model wearing sunglasses and jewelry

From electronics to clothing, consumers around the world want products that are more environmentally sustainable and ethically produced, including the jewelry they wear. In fact, many shoppers are now asking the jewelry industry how they are making their merchandise, where the materials come from, and whose lives the process might affect. 

A Growing Desire for Sustainable Jewelry

According to Mike Cooke, CEO and founder of Sterling Forever, sustainable options and green, eco-friendly conversations are happening at almost every meeting with their major retail partners. While this is certainly a new conversation they are starting to have, it is a good one because they know what their customers want. 

“It is becoming much more common for our customer service representatives to be asked similar questions when communicating directly with our customers,” Cooke said. “While it is impossible for Sterling Forever to be a ‘green’ company, we are making great strides in being ‘more green’ and more customers want to know how.” 

4 Ways Brands Can Be More Sustainable

Jewelry retailers can become more sustainable in four different ways:

  1. Ethically Source Your Materials
  2. Be Aware of Greenwashing
  3. Utilize Eco-Friendly Packaging
  4. Ethical Jewelry Certifications

1. Ethically Source Your Materials

One great way to be more eco-friendly is by using recycled or waste materials when creating new products. Precious metals can be recycled — silver and gold can be easily melted and reformed into a new piece of jewelry. They do not lose their qualities, which is great from both an environmental and financial standpoint.

Recycled jewelry is better for the environment because it does not require mining or the use of cyanide solvents to separate it. Recycled jewelry also gives a second life to antique or damaged pieces, and gives gold and silver the chance to shine again. 

2. Be Aware of Greenwashing

Especially when working with suppliers, be aware of companies that ‘greenwash’ their products. In this sense, businesses can promote the materials they sell as ‘sustainable,’ but employ dangerous workplace practices and pay their employees close to nothing. From a social standpoint, this is not sustainable or ethical. 

“Customers want to know where our jewelry is made and they want details on the factories producing it. They want to know if we are working with governments that enforce child labor laws, if they offer safe working conditions, and if factory workers are being compensated fairly,” Cooke said. 

When it comes to producing their products, jewelry brands should take a look at who they are partnering with. Customers care about the merchandise they are buying and where it comes from, and they take that extra step to make sure there are no child labor law violations. Be sure the employees are also treated well and are surrounded by ethical working conditions. 

3. Utilize Eco-Friendly Packaging

“One thing Sterling Forever is doing to make our packaging more eco-friendly is by eliminating all plastic,” Cooke said. “In the jewelry industry, this is not particularly easy or economical, but we are making great strides in reducing our carbon footprint. We are using fewer poly bags, a very common item used in the jewelry industry, we have eliminated plastic carding and transitioned to paper only, and we have eliminated bubble wrap and switched to eco-friendly crinkle paper.” 

4. Ethical Jewelry Certifications

Another way to prevent greenwashing is to ensure that the companies you purchase your jewelry from actually offer sustainable jewelry, which can be done through ethical jewelry certifications. Here is a list of certifications that you can be on the lookout for: 

  • Fairtrade.
    Fairtrade Certified Gold is the world’s first ethical certification system for gold. When buying Fairtrade Gold jewelry, you can be sure that you are supporting small-scale miners who treat their employers fairly. These miners also protect the environment and make life better for themselves and their communities. 
  • The Kimberley Process.
    The Kimberley Process is an international certification scheme and regulates the trade of rough diamonds. They aim to prevent the flow of conflict diamonds and also regulate the legitimate trade in rough diamonds. The certification scheme outlines the rules that govern the trade of rough diamonds, and there is currently a set of minimum requirements that each participant must meet. 
  • Responsible Jewellery Council.
    The Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) is the world’s leading standard-setting organization for jewelry, as well as the watch industry. They believe that a responsible business is a good business, with no harm caused to people or the planet. The RJC Code of Practices is the global standard for the responsible and ethical jewelry and watch industry. They focus on the business ethics of a company, as well as responsible supply chains, and cover all the primary minerals and metals which are used in the manufacturing of jewelry.
  • Institute for Responsible Mining Assurance.
    The Institute for Responsible Mining Assurance verifies the performance of mine sites by doing an audit on these sites in order to verify responsible mining practices. The certification ensures that the social and the environmental performance at mine sites worldwide is in line with responsible mining. The results are available publicly, and it provides credible information to buyers who are interested in responsible sourcing of mined materials. 
  • Fairmined.
    Fairmined certifies gold from empowered, responsible, artisanal, and small mining companies. They ensure social development as well as environmental protection by providing a source of gold to be proud of. Fairmined is backed by a strict third party certification and an audit system that ensures mining organizations meet the leading standards for responsible practices, as well as deliver organizational, social development, and environmental protection. 
  • B Corps.
    Businesses certified by B Corporations are ones that meet the highest standards of proven social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance their profit and purpose. B Corps encourages a worldwide culture shift to ensure that businesses build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.
  • SCS-007.
    This new, scientifically rigorous, multi-layered certified sustainability-rated diamond standard is offering independently verified proof of a diamond’s origin and journey through a chain of custody using evidence-based information. SCS-007 significantly upgrades diamond shopping by giving dealers, designers, retailers, and customers independently verified facts about the environmental, industrial, and social history of the diamonds they are considering. 

While it can be difficult to be 100% sustainable and eco-friendly in the jewelry industry, these are just some steps retailers can make to ensure they are doing their part in helping the planet and satisfying customer desires. Always remember to keep that communication open with consumers to see what types of sustainable options they want to see from your brand.

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