Whether to satisfy customer demand, reduce environmental impact or save money (or all of the above), building a sustainable business is on-trend in 2024. I’ve written about many companies, including Lego, IKEA, Petrobras and Brewer’s Crackers, that have made the leap to the eco-friendlier business practices through upcycling, reuse, and waste reduction. Here at ASCM, we applaud those striving for a circular supply chain and all the benefits that entails for our planet.
Enter Pandora, the “world’s largest jewelry company by volume,” which announced that it will only use 100%-recycled gold and silver for its jewelry. By eliminating the need to mine for new silver and gold, Pandora will significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, as mining is a “leading source of mercury pollution,” The New York Times explains. Upon announcing this new strategy, Pandora cited the World Gold Council and other entities that claim the process of recycling gold reduces carbon emissions by as much as 99% compared to mining it; for silver, that number is about 66%.
However, as is so often the case with sustainability and circularity initiatives, there are some challenging issues to work out. First, the term “recycled” has different meanings to different people — especially when referencing jewelry. The Federal Trade Commission suggests that “it is deceptive to represent, directly or by implication, that an item contains recycled content unless it is composed of materials that have been recovered or otherwise diverted from the waste stream” — unusual for precious metals.
And even if the metal is melted down and reused, that doesn’t necessarily mean it was ethically mined in the first place. This can “obscure the origins of some metals,” such as those sourced by outlaw refiners known for using child labor or running operations that fund the activities of criminal networks, notes the Times. As of 2020, most jewelry companies are still unable to trace their gold and diamonds to the mines of origin, a Human Rights Watch report explains. (Pandora, for its part, was rated as “strong” for its responsible sourcing practices in the report.)
It really all comes down to transparency and enabling customers and regulators to see key internal supply chain data. Increased transparency — and consequences for failure to meet goals — ideally lead organizations to improve their business practices, whether for the sake of human rights or sustainability or both. As I will share with GreenBiz attendees later this month during my session, Why global engagement is essential to sustainable supply chains: “Transparency is a key part of infusing sustainability throughout your entire network. Numerous digital tools can advance this initiative, such as supply chain control towers and other dashboards for monitoring and enhance visibility. Focused collaboration and coordination, with a view toward realistic goals and steady progress, make transformation possible.”
Understand the many facets of sustainability
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