It’s no longer an option that companies in the luxury goods sector have a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy or not, it’s a necessity says Nawal Ait-Hocine, Corporate Responsibility Director at Cartier International. For Cartier, the link between a strong tradition of excellence and sustainability is key to its CSR policy. Ait-Hocine explains that since the company was formed in 1847 every CEO is expected to play their part to ensure that the company’s values and tradition of excellence sustains it through to the next century.
“Cartier’s commitment to CSR is a reflection of our values, which are deeply rooted in our DNA. There is also a growing recognition that strong environmental, social and ethical practices help create a sustainable business environment by reducing risk and improving efficiencies. This in turn reduces cost, fosters innovation and strengthens a reputation of excellence,” she explains.
To strengthen this approach Cartier breaks down its CSR strategy into four distinct pillars; sustainable sourcing, people practices, responsible operations,and sustainable product development. Across these pillars Cartier then takes an approach that is ‘corporate’, implemented through ‘concrete actions’ and is industry orientated.
Cartier’s ‘corporate’ approach recognises the fact that customers trust it to be a brand that takes all elements of its product seriously. It therefore takes a systematic and comprehensive approach that looks at all the business units, all product lines and the entire supply chain down to the paper sourcing for sustainable packaging, rather than concentrating on one particular product line or activity.
The company then uses ‘concrete actions’ as a format to address any CSR issues that need resolving. Ait-Hocine explains that even small actions can make a big difference.
“We recognise the issues, but also understand that resolutions do not happen overnight. Sometimes we need to take small steps to see if they work. If they do, we try and replicate that success elsewhere. While Cartier represents a tiny fraction of the luxury good sector, the importance for us is that our decisions play a role in effecting positive change not only for Cartier, but for the whole industry.”
This thinking feeds into Cartier’s ‘industry’ approach, which extends its knowledge to improve standards and practices within the industry. As well as using its position as a recognised role model, it’s an approach that recognises positive change cannot be achieved in isolation but through collaboration and working together as an industry. It’s one reason why Cartier became a founding member of The Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) in 2005. Ten years on and Cartier continues to play a leading role in the RJC, which has grown from 14 to over 570 members. The council aims to promote responsible ethical, human rights, social and environmental practices throughout the gold, platinum and diamond supply chains, from mine to retail. As well as an industry forum, members work towards independently audited accreditation that recognises they are abiding by responsible business practices.
Since her own arrival at Cartier in 2010 Ait-Hocine, who has a strong background in legal and compliance issues, says the aim is to continue to get more of the industry signed up to RJC principles and strengthen industry practices. She is also working on a further pillar to Cartier’s CSR strategy which focuses on sustainable product development, which integrates product design and procurement as early as possible into the supply chain process. A major CSR focus for Cartier is the promotion of exemplary practices within the supply chain.
“Many of our suppliers have worked with us for a long time and share our values. But we constantly engage with suppliers and different players in the industry to review our sourcing options. Our collaboration with Honduran goldmine, Goldlake, is a good example of this. It’s a family-owned business that includes environmental, social and economic issues in its business model. While it’s only a fraction of our gold supply, it’s a fantastic model and one the family is trying to replicate and one we hope will stimulate innovation in the market,” explains Ait-Hocine.
The promotion of good practice within the supply chain is something that Ait-Hocine believes can strengthen CSR policies and make a real difference to the industry. She has been involved in a project that, in association with the Swiss government, aims to improve working conditions of artisanal and small-scale mines, initially in Peru, to help them reach international standards. This enables the mine to sell on the market at international trade prices, and obtain a premium which can then be partly used to reinvest back into the community.
However, new CSR concerns are constantly on the horizon. Added to the increasingly stringent regulatory landscape, advances in science means the additional pressure of keeping track of chemicals and materials that don’t fulfil Cartier’s environmental or social footprint criteria.
“I like to use the example that a piece of jewellery should not just look good on the outside, but also the inside. It just doesn’t make sense to have a beautiful piece of jewellery that would not be produced in a responsible way,” concludes Ait-Hocine.
Nawal Ait-Hocine. Corporate Responsibility Director. Cartier International.
Further reading on this topic: The Value of Extra-Financial Reporting