When it Comes to CSR, Tiffany’s Shines Bright

Tiffany and Co., jewelry, corporate social responsibility, CSR, diamonds, blood diamonds, Leon Kaye, environmental stewardship, precious metals, gemstones, transparency
Tiffany & Co. just released its latest CSR report.

A business that has existed since the 1830s and is entrenched in American culture would not necessarily feel compelled to ensure it is a leader in ethical and responsible business. But Tiffany & Co. has long been a sustainability leader within its sector. Twenty years before many luxury goods companies began to pay attention to the sourcing of raw materials and how people working within their supply chains were affected, Tiffany’s developed policies that are increasingly becoming more mainstream throughout the jewelry industry.

In its latest corporate social responsibility report, Tiffany & Co. outlines how it sources its precious metals, diamonds and gemstones, as well as the steps it has taken to ensure transparency while mitigating its environmental and social impacts.

One of the biggest challenges jewelry manufacturers confront is the provenance and traceability of their materials. In its efforts to avoid sourcing “blood diamonds,” Tiffany was one of the first backers of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) over a decade ago. The company only sources rough diamonds from a supplier that only deals with certified mines, and from countries that are participants within KPCS. Tiffany in turn cuts and polishes those diamonds in-house — and mostly in the countries in which it sources those diamonds, as in the case with its cutting and polishing facility in Botswana. By keeping much of that work within those countries, Tiffany keeps good-paying jobs in cities such as Gaborone. Such wages lead to “beneficiation” funds; in 2013, Tiffany says such payments provided over $81 million in funds that could be dedicated to community economic development.

Tiffany’s sourcing of precious metals including gold, silver and platinum puts more emphasis on environmental sustainability. According to the company, it sources the vast majority of these metals from mines in the United States, a policy which helps reduce the company’s overall carbon footprint. Over half of the metals sourced are from recycled content, while 46 percent is traceable to an exact known mine. Only 2 percent of all precious metals are traceable back only to the supplier.

The focus on environmental stewardship has long set Tiffany apart from its competitors. To date the company is still strongly opposed to the proposed Pebble gold and copper mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, a projects critics say puts one of the world’s largest salmon fisheries at risk. Such a focus on the environment, in fact, is a large part of Tiffany’s corporate giving campaigns. Even the iconic Tiffany’s blue bags — quite possibly the most coveted packaging on earth — are Forest Stewardship Council certified and coated with film that allows them to be 100 percent recyclable (no word yet on the blue boxes, though).

It is easy to be dismissive towards Tiffany’s sustainability work — after all, we are talking about jewelry, not more essential goods such as food and clothing. But the work the company has done, often while swimming upstream in an industry tone-deaf to its social and environmental impacts, will help nudge more iconic companies in more industries to start doing the same. If a brand such as that of Tiffany’s is taking a stand, then in the mind of many consumers, there are compelling reasons why everyone should be more conscious about the products we buy.

Image credit: Wikipedia (Macakhanshumk)

Leon Kaye has lived in Abu Dhabi for the past year and is on his way back to California. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

3 responses

  1. The author appears to have missed some important facts about the Octea Diamond Group, a Benny Steinmetz Group Resources (BSGR) company in Sierra Leone which supplies a lot of Tiffany’s diamonds. The BSGR group of companies has a unique corporate structure that is controlled by a trust fund, the Steinmetz Foundation, of which Steinmetz family is the beneficiary. The Steinmetz Foundation funds and supports a Unit of the Givati Brigade of the Israeli military and did so during the Israeli assault on the besieged resident of Gaza in 2008/2009 when over 1400 Palestinians were killed, mainly civilians. Over 300 of those killed were children. Thousands more were maimed and traumatised during the three weeks of relentless bombing by Israeli forces from land, sea and air. The Steinmetz-funded Givati Brigade was responsible for one of the most serious examples of gross human rights violations documented by human rights organisations and the UN HRC when 21 members of the Samouni family were murdered. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem describes [1] the incident as follows: “On 4 January 2009, at the start of the ground phase of operation Cast Lead, about 100 members of the extended a-Samuni family were huddled inside one house in the a-Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City. The next morning, an Israeli airstrike killed 21 people inside the house, including 9 children and 10 women, and injured dozens of other family members. During the next two days, the army refused access to medical teams, in spite of being informed of the terrible outcome by family members who managed to escape the bombed home and human rights and humanitarian organizations, including B’Tselem. When medics managed to get to site, they found four small children next to their dead mothers in one of the houses, and evacuated several wounded people. The army refused permission to evacuate the bodies and they remained in the rubble for a further two weeks.”

    The Givati Brigade was also involved in Israel’s latest slaughter in Gaza which has claimed the lives of over 1800 Palestinians, mainly civilians including over 400 children.

    While Tiffany’s efforts to prevent the trade in “conflict diamonds” are laudable, the fact that they source diamonds from a company which generates revenue used to fund and supports a Brigade guilty of gross human rights violations means their diamonds are tarnished with the blood of Palestinian children.


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