Diamonds may be forever, but the planet isn’t.
That’s the way Anisa Kamadoli Costa, who was appointed Tiffany & Co’s first chief sustainability officer in 2015, sees it. She is tasked with overseeing a wide array of focus areas for the jeweler, including responsible mining, workers rights, supply chain procurement and energy emissions. Since taking the helm, Costa has been focused on strategies to ensure Tiffany steers clear of conflict diamonds, tapping millennial demographics that are increasingly interested in sustainability and responding to a retail market turning more and more toward transparency.
Tiffany has continued to push toward innovation on all fronts amid slumping performance — sales fell by 7 percent in the first quarter of 2016, dropping to $891 million. The jeweler is setting its sights on younger shoppers, launching an estimated $700,000 social media campaign focused on Snapchat and revamping its marketing approach to include celebrities. Behind the scenes, Costa is working to push the company toward its “Net-Zero 2050” effort, establishing baselines and metrics around a pledge to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Here’s how the diamond giant is attempting to tackle environmentalism.
In what ways does Tiffany set itself apart when it comes to sustainability?
Sustainability and luxury go hand in hand. We know the story of a diamond from the moment it was mined in the rough, through one of our own cutting and polishing workshops by one of our trained craftsmen, to when it was manufactured into the ring that you wear. We know more about the steps that our Tiffany diamonds have taken than any other jeweler.
How is Tiffany working to increase transparency around how it operates, though?
One of the hallmarks of our sustainability reporting over the past seven years has been to be credible and to be transparent. One of the huge benefits of being a vertically operated luxury jewelry company is that we run and operate our own workshops. So right then and there you’re eliminating some of the risk that some of these other companies with larger more complex and dispersed supply chains aren’t able to control like we are.
How has the Kimberley Certification Process (which prevents the entry of conflict diamonds from war-torn countries into the global market) changed the way Tiffany functions?
When the Kimberley Process was designed back in 2003, it didn’t incorporate human rights into the process as much as I believe it would if it were being developed today. The reason that we don’t source from Zimbabwe or Angola is that we don’t believe that their governments are treating human rights the way we need and want them to be incorporated into our supply chain. It was a relatively easy decision for us to make. Even though they’re part of the Kimberley Process and many people do source diamonds from these countries, we decided to exclude them.
How is Tiffany targeting millennial consumers who are increasingly interested in environmentalism in retail?
Millennials are being really smart and savvy, especially when it comes to luxury jewelry. These are significant investments and purchases that signify important milestones in people’s lives, whether it’s a specific occasion or engagement ring. They want to know not just that the materials were sourced ethically and responsibly, but that they’ve contributed positively every step along the way.
How does Tiffany respond to real-time sustainability issues?
We’re the sort of company where if we’re not happy with the way something is being run within our supply chain we will work to fix it, or frankly, we’ll exit it. Over a decade ago we decided to stop selling coral jewelry. We made the decision back then based on something many people still don’t know today, which is that coral is actually not a rock or a plant, it’s a living animal and serves as a cornerstone for vibrant oceans, and our oceans are at peril. A lot more education needs to happen in the jewelry industry because this is a way we can make a significant difference.