The journey to net zero is a collective one, with the destination out of reach without the open sharing of information and collaboration between brands. To help facilitate that process, we reached out to the recently certified Monica Vinader as, during the process of earning the Butterfly Mark, we were especially impressed by their approach to recycling, carbon neutrality, and their community. They kindly agreed to share not only what they have done but to also give some insights to their fellow brands into how they have done it.
Monica Vinader only uses 100% recycled gold vermeil and sterling silver. By the end of 2021, more than 1,100,000kg of CO2 emissions will have been avoided due to their commitment to using recycled gold vermeil and sterling silver. When we spoke to their team about how they achieved this milestone, they told us ‘working collaboratively with our business partners whilst empowering our employees to lead sustainable change has helped drive progress against our recycling goals. It has been a real team effort and we’re all learning along the way.’
In addition, Monica Vinader are phasing out single-use plastics throughout their entire supply chain this year – a complicated task for any brand. They approached this by carrying out plastic audits of their direct suppliers, their operations, and their stores to gather information on every single piece of plastic before identifying those items that are single-use and then for each one deciding whether they could a) stop using immediately, b) switch to a non-plastic alternative, or c) replace with a recyclable or compostable equivalent. They are working through each of these in order and as of spring 2021 have sourced alternatives for 85% of the plastic in their supply chain.
However, this process was dogged by unexpected roadblocks. During the process, their plastic recycling partner reached capacity so instead of being able to outsource the sorting of all plastic, they needed to take this responsibility on themselves. When we spoke to the Monica Vinader team about this, they told us ‘our Operations team have been great in responding to this challenge and because we’re committed to the cause we’re making it work with our current resource. In the long term we hope to revert back to the previous service model.’
We see there being two clear actions from this for brands looking to achieve their sustainability goals:
- An effective recycling strategy is a collaborative effort that requires buy-in from every level of the business and external partners
- Phasing any material out of your business will lead to unexpected problems. Clear goals and processes are essential from the very beginning
Absolute carbon reductions are the ultimate goal for any sustainable brand as we recently explored in our Understanding Carbon report. Monica Vinader have accepted that and, after calculating their yearly carbon emissions from shipments to customers last year they planned to offset all of it. This year, they extended their carbon offsetting commitment to include both their corporate and products’ greenhouse gas footprint, making them entirely neutral.
However, what really impressed us was that Monica Vinader have recognised that offsets are not a solution and that reductions, not neutrality, are the goal. To that end they have enacted a series of bold positive actions, including building on their strong work with recycled metals by continuing to look at innovative materials in order to reduce their environmental impact, driving initiatives like their customer jewellery recycling programme, operating with a flexible approach to employees and travel, and working closely with their partner couriers and producers.
Our positive action recommendation for brands:
- Recognise that absolute carbon reductions are a long-term goal. Plan small changes that your brand can make along the way in order to make incremental gains
The process of becoming a sustainable business is about more than just the environment. ESG – Environmental, Social, and Governance – is a true reflection of a business’ impact on people and planet. Monica Vinader have made this a central part of their organisation by building relationships with their suppliers, supporting charities like Women for Women International and The Jagriti Foundation, as well as raising money for The NHS during the pandemic. Speaking to the Monica Vinader team, they commented that their ‘Senior Leadership team care deeply about the empowerment of women (something our jewellery aims to do too) and the education of those in need. Our charitable endeavours are led from the top and something we feel our employees have really responded well to. We are looking to roll out an employee volunteering scheme to build on our work too, with a particular focus on education, empowerment and other causes linked to the 6 key UN SDGs we’re aligned to.’
Our positive action recommendation for brands:
- Examine how your brand interacts with people as well as the planet. From D&I to charity work, racial justice to uplifting your suppliers, there are so many opportunities for your brand to enact lasting social change
Monica Vinader’s sustainability journey has seen them make plenty of meaningful innovations across their business and across each of the categories of E, S, and G. For more information on their sustainability journey, download their latest sustainability report here
Written by - Jacob Corner