“If we were not pursuing sustainability across all our business practices our journey would inevitably turn into a short story,” says Stephen Webster and his eponymous brand. In advance of Positive Week, when he is speaking on our New York panel, we caught up with the founder on the brand’s latest sustainability initiatives, what it takes to change the culture of a business, and why he believes there is no future without sustainability.
On responsible mining practices
We were proud to be among the first group of jewellers to qualify for fair trade/fair mined gold status. In order to experience the difference that fair mined status made to artisanal mining communities, my brother and I travelled with the NGO, Solidaridad, to very remote mining areas in the outbacks of Peru. There we witnessed with our own eyes all the reasons why more sustainable and responsible mining practices are so essential. The process of change is painfully slow but we wanted to be on board from the very beginning.
On The Last Straw campaign
Derived in a bar in Verbier as a reaction to all the cocktails being consumed, each decorated with a pointless plastic straw, I coined the phrase ‘the last straw’, a personalised sterling silver straw, designed to be gifted and used instead of plastic or the totally inadequate paper versions. With 10% of all proceeds donated to plastic oceans charity, the campaign has been a massive success, thousands of new clients have engaged with our brand because of The Last Straw.
On shoppers’ changing habits
Only in very recent years have we noticed consumers requesting transparency in our business. This initially only focused on diamonds, but now the question of traceability and sourcing can be requested across all the materials and practices. We are more than happy to allow any client to see behind our scenes, this is always enthusiastically and positively received.
On the responsibility of a business
Every business should be held responsible for all practices, most importantly those which impact our planet. There is no excuse for not implementing change. If a business is not taking sustainability seriously then they may as well start the process of winding down with immediate effect. There is no future for bad business practice.
On the hurdles and achievements
The biggest challenge is changing the culture of a business. This needs to come from the top. Once this initial change is made all other challenges can be addressed. It’s amazing to see an entire workforce rise to the challenges. The sense of achievement at each stage becomes a cause for celebration. Despite a rapidly growing enthusiasm for change, we are still only scratching the surface when it comes to tackling the issues that are damaging our planet. The main thing is that every member of a team is recognised for implementing positive change no matter how small or indeed large.
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Written by - Tara MacInnis