ pride in working for a company that takes sustainability seriously; investors’ increased consideration for Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance, alongside traditional financial metrics; and consumers’ budding preference for brands with strong social and environmental profiles.

About 15 percent of the world’s silver supply comes from recycled sources, Pandora said – and more than half of the recycled silver comes from industry, where the metal is used in chemical production, electronics, and for other purposes.

The company said that it will work with its suppliers to guarantee a sufficient supply of responsibly sourced recycled silver, certified according to leading supply chain initiative standards such as the Responsible Jewelry Council, in addition to “engaging with key stakeholders in the supply chain to explore opportunities for increasing the availability of recycled silver and improve production standards,” all according to Pandora.

Saretsky added that Pandora follows guidance from leading supply chain initiative standards, such as the aforementioned Responsible Jewelry Council, and that the brand’s sustainability efforts speak volumes about its company values.

“At the heart of Pandora’s business is the belief that high ethical standards and high-quality jewelry go hand in hand,” Saretsky told WWD. “We consider sustainability across our business, from how we craft our jewelry to the workplace we offer employees. Reducing what we take from the planet, protecting the environment, and treating all stakeholders well is key to Pandora’s business success.”

“We own and operate the vast majority of our value chain, from design, sourcing, and crafting through to the marketing and sale of our jewelry. This gives us increased influence – and leverage to embed sustainability standards across the business.”

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