Radical Transparency and Green, Ethical Sources in the Jewelry Industry Part 2: Who’s Doing it Right
In my last post, I discussed the notion of radical transparency as a means of examining the integrity level of two large players in the jewelry industry. Now, I want to give examples of companies that are already working within this model that provide a model of how all of us can differentiate ourselves from the rest of the industry in our Blue Ocean strategy by being transparent.
Here are the steps that will sharpen our sword.
1. Nail down the true social and environmental impact of your product.
2. Go public with the above information, taking responsibility for the damage you are doing.
3. Outline a plan as to how you are going to work toward changing your sources
4. Take ecologically responsible actions now, especially low hanging fruit and strive to make small incremental improvements as quickly as you can. Link to eco articles on the site.
We can start by looking at the work of Green Karat. Their “Green Assay” project gets down to the extreme details, revealing transparent sourcing and its impact on the environment. Their commitment and concern come through clearly, and add a lot of value to their product. The press attention they have received for their efforts is well deserved. I was impressed that they decided not to print a paper catalog—something that I could not do in my business. These guys are the Brahmans of the eco jewelry world.
A secondary example is Greg Velario’s Cred Jewellers. Greg is a social entrepreneur who chose jewelry as his venue to create a socially and environmentally responsible business model. Go on to his site and you’ll see his wide range of passions, including being one of the founding members of ARM. One detail that I particularly like on his website is how he shows an interracial couple as his main models. Not even Whole Foods would take that step.
On the mining side, we can look to what Eric Braunwart has done with his company, Columbia Gem House. Eric has been widely written about in the trade and mainstream press, and you can go on to his site and see how he has created an entire system which tells clearly how each gemstone is sourced. It is important to note that Eric also sells gems that are not “fair trade” sourced. This demonstrates the need to compromise and view this whole movement toward fair and ethical sourcing as a process.
Green Karet, Greg Velario and Columbia Gem House all sell to a higher end market. It seems more difficult to have environmentally and socially responsible sourcing in the middle and lower price point unless you are totally building your product line around sources from mines in the developed world, and even then you cannot be sure of labor and environmental standards.
While Hoover and Strong’s gold and platinum is 100% reclaimed, their silver, at this point, is 75% reclaimed. That may change soon, but it points to the reality of how those who are most prominent in this movement toward social and ecological responsibility are marketing toward the high end. Of course, I’m not discounting the efforts of those who are working on a “fair trade” basis with small cottage industries in villages, but that is not the mainstream jewelry market where I exist. Even those small projects are buying silver that is straight off the market.
If semi-precious gems that come out of India are the core of my product, you are out of luck at this point.
I turn now to my own company, Reflective Images. I have about three thousand inventory pieces. I understand that decisions have to be made in the context of sound economics. I know that many things I sell are not from sources I know about. Full disclosure of our sourcing is in the process of being integrated into each product category. Moving in the right direction, I call the “Chicken Scratch Path.” Regardless of sourcing, any company can implement many environmentally friendly steps and offer a fair and living wage with great benefits to their employees.
To be radically transparent takes moral courage and real commitment. But with that commitment comes an opportunity to differentiate your business from the competition in a market that values ecological and socially responsible business practices now more than ever.