How Ethical Is Cartier Jewelry? A Supply Chain Analysis

How Ethical Is Cartier Jewelry? A Supply Chain Analysis

By
Carla Shaik

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French luxury jewelry and watch brand Cartier was founded in Paris in 1847 after Louis-Francois Cartier took over his father’s workshop. Today, the company is considered to be one of the world’s most esteemed jewelry design brands in the world, known for their exquisite pieces. However, much less is known about their ethics and sustainability practices. So, we had to ask: How ethical is Cartier jewelry? 

There are elements of the Cartier business model that are ethical and sustainable, such as the development of LEED facilities. However, a lack of transparency in mining practices and supplier audits suggests that major improvements still need to be made. 

In this article, we will walk you through the steps of the Cartier supply chain, from sourcing materials and the manufacturing process to retailing and recycling. We will analyze each process and determine the ethics of each stage so that you can make informed choices when you buy your next piece of precious jewelry.

Here’s How Assessed the Ethics of Cartier Jewelry

The global jewelry market is expected to increase from about $270 billion in 2022 to over $330 billion by 2026. And Cartier is a leader in the industry with an annual revenue of around $6 billion through their 200 boutiques in 125 countries

Ethics: the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation”

Merriam Webster

To understand the ethics of Cartier jewelry, we must assess the ethics across their whole supply chain. This supply chain analysis (VCA) is a method to evaluate each stage’s ethics; from sourcing the raw materials from their suppliers to delivering the final product to you as a customer.

The supply chain stages of Cartier jewelryEach stage’s ethics
Sourcing of Cartier jewelrySupply chain transparency: Cartier is not fully transparent about their supply chain. Instead, they rely on external companies to showcase their commitment to transparency and sustainability, including the Responsible Jewelry Council, as well as their umbrella corporation Richemont

Sourcing location(s): Cartier states that they “source their materials with careful, responsible consideration.” However, the exact sourcing of the majority of their materials is undisclosed.

Human rights: Cartier relies on third-party auditors and comprehensive policies to carry out their human rights responsibility. However, specific worker grievances and working conditions are not disclosed. 

Conflict diamonds: Due to the age of the company, Cartier is likely to have a history of sourcing conflict diamonds. However, in recent years they have taken steps to reduce this risk.

Environmental impact: Cartier has joined the Responsible Luxury Initiative and supports small-scale mines that utilize traditional mining methods to reduce their environmental impact. They also provide grants to conservation organizations to offset their impact on a global scale. 

Societal impact: Cartier is dedicated to encouraging diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. However, their mining strategies and publicity stunts have come under scrutiny due to the disrespect caused to indigenous communities. 
Manufacturing of Cartier jewelryManufacturing location(s): Cartier manufactures most of their jewelry and watches at their factories in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. However, in recent years they have opened up more sites in Italy and France with a bigger focus on sustainable energy usage. 

Transparency vs marketing: All Cartier jewelry is handcrafted, with employees receiving intense training through their 11 manufacturing sites. In recent years, they have built new facilities that receive their energy requirements through solar and hydroelectric panels, lowering their overall carbon footprint. 
Retailing of Cartier jewelryUnethical marketing messages: Cartier has been accused of violating the rights of indigenous Amazonian tribes through their advertising strategies and gold mining processes. This suggests that there is potential bluewashing in Cartier’s marketing. 

Operational margins: Cartier’s umbrella corporation, Richemont, achieved an operating profit margin of 17.7% in 2022. This is slightly higher than the average of 15.9% for the luxury sector. Cartier offers their employees a decent wage that is slightly lower than the national average, depending on job title. 

Life-cycle duration: Cartier doesn’t state the life-cycle expectancy of their jewelry. However, they do encourage customers to meticulously care for their pieces to prevent damage. Cartier only offers 30-day warranties but repairs can be performed for an additional cost. 

As we can see from the chart above, Cartier has taken steps to improve their sustainability practices. However, there appears to be an element of bluewashing, especially as they do not disclose specific information about where they source their raw materials. 

How Ethical Is the Sourcing of Cartier Jewelry

To determine how ethical the sourcing of Cartier jewelry is, we need to dig into how their products are mined, as well as how transparent they are about their processes. Does the company take steps to ensure miners are treated with respect? Do they only mine materials from sustainable sources? These are some of the things we need to know in order to determine if the sourcing of Cartier jewelry is ethical.

In this next section, we will break down the ethics of Cartier into their transparency, material sourcing, and human rights responsibilities. From there, you can make informed choices to ensure that you are only buying your jewelry from the most sustainable companies. 

How Transparent Is Cartier Jewelry About Their Whole Supply Chain

Cartier is not fully transparent about their supply chain. Instead, they rely on external companies to showcase their commitment to transparency and sustainability, including the Responsible Jewelry Council, as well as their umbrella corporation Richemont

In short, Cartier has not been historically transparent about their operations. They rely heavily on audits from third-party companies and responsible sourcing programs like the Kimberley Process. 

