Ethical Business of the Year 2019
After a year of taking the company apart and then putting it back together in a more responsible and transparent way we were thrilled to be awarded Ethical Business of The Year.
Initially we entered this category of The Retail Jewellery Awards as a way of putting our name forward and getting our message out, with really no expectation of winning. However the judges seemed to like what we had achieved and we had the following feedback;
“Judges were impressed by this winners’ efforts, ideas and initiatives saying they must be recognised for their commitment and dedication to making their business as sustainable as possible.”
In an effort to be as transparent as possible we thought we would share our answers to the questions set by the organisers. As a side note this was undertaken back in February so some things have advanced since then!
Do you have a strategy in place to address the social and environmental impact of your business, what issues does this cover and how is it monitored? (max 200 words) *
Since we started in 1997, we have endeavored to be a positive influence on the jewellery industry. Forerunners in ethical diamonds, recycling, and the first company to make and register a piece of Fairtrade Jewellery. We are proud of what we have achieved but want to go much further. In 2018 we embarked on a journey to be more transparent and responsible in our business. Working with external experts we created a strategy (attached) which we have been implementing within the different roles and with agreed timescales. These include;
Create jewellery made from materials that are sourced responsibly, giving back to the people who produce them and protecting the environment, without compromising on style.
•One-page due diligence process for checking materials are responsibly sourced
•Deposal of harmful chemicals
•Office recycling and food composting
•All staff have committed to commuting via public transport, walking or cycling
•Celebrate the fact we are an organisation with many women in leadership roles.
•Support the community around us by continuing to offer apprenticeships and giving to charitable causes.
•Provide a supportive work environment so our staff are happy and empowered to do their jobs well, and to support future talent to grow in the industry.
What steps do you take to ensure you operate a fully transparent supply chain? (max 200 words) *
We have spent the past few months working with all suppliers to understand how we can work towards a fully traceable supply chain. Using questionnaires followed by face to face meetings we have been able to evaluate which suppliers are able to provide traceability and which need to improve. In the workshop this has led to working with new suppliers for our coloured stones - such Nineteen 48 and Fairtrade Gemstones and diamonds through Canada Rock. As we are fortunate to manufacture on the premises, we are well placed to monitor what materials we use and where they have been sourced. As part of this process within our workshop we now only use recycled silver and recycled gold or Fairtrade gold. E.C.One also shows work from 30+ designer makers. Some of these designers are ethically focused such as Sorrel Bay and Pyrrha but others are not yet. With this in mind, we have created a sourcing policy that governs the way we procure new brands and encourages existing suppliers to improve the way they work.
Do you run routine training programmes with your staff around ethics in your business? If so, what do these involve? (max 200 words) *
As a small business with just 10 employees we are able to engage with the team, share ideas, and work together on how we can do business better. In 2018, Jos, one of the founders, initially wrote a manifesto on how we should be refocussing our business with a more responsible outlook. The rest of the team were encouraged to read, ask questions and critique on what was being suggested. To help implement some of the ideas we brought in consultants Vanessa and Victoria from V.V. Collective for a brainstorming day before agreeing our responsibility strategy. We have also been working with Annabel Panes from Little by Little Jewellery to help us set up systems and introduce us to other ethical suppliers. With Annabel’s assistance the company meets monthly to consider both as a business and as individuals our social and environmental impact. It is an important opportunity to discuss current systems and how they can be improved. At our last meeting it was decided that we would no longer use plastic poly bags in the shop or workshop but acid free tissue instead. This has now been implemented and is a small example of how we work better together.
What kind of schemes have you introduced to promote the ethical work of your business to the end consumer? (max 200 words) *
We have spent a large part of 2018 looking at how we can be better at what we do. It hasn’t felt appropriate to brag about our ethical credentials until we were sure that we were heading in the right direction. However, as our confidence grows and our systems develop we have been sharing our story through social media and instore events. In November we celebrated 21 years as a business and invited 50 of our most loyal clients to a party in the store. As part of the leaving gift we hand made a silver key on a chain which was completely fashioned from recycled silver and packaged in a recycled box. We included some text around our intention and asked that they would pass the news on to their friends. We had a very positive Christmas period as a result. Our ‘founders’ email’ from Jos and his partner Alison is sent once a month to our database of 5000 subscribers. Recently entitled “I am responsible” Jos talks about his ethical journey and links the story to our responsibility page on our website. Instagram and Facebook have also been used to talk about the changes happening within the company.
Do you work with any organisations e.g. Fair Trade or trade bodies around ethics? (max 200 words) *
EC One is recognised for certifying the first piece of Fairtrade Fairmined jewellery in the UK – a gold wedding ring made in February 2011 and we are proud to be associated with the Fairtrade organisation and use their system to offer Fairtrade gold to our customers.
The team has had several meetings with Edward from The Responsible Jewellery Council and after some skepticism and due diligence we are now in the process of becoming full members.
In July 2018, we contacted the B-Corporation to look at their certification. Certified B Corporations meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. The aim is to show how your business is creating a material positive impact on society and the environment through its business and operations. Although fairly new to the UK, globally there are 2,500 companies that have been certified including giants such as Patagonia and Ben and Jerrys. It is the only certification that measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance. We are currently in the process of certification and are hoping to be the first UK jewellers certified within the next few months.
Do you know where the materials, for example the gold or gemstones, in your jewellery/watches come from and how do you guarantee the provenance? (max 200 words) *
As discussed above we are a manufacturing jeweller with the majority of our sales from bespoke work. This enables us to have a better idea of the provenance of the materials we use. Although we are determined to be able to trace from the mine to the finished piece, it would be disingenuous to say that all our materials are currently fully traceable. We have committed to only working in Fairtrade or recycled gold and in the majority, we source our coloured gemstones from companies such as Nineteen48 and Fairtrade Gems. We are excited that one our team is travelling to see the mines in Sri Lanka in February 2019. We also encourage our customers to bring in their own gold, remodel existing pieces, using broken or ‘bad relationship’ jewellery so that the impact on the environment is at an absolute minimum. We have sought to establish new relationships for our Diamonds through ForeverMark, Canada Rock, and GIA Debeers only stones - where the source is known. We have also purchased several lab-grown diamonds from Madestones for our stock pieces and are educating our customers so that they can made an informed choice in this exciting new material.