Watch companies get plenty of recognition for their elite complications, beautiful designs and extravagant launch parties, but they also deserve recognition for their environmental and philanthropic endeavors. If we are concerned about saving the planet, which by all accounts is at risk, we can easily follow the “reduce, reuse and recycle” mantra. Responsible consumption can be tricky, though, as product labels don’t always tell us whether or not what we’re buying was made in a clean, energy-efficient environment by people working under safe conditions for wages that sustain their basic human needs. Gold mining in particular can be a messy business. Mercury and cyanide are used to separate gold from rock and sediment, and if not handled properly, can seriously harm workers and pollute the environment for generations. Because of this, when you buy your next watch or piece of jewelry, then you may want to consider buying it from Chopard.
Chopard has invested in a non-governmental organization (NGO) called the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM), which regulatesArtisanal and Small-scale Mining communities (ASM) throughout the world. These communities account for 80% of the mining workforce and produce 20% of the world’s gold. ARM has created a standard for the responsible mining of gold, referring to it as Fairmined gold. The label guarantees strict respect for certain rules of economic, social and environmental development in the mining process. Chopard is the first luxury watch and jewelry company to invest in the ASM mines, helping them to comply with the standard, and has committed to sourcing a substantial amount of gold from them. The first manifestation of this partnership was the 2014 launch of the L.U.C Fairmined Tourbillon watch, followed the next year by the L.U.C XPS Fairmined timepiece, both of which are made entirely with Fairmined gold. Chopard now also produces the Palme d’Or, which it has made for the Cannes Film Festival since 1998, in Fairmined gold, and has introduced a Palme Verte collection of jewelry. Fairmined gold is also used to fabricate pieces in the company’s Green Carpet collection.
The endeavor has brought the concept of sustainable luxury to the red carpet. “In creating the Palme d’Or from fairmined gold, sustainable luxury has truly been placed on a world stage, highlighting the importance of artisanal skills at the very beginning of the supply chain,” says Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Frémaux. “For the first time ever, the Palme d’Or will represent not only the very highest standards of film production, but ethical gold production as well.”
Fairmined gold standards cover everything from the management of toxic substances to proper health and safety, as well as employment standards. Here are just a few of the standards outlined in the 71-page regulation document:
- All miners must have access to information and training on health and safety in mining, its main risks and hazards and how to prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.
- In the absence of social security protection systems, the miners affected by accidents, occupational disease or disaster must receive help through economic support.
- All miners included in the Fairmined System of Production must benefit from a social security scheme covering health, pension and occupational risk insurance.
- Conditions of employment and salaries for hired workers must be equal to or exceed the sector national average wages or official minimum wages for similar occupations, whichever is higher. Any employer in the scope of a Fairmined System of Production must specify wages for all functions.
- If the workers are provided with housing, the conditions and the
infrastructure of the house must be such as to ensure decency (it must be hygienic and healthy), privacy and security. Housing must be provided at reasonable costs.
Responsibility at the Source
Although the total elimination of the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining is not always possible, it remains a goal that can be achieved in some cases. In all cases, however, the Standard sets out a process to support ASMs to progressively minimize the use of mercury and cyanide through implementation of responsible practices and technologies to mitigate the impact on the environment and human health. Miners are required to eliminate (i) whole ore amalgamation, (ii) Open burning of amalgam or processed amalgam, (iii) Burning of amalgam in residential areas, and (iv) Cyanide leaching in sediment, ore or tailings to which mercury has been added without first removing the mercury. According to Caroline Scheufele, co-president of Chopard, the company has pledged to purchase 100% of the Fairmined gold extracted from two mines that the company has supported in the certification process—15 de Agosto in Bolivia, and Coodmilla in the Nariño Region of Colombia. “We are creating more and more pieces made of Fairmined gold and we will keep on increasing the number of watches and jewelry made of this gold to be proud of,” she says.
Closer to home, Chopard manages its own operations according to strict environmental standards. In 2010, the Chopard Group inaugurated its first building built under strict Minergie standards, the Swiss standards for low-energy-consumption buildings, including a double isolation envelope and a system allowing cooled air from its restaurant to be reused in the air conditioning systems. It is also equipped with rain water collectors, enabling a full-year irrigation of its gardens. Additionally, solar panels line the roof. Today, it is the largest building to be renovated according to the construction standards of Minergie in the Canton of Neuchâtel in Switzerland.
Dedicated to Healing
Chopard makes long-term commitments to the charities it supports, donating proceeds from special models and collections to specific causes. Since 2002, it has supported the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF), which finances HIV/AIDS prevention and assistance programs around the world. Beneficiaries include treatment facilities for the physical and mental symptoms, AIDS tests and advice, and work on the streets through distribution of food, sheltered housing, social services, and support for volunteers.
“I met Elton John at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000, and discovered that we share the same determination to fight AIDS,” says Scheufele. “This encounter gave rise to a unique watch collection in 2008, named the Elton John Watch collection, which we designed together.” A percentage of the sales are donated to EJAF.
The José Carreras Leukaemia Foundation is another cause to which Chopard is dedicated. José Carreras and
the Scheufele family are united by a long friendship, and in 1991, Chopard set up the Swiss branch of the foundation, followed
in 1995 by its German counterpart, of which Karl Scheufele is chairman and
vice-chairman. In 1996, Chopard introduced the José Carreras watch collection. The first limited editions bore engravings of various opera houses around the world on the casebacks, with a portion of sales earmarked for the foundation.
Caroline Scheufele also recently announced a partnership with the Happy Hearts Fund, started by model Petra Nemcova, to help rebuild schools and children’s lives after natural disasters. The Happy Heart Fund is active in seven countries, and has built 81 schools and kindergartens. More than 45,000 children and 490,000 community members have benefited. To support the cause, Chopard crafted a special edition 18K rose gold Happy Diamonds bracelet featuring a pink sapphire in the shape of a heart; 17% of proceeds go towards the rebuilding of schools. —Carol Besler