Shining a Spotlight on Sustainability – Ethical Practices in Jewellery

The global jewellery industry has long been synonymous with luxury, beauty, and elegance. As our understanding of environmental and social impact evolves, there is a…

The global jewellery industry has long been synonymous with luxury, beauty, and elegance. As our understanding of environmental and social impact evolves, there is a growing call for the industry to embrace more responsible and sustainable practices. Jewellers and suppliers acknowledge the imperative to embrace innovation, integrate ethical sourcing, and minimise waste to meet the escalating demand for sustainable goods.

In this article, we explore several key aspects of sustainability our industry can prioritise. We explore what sustainability means for the jewellery industry and provide valuable advice to jewellers, manufacturers, suppliers, and business owners on how they can contribute to a more sustainable future.

Recycled Materials

One of the main areas where the jewellery industry can make a positive environmental impact is through recycled materials. For example, gold-mining operations impact ecosystems through land clearing and the harsh chemicals required. Utilising recycled gold, jewellers can significantly reduce the need for environmentally damaging mining practices. By refining and repurposing precious metals from sources including scrap jewellery, appliances, electronics, and industrial byproducts, manufacturers can reduce the need for new mining and then minimise the associated environmental consequences. Noriaki Hara of TANAKA Precious Metals labels this as “urban mining” in a Business Insider article, explaining “the amount of gold that can be recovered from a ton of cell phones is as much as 280 grams. Recycling gold from urban mining uses less energy, and CO₂ emissions can also be reduced”. 

Recycled gold is considered a major component of sustainable jewellery manufacturing, and is celebrated by Melbourne-based jewellery manufacturer, Searay. On their use of recycled gold and precious metals, Searay’s business developer, Christina Loccisano says, “if there’s any leftover chain that could be melted down and turned into a pair of earrings or if we have a faulty batch, nothing goes to waste. It’s always remanufactured into something that can be used. I think that’s probably fair to say across the industry. I know a lot of jewellers, they’re constantly remaking, remodelling and melting down. The good thing about our industry is it’s very easily recyclable.” Utilising a closed-loop production system to recycle and refine precious metals helps reduce wastage and has earned Searay recognition within the industry and has resonated with conscientious consumers.

Loccisano explains, “There’s no wastage in our product. Everything from the moment we manufacture all the way through to the moment that we sell, we ensure that every product and every waste is used 100 percent.” This dedication to resourcefulness is shared by many jewellers in the industry. Recasting faulty or leftover materials into new pieces is a common practice, allowing for the recycling and repurposing of materials. The jewellery industry’s easily recyclable nature lends itself well to sustainable practices, contributing to a more circular economy.

Green Gold and Responsible Mining

Renowned jewellery supplier, Palloys, has amassed a dedicated customer base largely for its commitment to sustainable practices. Operations manager, Chris Botha, has previously spoken to JW about Palloys’ dedication to responsible sourcing, ‘green gold’, and the importance of knowing your supplier. In recent years, green gold has gained significant traction in the industry. Unlike traditional gold mining, which can involve destructive practices, green gold is ethically sourced and produced, following strict environmental standards. Palloys’ newly-mined gold is sourced only from ethical Australian mines, and its unique refining process produces no noxious residue. By championing recycled and ethically-sourced precious metals, Palloys reduces the demand for detrimental mining practices to reduce environmental harm. Its dedication to sustainable sourcing empowers consumers to make informed choices that align with their values, shining light on how businesses can actively seek and apply sustainable alternatives. 

Technology and Traceability 

Building trust in an era of increasing consumer consciousness, transparency, and traceability is paramount to ensuring sustainable practices. Knowing your suppliers is key to ensuring traceability and transparency from mine to market. Searay’s Christina Loccisano emphasises the importance of trust across supply chains. “Such a detailed chain of operations means it’s really hard to be on top of every single one,” Christina explains. “So, why not use the technology around us now to try and make it even more trustworthy?” 

Searay sees this becoming standard, through developments in blockchain technology supporting traceability and transparency. Christina says with Searay’s Chaintrace platform, the aim is to “build a marketplace where any jeweller can create an account to share information and sell products using a digital footprint. We believe that with traceability, comes sustainability. They work hand-in-hand.”

