Watch Forum 2022: Promoting a Sustainability Mindset

Watch Forum 2022: Promoting a Sustainability Mindset

Watch Forum 2022 – hosted by Watches and Culture, the cultural hub of the FHH – brought together stakeholders from the watchmaking industry and beyond to showcase efforts to improve and debate strategies for one of the most complex and controversial topics of our century: Sustainability. And despite the community’s current efforts and plans for the future, the industry still seems to have a long way to go.

By Ash Longet
Communication & Project Manager

Let’s set the scene correctly: When speaking about sustainability, the watch industry wants to focus on three very specific areas: biodiversity, social inclusion, and strategies for offsetting the industry’s impact on climate change. Why these three issues? Because industry groups, like the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH), believe that the only possible way for the watch industry to meet its sustainability goals is to discuss it holistically.

As such, on September 12th and 13th, the cultural arm of the FHH – Watches and Culture – took its first comprehensive steps toward an industry-wide approach to sustainability. Specifically, Watches and Culture introduced a new physical platform for discussion called Watch Forum 2022, where important questions were asked of a number of luxury groups, brands, NGOs, and experts.
 

“Net Zero production, traceability across supply chains, impacts on biodiversity, and the development of recycled materials and a circular economy are just some of the topics the watch industry needs to address… not forgetting the social issues of equality and inclusion. The answers to these questions will be decisive for the profession’s future,” said Pascal Ravessoud, Director of External Affairs at the FHH, in a press release about Watch Forum 2022.
 

Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030

To kick-off the first panel, Cartier and Kering, the French luxury groups, introduced the Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030, which aims to help companies reach net zero.

“Our consumers are changing, and they want transparency. And if you want to have some credibility, it is very important to be transparent about what your challenges are, what is your roadmap to make changes, and also to share some results, either right results or difficulties you may have,” said Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability and Institutional Affairs Officer at Kering.
 

Even if the watch industry doesn’t pollute that much by itself, we still need to be in accordance with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations. The Watch & Jewellery Initiative proposes not only to build climate resistance and preserve resources, but also ensure inclusive and responsible value chains.

“Watches and jewelry are discretionary objects: we don’t need them, but we buy them. Swiss made has to become beautifully Swiss made, thus be transparent,” explained Cyrille Vigneron, CEO of Cartier, at Watch Forum 2022. He insists that supply chains should become fully “clean,” believing the customer needs to know where exactly the stone comes from and what the company has done to ensure that all the stones have been ethically and humanely sourced.
 

The Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030 seems to be a great starting point to generalize the standards and make them known to the public. However, in order to be successful, it needs to eliminate any suspicions of greenwashing it may raise

Embracing Good Practices

The Watch Forum 2022 also provided attendees with a few concrete examples of sustainability strategies currently in use in the watch industry.

For instance, the CMO and chair of the sustainability committee for IWC, Franziska Gsell-Etterlin, highlighted the fact that IWC’s journey started ten years ago when the brand launched a series of assessments of its value chain, raw materials, and suppliers. Then, five years ago, the brand established its own sustainability committee to publicize that IWC’s business decisions are sustainable. Moreover, employee bonuses are also linked to sustainability, meaning each department has an extra incentive to meet its sustainability goals.
 

Rolf Studer, Co-CEO of Oris, also shared the independent brand’s efforts to become climate neutral. Oris’ strategy was certified by the world’s leading independent climate action experts ClimatePartner, which calculated the company’s carbon footprint, taking into account carbon emissions like heating the factory and employee commutes.

Other examples include how brands such as Panerai and Ulysse Nardin are embracing the idea of circular economies and looking to better understand how the relationship between markets, customers, and natural resources can benefit the watch industry and the climate.
 

“It’s a fundamental shift in mindsets from the linear economic model that we have used for the last 200 years,” Irene Martinetti, Circular Economy Manager at World Business Council for Sustainable Development, explained at Watch Forum 2022. “[The linear economic model] is ‘take – make – sell’ and, of course, ‘take – make – waste,’ which is highly resource inefficient (recovering only less than 9% of the resources we were using). A circular economic model, which is highly resource efficient, keeps materials in use as long as it makes sense.”
 

Final Thoughts

After listening to numerous experts and panelists at the Watch Forum 2022, these are the most important takeaways:

     • While sustainability goals should be backed by a sincere intention, any strategies to improve a brand’s sustainability need to have measurable data and a clear deadline.

     • Making your business sustainable is about implementing a coherent strategy and taking concrete action, not greenwashing via marketing.

     • Finally, making all data and sourcing standards open, thus being 100% transparent not only with the customers, but also with the employees.
 

(Images © The Watch Forum)

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