Sustainability – A big word with a lot of meaning. In October I had the pleasure to go to the Vogue Next Event in Munich. Tomorrow revolves around sustainability, digitization, diversity and courage for visions. And it was precisely these topics that prominent guests and experts at the Vogue Next Event spoke about, among other things, how sustainability can be lived in fashion.
A pioneer in sustainability: The watch manufacturer in the luxury segment – Breitling. I had the pleasure to speak to the Head of Sustainability at Breitling, Aurelia Figueroa, about sustainability and related issues.
Aurelia, you are Global Head of Sustainability at Breitling, what is your personal mission for Breitling?
My personal mission for sustainability at Breitling is a shared and inclusive approach to develop our sustainability pillars of product, planet, people, prosperity and progress in a meaningful manner that creates shared value for all our stakeholders. It is these five pillars upon which our sustainability mission is based. It is furthermore oriented according to the material topics defined by our stakeholders.
What is Breitling’s mission in regard to Sustainability in the future?
To further our sustainability mission, we will continue to work across the pillars Product, Planet, People, Prosperity and Progress – and importantly, the intersectionality among these subjects. In our product pillar, we’re improving the social and environmental impact of our products and services, sourcing artisanal and small-scale gold, lab-grown diamonds, and upcycled packaging and straps. We are rolling out blockchain backed provenance records and engaging our suppliers to increase sustainability performance.
In our planet pillar, we’re reducing our environmental footprint, transitioning to renewable energy, and eliminating plastic waste across operations. We align our efforts with key international frameworks and offset all our carbon emissions along the way.
For our people, we keep improving working environments for all the people in all our squads. We take action on equal pay and provide training, coaching, and volunteering opportunities. We are recognized as a top 10 employer in Switzerland.
To support prosperity, we’re creating shared value with the communities we work with, together with our partners Swiss Better Gold Association, Qhubeka, Solar Impulse Foundation, Ocean Conservancy, and SUGi to support social inclusion and environmental recovery.
And we share our progress with everyone. We transparently report on our sustainability progress in an annual Sustainability Mission Report, the first in the industry aligned to the WEF IBC Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics. Our approach is further outlined in greater detail in the 2022 Breitling Sustainability Mission Report.
For a watch brand, you work with gold and other materials, what do you do to be “sustainable” as a brand regarding precious metal?
The key material topics we keep in mind when it comes to materials sourcing are social impacts along the value chain, environmental impacts along the value chain, and product integrity. Our engagement for sustainability now manifests itself on the wrist in the Super Chronomat 38 Origins, the first watch to provide fully traceable gold and diamonds backed with third-party verification of environmental and social measures taken all along the supply chain along with chain of custody. This is made transparent both to the customer as an enriched blockchain certificate and to the public in our Super Chronomat 38 Origins Sourcemap. This is not a one-off – this is the tangible vision of how all Breitling watches will be made by 2025.
Sustainability has become more and more important in the past years, what changes have we already reached or improved and which aspects are important for the future?
I think from a general societal perspective, an important accomplishment we have made is raising awareness on sustainability such that it is now a part of the global lexicon. What now remains is the challenge to really place this global dialogue into concrete and tangible action.
At Breitling, to take just one example, we have taken tangible action to shift our sourcing practices in a paradigmatic and industry-leading manner. We made the switch to responsible and traceable lab-grown diamonds in order to enable product integrity and social and environmental impact along the value chain. To do so, we partner with SCS Global Services, which has developed the industry leading SCS-007 Sustainability Rated Diamonds Standard. Our entire supply chain must adhere to this protocol, which certifies performance across five key aspects: ESG achievement, climate neutrality, sustainable production practices with net-zero impact, comprehensive origin traceability, and sustainability investments that support vulnerable communities and further reduce net impacts. At the same time, we are the first and only brand to commit to sourcing 100% Swiss Better Gold to enable sustainable development along the artisanal and small-scale gold value chain.
This is further complemented by our inclusion of our gold and diamond value chains on our publicly available Sourcemap. This provides relevant information concerning supply chain partner sustainability performance in an easily accessible manner. Super Chronomat 38 Origins watch owners furthermore receive a blockchain-backed NFT which details the origins of the precious materials in their watch.
This is only one of many systemic changes we have already achieved at Breitling, with more to come in the near future. What is important about it is that we have tangibly translated our sustainability vision into action that will guide our path ahead.
As the word itself but also the actions become more important, how can sustainability be positioned as a form of status symbol?
Indeed, the intersection of status and sustainability is a key aspect. Both in my role as Global Head of Sustainability at Breitling and Catalyst of collaboratio helvetica, I take this as a key starting point from which to consider our ultimate objectives. The luxury industry is an important contributor to the societal notions and definitions of status and I believe one of the most important impulses we can provide in this regard is co-associating high quality, high value products like Breitling watches with social and environmental impact along the value chain, two key aspects in which a luxury brand can make a meaningful and systemic contribution to sustainability.
You have been committed to sustainability for many years, what do you recommend to each individual but also to large companies?
Sustainability I believe is very personal. For this reason, and in order to ensure a resilient engagement by any individual or company, I recommend that each fundamentally assess their values and determine how these can be practically acted upon in a tangible manner. In this way, we can act in a way that is aligned with our values and develop authentic approaches to address this leading global challenge of our time.