December 1, 2023

Since becoming a member of the Swiss watchmaker Breitling in April 2020, Aurelia Figueroa has overseen what many individuals within the watch commerce have described as one of many business’s most ambitious efforts to trace, document and transform a supply chain, launching a traceable watch and dealing to hit particular emission discount targets.

An instance of that focus is the model’s third annual sustainability report, a 78-page doc launched in September. It detailed, amongst different issues: the sources of the corporate’s greenhouse gasoline emissions; the mines and refineries the place its gold is produced and processed; and the quantity of lab-grown diamonds that it had bought in fiscal 12 months 2023, which ended March 31 (5,624 carats).

Throughout a video interview final month from the Breitling workplace in Zurich, Ms. Figueroa, 40, the model’s world director of sustainability, talked about how working within the luxurious watch business differs from her earlier jobs, why recycled gold is just not essentially an excellent factor and what the business ought to deal with if it hopes to make progress in sustainability. The interview has been condensed and edited for readability.

You spent six years researching sustainable enterprise practices earlier than you segued into the posh world in 2016, becoming a member of IWC as a senior company sustainability supervisor. What was that transition like?

It was a extremely dramatic shift. On one of many important tasks I had been engaged on, I used to be conducing empirical research in Nairobi, Kenya, the place I used to be interviewing households with the first breadwinner making about $2 a day. I noticed folks shopping for toothpaste by the squeeze as a result of they couldn’t afford a tube.

I went from a setting like that to the posh watch business, the place a purchase order of $10,000 to $20,000 is possibly not a giant funding resolution for some folks. And this was one thing I actually needed to grapple with — am I comfy in doing this? However I made a decision the business has such a task in shaping societal notions of standing that it’s completely one thing to interact in.

You labored on Breitling’s first sustainability report, which was revealed in fall 2021, within the midst of the pandemic. How did that have an effect on what you targeted on?

As a result of the pandemic was raging by means of Latin America, folks had been in some instances turning to unlawful mining so as to have the ability to feed their households. Consequently, we noticed an enormous uptick in Amazonian deforestation at the moment. That is what we had been discussing as we ready the report. These are world challenges, and so they’re occurring no matter your resolution to supply recycled gold. Simply since you’re sourcing 1 kilogram of recycled doesn’t imply that any person is just not getting into the Amazon River basin, contributing to unlawful logging and eradicating mineral so as to have the ability to put meals on the desk.

In October 2022, Breitling launched its first “traceable” watch, the Tremendous Chronomat Computerized 38 Origins. Will the remainder of the gathering quickly be traceable?

We’re going about it reference by reference, and we’ve now launched the Origins label that applies to watches for which the gold and/or diamonds are adhering to those ideas. And the newest assortment to be launched with them was the Navitimer 32 and 36.

What do you suppose watchmakers must prioritize in the event that they’re critical about sustainability?

The true place to begin for me is transparency — significant transparency. In some sustainability experiences, throughout all industries, I discover knowledge dumps, the place it’s like, “Right here’s a ton of data. Now we have 500 factories all over the world; that is how a lot power they’re utilizing.” OK, thanks, however how am I alleged to digest this? Are you able to simply inform me concerning the carbon along with the power?

It’s additionally speaking concerning the matters which have influence. A typical matter I reference is recycling. At Breitling, all of the metal we use for the watches and built-in environments [boutiques] accounts for 1 % of our carbon emissions. It issues, sure, however for us to discuss recycled nonetheless, we’d be avoiding the elephant within the room, which for our business is the gold sourcing. I’ve been seeing claims about traceable recycled gold. Sadly, they’ll’t each be occurring. If it’s recycled gold, you can’t really say the place it originated.

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