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World Federation Of Diamond Bourses

Interview with Iris Van Der Veken, Executive Director and Secretary General, Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030

Q. Tell us about the new Watch and Jewellery Initiative 2030. What do you hope to accomplish? How will you be operating? Who are the supporters/members?

For the first time in the industry, the Watch and Jewellery Initiative 2030, founded by Kering and Cartier, aims at bringing together watch and jewellery brands across the globe to begin a collective journey towards a low-carbon future, and to ensure the industry creates positive outcomes for the planet and for people. We are based in Geneva in the symbolic ecosystem Maison de la Paix, 200 meters from the United Nations.

The initiative welcomes all watch and jewellery brands with a national and international footprint that commit to dedicating their resources and energy to continuous improvement on sustainable business topics, and to developing a vision of excellence for the industry, no matter their starting point, market segment or position in the value chain.

While focusing on three thematic priorities – building climate resilience, preserving resources, and fostering inclusiveness, the initiative strongly commits to transparency with the requirement to report on progress on a regular basis. It will also support members in meeting growing expectations of stakeholders, including consumers, civil society, and regulators, of exemplary environmental, social and ethical practices.

The initiative builds on strong, existing initiatives and organisations in the industry, and includes newer areas of focus such as science-based climate targets, biodiversity protection and materials and business model innovation, with the intent of encouraging and enabling industry transformation and innovation.

The commitments supported by the Watch and Jewellery Initiative 2030 lie at the very heart of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, with the initiative itself contributing to Goal 17, “partnerships for the goals.”

Today we have a strong coalition with Gucci, DoDo, Pomellato, Qeelin, Cartier, Chanel Watches & Jewellery, Boucheron, Montblanc, Swarovski

Rosy Blue, Eurodiamonds, Dimexon, Jaeger Lecoultre, Mattioli,

Rubel & Menasché, Lange & Söhne, IWC, Panerai, Piaget and Pandora.

Our partnerships with CIBJO and UFBJOP are also an important cornerstone of our initiative, as we believe associations can be a key driver to promote our work to the wider community.

We want to grow naturally with the right companies, which are driven by their CEO’s leadership, and that are truly committed to accelerate positive impact in the 3 pillars described above.

Q. What is the greatest challenge the initiative faces. What are the opportunities?

Given the magnitude and ambition of the task at hand, I believe finding our focus will be fundamental to success. We need to have clarity of purpose upfront and ensure that we align with all stakeholders involved on a clearly defined set of common and measurable goals. I feel confident that we will be able to do this since we have an experienced and committed leadership team. I can already see the brands involved contributing and investing towards the long-term success of the initiative.

In addition, it is paramount to track and measure progress over time. How well we measure impact and communicate it will be crucial to staying on course and ensuring we remain data-driven and adjust course as and when the metrics require us to.

Given the multi-stakeholder nature of the initiative, we will need to create consensus quickly and often. Having a strong governance model to bring everyone on board is a task that I take with great seriousness. Currently we are doing consultation with the NGO world to clearly integrate their valuable perspective from the start in building our initiative.

Also, we need to work closely with our supplier community. They are at the heart of the supply chain and are often SMEs who may not have the sustainability experience or tools that some of our larger brands do. How we help them scale up and how we bring them along in this journey will be critical to creating broad-based and meaningful impact.

We already have on board a healthy critical mass of partners and members who we have started to work closely together with. The United Nations Global Compact is a key strategic partner. We are also working with the Boston Consulting Group and BSR and Arabesque in shaping and finetuning our roadmap.

Q. How have Covid and the war in the Ukraine impacted the industry?

We are facing a set of global crises today that have had a wide ranging and significant impact on our economies and communities. The energy crisis and the cost-of-living crisis – both emanating from the compounding effects of the conflict and of the pandemic have had a profound impact on all industries, and especially on retail businesses around the globe.

The jewellery industry is no exception. Given the multi-tiered, complex, and global supply chains in our industry, political conflict has a direct, disruptive and potentially threatening impact.

We have seen our industry’s resilience in how it bounced back from the uncertainty and decline in demand caused due to COVID-19. However, we are now facing a new set of macro-economic headwinds that do not seem to be abating anytime soon. My sincere hope is that given these events, industry leaders will take a renewed look at their sourcing practices and further ensure transparency and integrity of their supply chains.

Q. Tell us about your own journey in the jewellery industry.

I started in the jewellery industry about twenty years ago. It was an entirely new environment for me, coming from a stock market technology company. I was at a family-owned business, and it gave me the kind of head start that was essential and immensely empowering at that stage of my career. Based in Antwerp, I got the chance to visit operational sites in countries as diverse as South Africa and India, all while raising a five-year old son.

The industry was clearly changing at an accelerated pace. I was privileged to have a front-row seat when the industry was going through several transformational changes – the Kimberley Process was being developed, De Beers and other frontrunners were adopting their Best Practice Principles, and the Responsible Jewellery Council was founded.

Over twenty years, I have witnessed that we have come a really long way in the industry. Also, the expectations of consumers, regulators and the society at large have evolved. We live in a very different political, economic, and environmental situation globally. Hence, it is incumbent on us to really step up to the plate to meet the needs of a changing consumer base and a rapidly changing (and heating!) planet.

In these two decades, I am also grateful to have worked closely with many organizations and brands that have continued to push the envelope with their efforts and committed leadership. I will take this opportunity to applaud and thank them – these include the WFDB, CIBJO, BJOP, World Diamond Council, LBMA, World Gold Council, RJC, JA, JLF,ICA, AGS, AGTA and JVC to name a few. The future is now about more collaboration than ever. We need to do more and do it together.

Q. Tell us about your personal interests/hobbies and anything else you would like to add.

I am passionate about beauty in all its forms. I love to visit museums whenever I get the chance and especially on my travels. They are truly a portal not just to art, but also to cultures and ways of living that I find fascinating. Antwerp is a city I have called home for a big part of my life and it’s a city that is suffused with beauty. Recently, I visited the Royal Museum of Fine Arts which opened after an 11-year closure and was completely energized by the time I spent there.

I love cooking and chocolate is my guilty pleasure! And of course, spending quality time with my family and friends over a home-cooked meal is my idea of bliss.

I would be amiss if I did not mention the many friends I have made in this industry – working relationships that have turned into deep and enriching friendships over time. I hold these very dear to me and am eternally grateful for these connections.

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