When it comes to integrating sustainable practices into your business, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Which is why jewelry sustainability consultant Christina Miller developed a short (but jam-packed) online course, Foundations for Sustainable Jewelry Practices, designed to help jewelers implement responsible and sustainable business practices that create positive impacts.
We caught up with Miller to ask her about the course, and how business owners can start their sustainability journeys.
The Zing Report: How did you come to develop this course?
Christina Miller: I come from an education background, so education is second nature to me, and we really wanted a way to put information about sustainability in people’s hands directly so they could learn it at their own pace in the comfort of their homes.
Why is this important? And why has the jewelry industry and our retailers been so slow to go in this direction?
Our largest impact is at the beginning of our supply chain—how materials are mined. Sure, we have impact when it comes to shipping and the energy and fuel that’s used there. We have impacts when it comes to our manufacturing and the greenhouse gas emissions at those facilities. We have impacts at our individual stores. But a lot of our impacts are less visible than the conventional things that come to mind when we think about sustainability. We think solar, we think electric cars, but we don’t necessarily think about the impact our material supply chain is having on our ability to deliver a greener world. We can do better, and this course feels like an encouraging way for people to get involved in responsible sourcing.
So, can we think of this as sort of a grassroots beginning initiative for the industry?
Yes. The retail jeweler is the front line for communicating with consumers, and we know that there’s increased interest in these issues among consumers. So, how do you answer questions in a knowledgeable and forthright way about where materials in the jewelry industry come from? What do you need to know?
Do you sense that the bigger players back up the supply chain, the mining entities in particular—and the jewelry manufacturers—are aware of your activities? And do they feel that if consumers and retailers adopt some of these measures that will put more pressure on them to get involved or to do similar activities?
We have a lot of room for improvement in the industry in terms of leveraging our supply chain relationships to create positive realities all along that supply chain. We are challenged by economics, we’re challenged by consumer perceptions around price, we’re challenged by the fact that gold, for example, is a commodity. So, we have a lot of things that challenge us in this industry, but increasingly we have opportunities to source our materials from supply chains that are being made ever more transparent.
What are some preliminary steps that an independent jewelry retailer can take, in addition to taking the course, if they’re eager to become more sustainable in their business practices?
The basics are the most obvious—do an inventory on your own energy use if you have a physical store. You pay your electric bill, but you may not be aware of where your energy comes from and what the type of energy is supplying that electricity. We know we need to shift away from fossil fuel energy sources, so doing the research to investigate where that energy is coming from is a starting point.
When it comes to your inventory, start working with your primary suppliers. Check with the suppliers with whom you are doing the most business and leverage that relationship to ask for transparency on where the materials are coming from—your diamonds, your gemstones, your gold, your silver, your platinum.
What about the course specifically? Is it a scheduled course or how does it work?
It’s easy, you can do it whenever you want to do it. It’s…designed for any learning type, and you can watch the video, you can read the transcript, you can download the handouts, you can take notes, you can re-watch—there are no limitations on how you consume it. We offer discounts for bulk purchases, so if you want your team to take it, come talk to us. —Marty Hurwitz