Anisa Kamadoli Costa is chair and president of The Tiffany & Co. Foundation and vice president of global sustainability and corporate responsibility at Tiffany & Co. Anisa leads the global corporate responsibility and sustainability function at Tiffany & Co. and manages the annual philanthropic giving portfolio of $6 million of the Tiffany & Co. Foundation.
Prior to joining Tiffany & Co., Anisa worked at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. She also serves as chair of the board of the Environmental Grantmakers Association, a group composed of more than 220 foundations from the U.S., Canada and Europe that represents more than $1 billion in environmental grantmaking.
I asked Anisa a few questions in the run-up to the Smarter Sustainability Reporting Conference in London next month. She was very generous with her time and open in her replies. Read on.
Elaine Cohen: Tell us about your professional background and how you came to be Vice President-Global Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility at Tiffany & Co. What specific experience prepared you for this role?
Anisa Kamadoli Costa: When I joined Tiffany & Co. 10 years ago, I came to the company with a multidisciplinary background, which has certainly fit into the global nature of our sustainability work. Factoring global perspectives into sustainability is critical to our efforts at Tiffany & Co. My graduate degree is in international affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), and I have worked in both finance and private philanthropy. Through my dual role overseeing sustainability and philanthropy for Tiffany & Co., we have strategically aligned our philanthropic giving with our company’s sustainability efforts. Strategic philanthropy is a key pillar of Tiffany & Co.’s sustainability work, with a particular focus on responsible mining and coral and marine conservation.
EC: How is your corporate social responsibility (CSR) team composed?
AKC: Sustainability has always been a part of Tiffany & Co. and is central to how we operate as a luxury brand. Our commitment to sustainability was formalized in 2009 with the establishment of the CSR Committee of the board of directors, as well as my department. I report directly to Michael Kowalski, chairman & CEO of Tiffany & Co., who is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the environmental issues that the company addresses, such as responsible mining. The fact that our team has such strong senior-level support allows us to collaborate closely with internal and external stakeholders and to continue to lead our industry.
EC: How involved is the Board CSR Committee in your work? Do you find this to be helpful?
AKC: The CSR Committee – and in fact the entire board of directors – is committed to sustainability and continues to demonstrate that it is a business priority for the company. This high-level leadership emphasizes the importance of sustainability to our business. It is not just the right thing to do, but a smart business decision that I believe improves the long-term strength of our company and our industry.
EC: What are your priorities — now and looking toward the next few years?
AKC: For many years, the focus of Tiffany & Co.’s sustainability work has been on responsible mining and the responsible sourcing of our raw materials, ranging from diamonds and gold to the paper in our iconic Blue Boxes and bags. Responsible sourcing continues to be a key priority for us moving forward. There are two timely mining issues that we are addressing, that will be crucial over the next year or so.
Tiffany & Co. is a founding member of the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA), which seeks to develop true third-party, multi-stakeholder standards for responsible mining. I have been involved in IRMA since 2006, and through this process we collaborate with representatives from industry, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), impacted communities, labor organizations and others, who are all equal participants in the development of the standards. IRMA’s draft standards will be released for public comment in 2014 and piloted in 2015. We value the role that true third-party processes play in raising the bar for our industry and believe in this process as critical to improving standards for responsible mining.
Because of our commitment to the preservation of the natural world, we are raising awareness of the risks associated with the development of the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Bristol Bay is home to the world’s most productive salmon fishery, which would be devastated by one of the world’s largest open-pit gold and copper mines. We believe that Bristol Bay is a special place where mining cannot be done without forever destroying its wildlife, landscape and community, and we have publicly declared that should the Pebble Mine be developed, we will not source gold from it. Additionally, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has authority under the Clean Water Act to block the mine, and they have conducted an assessment to evaluate the impact of large-scale mining on the watershed. The next year will be crucial in the protection of Bristol Bay.
EC: Is there a conflict between luxury brands and CSR? Is this something that gets discussed at Tiffany & Co.?
AKC: I actually don’t see a conflict between luxury and CSR as it pertains to Tiffany & Co. As a luxury brand with a 177 year history, we believe that our customers put their trust in us to operate responsibly and to ensure that the jewelry we craft was created in an ethical and responsible way. We take that responsibility seriously and strive to live up to those expectations, ensuring that sustainability considerations are a part of our decision-making processes.
EC: What’s Tiffany & Co’s record in responsible mining? Are you leaders or followers? Do you get many approaches from activists?
AKC: Under the leadership of Michael Kowalski, our chairman and CEO, Tiffany & Co. has placed a priority on responsible mining issues for nearly 20 years. We source the majority of our precious materials from mines we know, and have traceability and control throughout our supply chain. In addition, we have a long history of collaboration with the nonprofit sector and strongly value the role they play in improving mining standards around the world and representing civil society’s perspectives in these challenging issues.
EC: Who do you expect to be the main audience for your sustainability report? How do you ensure that your report gets noticed?
AKC: We have a very robust sustainability website, which we use to communicate our sustainability initiatives to all of our stakeholders. We launched our sustainability report in 2011. It is a Web-based report, allowing access to a variety of audiences such as our customers, employees, investors, NGOs, the academic community, government and our business partners. The website offers different levels of information so visitors with varying interests can find what they are looking for on the site. We are committed to using the Tiffany brand to increase awareness about the issues we care about, and our website is one tool for that.
A version of this piece was originally published on the CSR Reporting Blog.