Where Are Materials for Cartier Jewelry Sourced From

Cartier states that they “source their materials with careful, responsible consideration.” However, the exact sourcing of the majority of their materials is undisclosed.

  • Diamonds: Cartier sources most of their diamonds from RJC-certified companies but specific suppliers and mines are not published. The company relies heavily on the Kimberley Process certification system which states that mined diamonds must be exported in sealed containers with numbered, government-issued certificates of origin. However, the Kimberley Process has been criticized in recent years due to a number of loopholes in the scheme. One of these loopholes suggests that the process applies to batches of diamonds rather than individual stones. A lack of strict enforcement has also been noted. Since 2003, Cartier has required a Statement of Warranty for every diamond invoice they receive. 
  • Gold: Cartier sources an unknown portion of their gold from a small mine in Honduras. This gold is fully traceable and refined in a facility in Italy that is solely dedicated to processing gold from the mine. In addition, Cartier has been known to source gold from a Peruvian gold mine that has been certified against Fairtrade and Fairmind standards. Cartier states that all their gold suppliers have committed in writing to responsible gold sourcing methods. Furthermore, they have a long-standing partnership with the Swiss Better Gold Association, supporting responsibly produced gold from small-scale mines. 
  • Gemstones: Cartier only selects natural gemstones for their jewelry. Synthetic and imitation materials are excluded. Only traditional practices are accepted for stone treatments in jewelry but the exact locations of the mines they source from are unknown. In December 2017, Cartier decided to stop buying gemstones that may have been mined in Myanmar due to reports of poorly conducted operations and human casualties. Cartier now requires confirmation on all shipments that the gemstones were not mined in Myanmar. 
  • Other materials: In 2009, Cartier joined the Responsible Luxury Initiative (ReLI) to show their commitment to advancing sustainable sourcing practices. They state that all of their paper and packaging is sourced from responsibly managed forests and that two of their iconic packaging products—the Cartier red bag and red gift boxes—are subject to a full lifecycle assessment. However, there is no mention of silver or copper sourcing

In short, Cartier utilizes material sourcing guidelines, such as the Kimberley Process, to ensure they mine materials responsibly. However, information on the exact mines and processes are not available to the public.

How Does Cartier Carry Out Their Human Rights Responsibility

Cartier relies on third-party auditors and comprehensive policies to carry out their human rights responsibility. However, specific worker grievances and working conditions are not disclosed. 

  • Forced labor prevention: Cartier’s human rights commitments are integrated into the Richemont core policies, with the exception of their Corporate Responsibility Policy. These documents state that the company will not tolerate or profit from any abusive act. Their Supplier Code of Conduct was also updated in 2021 with a greater focus on grievance mechanisms and whistleblowing, available in 12 languages. In 2007, Cartier launched their Supplier Audit Program. However, this is conducted by third-party companies, suggesting a lack of direct contact with suppliers. 
  • Child labor prevention: A report entitled ‘The Hidden Cost of Jewelry’ conducted by the Human Rights Watch in 2019 documents the responses and practices of 13 global jewelry companies in relation to child labor and poor working conditions. However, two companies declined to comment; Cartier and Harry Winston. In their Corporate Responsibility Policy, Cartier states that they do not engage in the employment of children. However, children over the age of 15 can be employed in ‘well-defined circumstances’.
  • Worker safety: Cartier states that they maintain the highest standards of health and safety. However, they don’t conduct audits of suppliers themselves, and any grievances they receive are not available for the public to view. 
  • Fair labor practices: Cartier is improving fair labor practices in the workplace through the use of the Human Rights Navigator created by the Watch and Jewelry Initiative. This includes generalized guidelines, tools, and insights from experts to prevent human rights violations in company operations. In addition, Cartier launched their Women’s Initiative in 2006, an international entrepreneurship program designed to improve the career prospects of women. 

In short, Cartier relies on generalized policies to ensure human rights are maintained across their supply chain. The company can have a bigger impact and better oversight of the specific worker conditions by conducting their own supplier audits.

Does Cartier Have a History of Sourcing Conflict Diamonds

Due to the age of the company, Cartier is likely to have a history of sourcing conflict diamonds. However, in recent years they have taken steps to reduce this risk.

Conflict diamonds: diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments

United Nations
  • Current situation: Today, Cartier states that “the fight against conflict diamonds is a major priority of our Corporate Responsibility Policy”. In recent years, they have publicly boycotted areas when reports of unfair practices have been reported, such as Zimbabwe and Myanmar. However, they rely on external audits for their suppliers, and as such, they may not know exactly where all of their diamonds come from. 
  • Past problems: Conflict diamonds can be difficult to identify, especially if individual mines can’t be pinpointed. Historically, Cartier has not been transparent about their practices, so it’s unclear whether they have sourced conflict diamonds in the past. Cartier has strongly relied on the Kimberley Process in the sourcing of conflict-free diamonds. However, the process failed to suspend Zimbabwe from the jewelry trade, even after investigations found that the Zimbabwean military had organized the smuggling of diamonds and assaulted other miners.

