There can be no doubt that the world is under enormous environmental and social pressure, and we all need to act now to reduce our collective impact and protect the planet for future generations. I believe this change will come if we each take personal responsibility for our actions and do what we can to make a difference.
We have noticed that it is also increasingly a key consideration for customers across the whole industry, which is so motivating to see – they want to be able to make sustainable choices when buying jewellery, just as they can with the food they eat and the transport they take. They want to do more but need brands to take the lead and be fully transparent without greenwashing.
So, we all know we need to act, but the challenge is where to start? Navigating what is truly meaningful in terms of sustainability is a tough area to understand, even for companies with dedicated sustainability experts, let alone for smaller businesses and customers on the outside.
There are many online free resources that are a great place to start such as those from the B Impact Assessment and the Responsible Jewellery Council Self-Assessment. What, however, does this mean in practice?
As a founder-led business we’ve grown from the ground up and have always taken an extremely conscious approach to everything that we do. We wanted to share some ideas for small practical steps that brands can take in the journey to become a responsible and sustainable business.
Closely and consistently review your supply chain ethics to ensure they meet high standards of quality and conduct, and push for greater transparency wherever you can. In our experience, it has been wonderful to see that our suppliers have all responded well to the questions we have asked – don’t be afraid to ask for more.
Be open to your customers about the challenges you face – for example, two of our three main workshops now use 100% recycled metals – the other is working on it and uses up to 60% but we care about the relationship we have built together, so want to work with them to improve this.
Made to last
Try to replicate whatever customers might be getting up to in your jewellery (even the things you tell them not to do, like swimming or sleeping in it) to ensure you know what the jewellery can stand up to. Think about how you can encourage customers to invest in long lasting and more sustainable choices rather than fast fashion pieces – can you offer them a guarantee? Free re-plating? Jewellery recycling services?
One of the biggest challenges in the jewellery industry is eradicating plastic – could you work with your workshops to ensure you receive each piece in a renewable and sustainably sourced cellulose film bag, which is biodegradable? Can you reuse any existing plastic bags by sending them back to your workshops?
Where possible try to ensure that packaging is made in the UK, and importantly that it can be recycled. As jewellery is a luxury item, nobody wants to compromise on the aesthetics of the packaging but it’s amazing how sustainable options are advancing. Our new ribbon we use to tie our gift box bows is made entirely from recycled bottles, and it looks just as good as the ribbon we used to use. The jiffy bags we use with some orders unfortunately can’t be recycled as they are made from composite materials. We have been trying to replace these with a recyclable alternative but so far have not been happy enough with the quality, and we don’t want our orders to arrive damaged. It is challenges like this, that emphasise the fact that complete sustainability is a journey. We won’t all get there overnight.
Can you move to paperless dispatch by not including a printed invoice or returns label in your orders? Instead, customers can get in touch if they need one. From our experience, this hasn’t been requested in nearly a year. This will drastically reduce your paper usage.
There will however, always be some carbon emissions that can’t be avoided. Can you partner with projects to offset these? I grew up by the sea, so we are currently looking into coastal habitat restoration projects. On a smaller scale, however, we collect plastic washed up on beaches and rivers to give to small business who create cards with it. This doesn’t cost anything other than time.
As part of our social responsibility, we have embarked on several charity partnerships, which has been such a positive, enjoyable and enriching experience for everyone. Can you partner with any local charities where you or your workshops are based? Either through donations from collections or by volunteering your team’s time.
Have you switched to renewable energy in your office or shop? Do you use compostable coffee pods? What about FSC certified printing paper and operating a “think before you print” policy, as well as a digital accounting system? These may sound like really small things but if everyone did them it would make a difference. If you don’t know where to start, start small.
My top tip is to be realistic. At Auree, we know that we can’t claim to be the most sustainable jewellery company out there, but we are trying to find a way that we can make everything we do as sustainable and environmentally kind as possible. We can all do better, let’s get there together.
Amelia Carmichael, founder of Auree Jewellery