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Cartier: Surprisingly Sustainable Luxury

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By Nastassja Salem

Sleek bejewelled panthers, classic wrist watches, breathtaking royal jewels…the House of Cartier is renowned for many beautiful things, but devotion to environmental sustainability is not necessarily one of them. However, it should well be.

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Aware of ecological challenges facing the mining industry they depend on for their raw materials, Cartier was one of the founding members of the Responsible Jewelry Council. The Council’s mandate is to ensure that mines from which members source their gems and metals are fully regulated and controlled to ensure that the communities involved in mining are paid fairly and are protected by the highest safety, working and environmental standards. All Commercial Members of the RJC are required to be audited by accredited, third party auditors to verify their conformance with the RJC Code of Practices, and become RJC Certified Members within 2 years of joining. The Council checks that pollution of rivers and land surrounding mines is kept free from toxic chemicals; hard-rock blasting is avoided;  metal extraction is cyanide-free, and that any trees destroyed in the mining process are reforested, amongst other eco-friendly initiatives.

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In 2009, Cartier also joined the Sustainable Luxury Working Group, comprised of socially responsible companies with a commitment to promoting sustainable practices in business operations. This great collective is geared towards creating a more transparent, collaborative and socially responsible luxury industry as a whole, and allows luxury brands to work together to raise these standards.

But Cartier goes even further in their dedication to being green. For a start, the new LED technology used in the boutiques uses up half the amount of energy as before, their emblematic red box, catalogues and packaging now uses FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) paper. Since 2011, the velvety pouches that guard diamond necklaces and other treasures are made of a certified material of the OEKO-TEX® Standard 100, an external test and certification system for textiles. Cartier also ‘recycles’ its own jewellery by selling antique and vintage pieces in boutiques and online.

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Let’s return now to what Cartier is best known for – all things that shine. Cartier is fully committed to the Kimberley Process, which ensures that exported diamonds are conflict-free. Since 2003, warranties system at Cartier ensures customers that sparklers they are purchasing are conflict-free at each stage of the production process. In accordance with its strict policies, Cartier no longer sources diamonds from Zimbabwe and gemstones from Burma, due to human rights violations, child labour and even murder at the expense of the jewels.

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It seems that Cartier is far ‘greener’ than most companies that market themselves as such. So why not emphasise their social and environmental commitment? Pamela Caillens, Director of Corporate Responsibility at Cartier says “We don’t want customers buying Cartier creations because they are ‘more responsible’ – we want them to elect, on a level playing field, one of our products for its design and quality.”

While we see Caillens’ point of view, we think Cartier could be more vocal about their dedication to the planet. Sustainability in the jewellery industry is still a touchy subject, given conflict diamond issues, dirty mining practices and ecosystem devastation, so when a big player like Cartier gets this committed, it sends a strongly positive message to other brands about how the luxury industry is no longer synonymous with waste and destruction–au contraire, luxury can now mean sustainability, thanks to leaders in the field, like Cartier.

All images: Cartier



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