Experts discuss how companies can use technology to make their businesses more socially responsible with sustainable goals.
Most businesses with a fundamental grasp of digital technology understand its benefits in tracking progress against its sustainable goals. Yet, they worry about the risks of privacy breaches. Digital technology, while a tremendous boon to success, must successfully manage sustainability challenges. Mitigating the risks while advancing its benefits is an ongoing mission that hasn’t yet been resolved.
Digitalized technology dominates every aspect of modern life. Online shopping and banking, along with myriad social media platforms, desensitize us to the risks involved. “We find all that normal, and do not always realize the risks of hacking, phishing, identity theft or online fraud,” notes Erik A. Jens, founder and CEO of LuxuryFintech.
“Lenders, banks and investors use ESG [Environmental, Social, Governance] portfolio strategies to allocate their resources. Unsustainable companies will become unbankable, uninsurable, and without (political) friends,” says Patrick Slavenburg, Advisor on AI and ESG to the EU Commission. Looking to the jewelry
trade, he adds, “On the other hand, those jewelry businesses that can prove they perform better than
the industry average will be rewarded with lower capital and insurance costs.”
ESG has broad implications within the jewelry trade. Pritesh Patel, GIA senior vice-president and chief operating officer, asserts that the institution is making impactful strides in key areas of ESG sustainability. With a focus on reducing environmental impact, “GIA is moving to all digital reports by 2025, saving 20 tons of paper and 18.5 tons of plastic each year, and reducing transportation-related carbon emissions,” he explains. But the sustainable solutions extend far outside the institution itself. “Providing artisanal miners in Africa with basic gemological knowledge so they can derive greater benefit from the gems they mine is a tremendous value added to the residents in these mining regions,” Patel adds. He says GIA is also committed to “bringing greater transparency to the supply chain with verified diamond origin information through the GIA Diamond Origin Report and GIA Source Verification Service.”
Creating confidence in consumers that their purchase is authentic and responsibly sourced is essential today. “Another example, unique in the colored gemstone business is Greenland Ruby,” notes Jens. As the first Responsible Jewellery Council member in the colored gemstone sector, “it tracks each stone from mine to market with RubyCloud, and includes a certificate of authenticity,” he affirms, adding that besides
building trust with a consumer, this tracking adds to the company’s story.
Energy savings, though hard to generalize, can come from practical efforts, Slavenburg offers. “Jewelry retailers can reduce their monthly energy costs to virtually zero with a one-time installation of CAPEX type solar panels. Rooftop solar is a visual cue that they walk the walk when discussing sustainable diamonds, recycled gold, or ethically mined artisanal gemstones. It’s not only worth a price premium but also an increase in CLV Customer Lifetime Value] as well,” he stresses.
“The biggest mistake medium and large businesses in our industry are making is thinking that they can run an analog business in a digital world,” states Elle Hill, founder and CEO of Hill & Co. “Basic business tenets do not change when it comes to how to grow a business, but the tools we use to hasten and streamline growth have changed dramatically.”
Hill claims many businesses don’t understand why they’re encountering slowing growth. “When we take even a cursory look at the organization and how it is attempting to grow, we see that they are racing bullet trains on bicycles,” she confides. They are running their businesses on excel files with no technology
to support operations, such as CRM [Customer Relationship Management], integration software or workflow automations. She observes companies, “often running their businesses on excel files without
standard operating procedures memorialized or worse, no knowledge of what a workflow is.”
Hill sees opportunities to effectively support sustainability within the digital space. “It is our job as business leaders to do the work of understanding the new tools so we can serve our teams, our customers, and the greater community better,” she declares. “Expecting growth to keep pace with businesses that are supporting systems and operations with today’s tools is foolish. Who would say, ‘no, thanks, I don’t need a match…I’ll just keep rubbing these sticks together?’ Many business leaders are doing just that by not embracing technology to underpin operations.”
In the end, Jens concludes, “technology will be an enormous enabler when we talk about security, provenance, authenticity, traceability, and knowing and proving what is right or wrong independently and immutably.”