Jewellers should prioritise sourcing materials from trusted suppliers who adhere to responsible mining and ethical practices. Promoting the adoption of industry standards, such as the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) certification, to ensure traceability throughout the supply chain and embracing blockchain technology for recording and verifying the journey of materials assures customers of origin, removing the guesswork.

Tracking Sustainable Workflows and Systems

Ensuring sustainability goes beyond sourcing materials – it encompasses the entire jewellery production process. This means considering energy consumption, waste management, environmental impact, and worker safety. By implementing innovative technologies and adopting eco-friendly practices, companies can reduce their footprint while maintaining high-quality craftsmanship.

Unsurprisingly, tracking and managing sustainability-related concerns within the jewellery industry can be complex, requiring innovative software solutions. Strategic Advisor on SkyTrust’s board, Jeff Sawade, sees sustainability in business as “reducing the environmental footprint of the company while making the most of every dollar.” Sawade believes that by empowering all staff to enter data and review issues at any time, senior staff can focus on addressing sustainability concerns rather than spending unnecessary time on data entry. SkyTrust offers powerful tools for tracking sustainable workflows, developing systems, and mitigating risks, ultimately facilitating detailed analysis and action to ensure sustainable practices.

Nurturing a safe and ethical workforce, sustainability encompasses environmental considerations and the well-being of the industry’s workforce. Jewellers and manufacturers should prioritise the implementation of safe working conditions, provide appropriate training, and establish fair labour practices. By nurturing a safe and ethical workforce, businesses can promote sustainability throughout their supply chains.

Incorporating mechanisms for identifying hazards and risks is crucial. Sawade emphasises that only after identifying risk, can businesses confidently move forward with mitigation. The ability to monitor safety, quality, human resources, security, and financial risks supports a comprehensive approach to sustainability. With built-in auditing tools, SkyTrust software provides a framework for continuous improvement and detailed analysis of sustainability criteria.

Streamlining processes for greater efficiency and enhancing the sustainability of the jewellery industry requires continuous improvement of systems and processes, from monitoring and analysing, to improving safety. Jewellery businesses should invest in technology and systems that enable efficient resource management, reduce waste, and streamline production processes. By adopting sustainable practices at every stage, from design to distribution, the industry can reduce its environmental footprint significantly.

Transparency and ethical sourcing ensure the traceability of materials fundamental to promoting ethical sourcing and sustainability in the jewellery industry. By implementing traceability systems, jewellers can verify the origin of materials, ensuring they come from responsible and conflict-free sources. Initiatives like the RJC provide frameworks and certifications to promote responsible practices. It’s no question that proper accreditation helps businesses to communicate their commitment to ethical sourcing to build consumer trust.

Our Voices

When it comes to sustainability in the jewellery industry, jewellers and suppliers play a pivotal role in driving change. By sharing their perspectives and insights, they inspire others to adopt ethical practices and embrace sustainability as a core value.

The jewellery industry in Australia is experiencing a shift as sustainability takes centre stage. From recycled materials to the exploration of green gold and the implementation of sustainable workflows, such actions highlight the industry’s understanding of the importance of ethical practices and environmental consciousness, resonating with consumers who seek sustainable jewellery options. By actively listening to their clients and engaging in ongoing dialogue, these companies have adapted and led the way towards a more sustainable future for the Australian jewellery industry.

Incorporating recycled materials, prioritising work health and safety, streamlining systems, and fostering traceability will benefit the environment and communities and build trust and loyalty among conscious consumers. As the demand for sustainable goods rises, our industry must adapt to meet these expectations. The voices of jewellers and suppliers drive this change, inspiring others to embrace sustainability as a core value. By actively engaging with consumer demand, adopting recycled materials, and implementing sustainable workflows, businesses are able to demonstrate commitment to ethical practices and dedication to shaping a more sustainable future for the jewellery industry. As the industry evolves, all stakeholders must join forces, prioritise sustainability, and contribute to a more responsible and environmentally conscious jewellery ecosystem.

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