Ever since I got my ears pierced in 2019, I started aggressively shopping for earrings. They are all so beautifully made and I loved the way it all matched my outfits. One of the main jewelry brands that I encountered during this search was Swarovski. These luxurious and high-end earrings are beautiful but definitely not ones I want to purchase because they are so expensive! However, just because I don’t buy from Swarovski doesn’t mean I won’t review it for its sustainability. Surely, with its price tag, it should not harm us or our Earth right? Well, let’s review!
Just from the information on their website, it is difficult to tell whether the sustainability claims are accurate or not. But I found that Swarvoski does provide a Sustainability Report, so I checked the sustainability report for 2019 to understand the initiatives and methods that Swarovski uses. It turns out that the sustainability report provides much detailed information about the general creation process of the Swarovski diamonds and also lists the specific standards that Swarovski uses to evaluate the sustainability of their products. It would save a lot of confusion as I navigated from the website to the sustainability report if the sustainability report is easier to find on the main website. Anyways, diving into the sustainability report, I found that the Swarovski-created crystals are actually made of carefully sourced materials such as “sand, quartz and minerals” (Sustainability Report). There are also certifications that Swarvoski received for their sourcing methods and sustainability.
Adding on to the previous statement, Swarovski put in a few pages describing their sustainable sourcing plans. The sourcing plan is much more specific and has a few certifications attached to it. For example, Swarovski claimed that “In 2018, we transitioned 100% of our topaz sourcing to traceable sources. Our Swarovski Genuine Topaz is responsibly sourced from artisanal mining communities in Sri Lanka and a mining co-operative in Rondônia, Brazil. [...] In Brazil, these stones are all traceable back to the single pit they were extracted from. By buying at market price and exporting topaz, a by-product of tin-mining, we help workers legalize and diversify their income” (Swarovski Report). This is great information because it means that Swarovski is actively keeping their sourcing sustainable and even though the transition was fairly recent, they still put in the effort to reform their sourcing methods. They were able to get certified with ISO 14001 in 2018, ISO 5001 in 2018, and many more with exact timelines and dates. ISO 14001 is the “international system for environmental management systems” (NQA.com). Most of the time when a company gets certified with ISO 14001, it means that the company must comply with legal restrictions and regulations. Therefore, it is safe to say that Swarovski has strict standards regarding where and how they source their materials.
The sourcing, manufacturing, and production process are assessed by Swarvoski and they were able to receive certification for their sustainability measurements. The manufacturing process of the Swarvoski crystals requires the use of water, which was indicated by the 2019 Sustainability Report. Swarovski specifically pointed out that their water resource is located in Tyrolean, Austria and that 76% of their water is recycled. In their report, they also said that they are closely following WWF’s 2013 stewardship ladder, which is the World Wildlife Fund. There are some controversies surrounding the WWF international. According to TheGuardian, the WWF international was accused of “greenwashing” the companies that they work with. In Swarovski’s case, I do not think this applies because they aren’t working with the WWF and is just using the WWF’s water stewardship ladder to evaluate their water resource. It is great that Swarovski is using a specific set of standards that they are using to evaluate their water source.
Some direct implementation of their sustainability goals in the manufacturing process is switching to glass burners that use “oxygen fuel technology” (Sustainability Report). I didn’t know what “oxygen fuel technology” did for the environment but the definition appeared right after I was confused. Based on the sustainability report, “ They melt crystal glass, significantly reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions compared to conventional air combustion. Additionally, the burners save 10 tons of dust per year – an 80% reduction from the previous process. Filter dust is classified as hazardous waste, so this reduces our waste disposal footprint.” I think these sentences are enough to understand the cutting-edge technology that Swarvoski is using to reduce its carbon emissions. Not only that, but they are also transparent about the next steps they are taking such as researching ways to increase recycling and reduce waste in the company.
Swarovski invests in their people because the people work to source all of their materials and design their jewelry. In their designer's program, they teach the designer's sustainability thinking so they can build sustainable products. Additionally, Swarovski also takes care of their employees and encourages their employees to open up about the challenges that they are facing. For example, they understand that many of their employees are from rural areas with many natural disasters. Therefore, they established the Asia Disaster Preparedness Center to work on “ economic empowerment, financial literacy, and inclusion in India, Vietnam, and Thailand. At the same time, we can help our employees understand their rights. In our external supply chain, we are also taking steps to understand employees’ challenges.” (Sustainability Report) I see the effort that Swarovski is putting into understanding their employees and protecting their employees. They have also established a Responsible Sourcing Initiative to monitor and manage working conditions and employee success. I wonder how the employees themselves feel about this and whether the institution itself actually helped the employees’ lives in some way. It will be nice to include testimonials from actual employees to assess the effectiveness of these efforts!