How to run a sustainable business in an age of disposable fashion — from the co-president of Chopard

Sustainability is an issue for every business, and the luxury watch market no different. Karl-Friedrich Scheufele explains Chopard's pioneering changes

Across the table in the basement of Mayfair’s George Club, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, co-president and brother to fellow co-president of Chopard, is explaining the importance of sustainability.

A pioneer in the watch world, Scheufele led Chopard’s charge to become a true watch manufacturer in 1996 when he championed the creation of a full in-house movement. But today, sustainability is the issue of the moment, and the 60-year-old’s new passion project.

In his own words, he shared the importance of implementing a sustainable and ethical gold policy across all watches and jewellery at the family-owned manufacturer. 

Sustainability is not only reserved for big industrial concerns. It’s something we can be mindful of when comes to luxury products. Our products and watches are sustainable already to an extent in that they last a long time and are not discarded.

We looked at the sourcing of the raw materials and said that we could do something about this. That’s why we got into these fair mind gold issues and we recently came out and said that we will only be using ethical gold. That is gold that is fair mined gold or gold that is sourced in a responsible way for all of our products.

A beautiful watch is supposed to give you pleasure. It gives you even more pleasure knowing that it has been produced – and the raw materials sourced – in a responsible way.

The younger generations especially are concerned about it. It goes onto food, to wine and also to luxury items like leather good and watches.

Without refineries and suppliers we would not have been able to pull this off. Out fair mined approach, which was covering less than 10% of gold supply, really woke up some of our big suppliers. They saw that they could market sustainably sourced gold. Without suppliers who were working in the right direction this would not have worked.

Honestly speaking, we didn’t feel any market pressure. I think I can safely say we were kind of pioneers in doing this. So what has happened now is that we are putting our colleagues under pressure as they have not prepared to do this. So now they are trying to get ready to match our standards.

As a family owned and run company we have one advantage. We can plan things for the long run and we can therefore afford to invest into a process or a project like the manufacture for 10 or 15 or even 20 years to come. For other companies who have to show investors and shareholders results every quarter or at least every year it’s more difficult for them to do this.

We were convinced ourselves that this was the right way to go. In both cases. I think as a company its important to be a pioneer in the front row that follow the others.

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