In short, Cartier seems to be moving in the right direction when it comes to sourcing conflict-free diamonds. However, it’s unclear whether they have knowingly sourced blood diamonds in the past. 

What Is Cartier’s Environmental Impact of Sourcing Their Materials

Cartier has joined the Responsible Luxury Initiative and supports small-scale mines that utilize traditional mining methods to reduce their environmental impact. They also provide grants to conservation organizations to offset their impact on a global scale. 

  • Ecosystem disruption: Cartier believes that real mined diamonds are more unique and desirable than lab-made diamonds. Therefore, there is bound to be some level of ecosystem disruption in the areas they mine. However, they rely on less intensive traditional methods of sourcing gemstones, and they have joined the Responsible Luxury Initiative (ReLI) to showcase their commitment to sustainable sourcing wherever possible. 
  • Land erosion: Cartier provides grants to conservation organizations to repair the damage to ecosystems caused by diamond mining. For example, they are partnering with Rewilding Europe to help nature rebound in Spain’s Iberian highlands and Romania’s Carpathian mountains. However, information is not available on the land erosion caused by Cartier’s mining processes. 
  • Toxic chemicals: Cartier works to minimize the use of hazardous chemicals across their operations, and this is stated as a commitment in their Corporate Responsibility Policy. For example, the Eurocantera gold mine they source from in Honduras doesn’t use cyanide or mercury to extract and process its gold. In addition, Cartier supports small-scale mines that use traditional methods of extraction rather than relying on chemical-heavy processes. 
  • Water usage: Cyanide, sulphuric acid, and mercury are just some of the chemicals used in mining that can seep into local waterways, affecting local communities and surrounding wildlife. In their Corporate Responsibility Policy, Cartier states that “we ensure the efficacy of our business operations by managing our waste and our use of water and energy.” For example, they partnered with mining company Goldlake Group, which uses a zero-discharge water management system in Honduras to prevent the contamination of local water supplies. 

In short, Cartier has showcased their commitment to sustainable sourcing wherever possible. However, they do still have an environmental impact because they source natural materials rather than man-made ones. 

What Is Cartier’s Societal Impact of Sourcing Their Materials

Cartier is dedicated to encouraging diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. However, their mining strategies and publicity stunts have come under scrutiny due to the disrespect caused to indigenous communities. 

In short, Cartier is focused on improving the lives of marginalized communities through grants and support. However, their methods have caused some controversy, particularly when it comes to indigenous communities. 

How Ethical Is the Manufacturing of Cartier Jewelry

All Cartier jewelry is handcrafted, with employees receiving intense training through their 11 manufacturing sites. In recent years, they have built new facilities that receive their energy requirements through solar and hydroelectric panels, lowering their overall carbon footprint. 

The manufacturing of jewelry involves a wide variety of processes that can impact both the environment and the employees. In this section, we break down all the factors in the Cartier manufacturing process that affect their ethical standpoint.

Where Is Cartier Jewelry Manufactured

Cartier manufactures most of their jewelry and watches at their factories in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. However, in recent years they have opened up more sites in Italy and France with a bigger focus on sustainable energy usage. 

  • Manufacturing facilities: Cartier runs 11 manufacturing sites across Switzerland, Italy, and France, with Switzerland being their largest manufacturing region. Their watchmaking and fine jewelry manufacturers employ 1,200 staff from over 30 nationalities across 5 sites in Switzerland. Their main manufacturing site in La Chaux-de-Fonds hosts more than 120 professions, including traditional marquetry and enameling techniques. 
  • Sustainable material usage: Cartier sources their raw materials through certified suppliers to reduce their impact on the environment. However, individual mines are not disclosed to the public. They also use recycled gold wherever possible. In addition, they run a manufacturing laboratory in Couvet to test and develop new technologies that improve traceability and optimize processes in jewelry manufacturing. 
  • Carbon footprint: In 2023, Cartier opened a new production site in Turin, Italy, covering more than 30,000sq meters. The factory roof is covered with solar panels that generate 20% of the plant’s energy needs. The remaining energy requirements are met through their hydroelectric plants in Melazzo. In addition, Cartier has provided their employees with eco-friendly amenities such as electric bikes and cars to further reduce their carbon footprint. 

In short, Cartier is moving towards becoming a more ethical business through the construction of new facilities that run on sustainable energy. However, the majority of their mining sites remain undisclosed to the public. 

How Ethical Is the Retailing of Cartier Jewelry

Cartier has been accused of violating the rights of indigenous Amazonian tribes through their advertising strategies and gold mining processes. This suggests that there is potential bluewashing in Cartier’s marketing. 

“Bluewashing: Deceptive marketing that overstates a company’s commitment to responsible social practices.”  

Wikipedia

In short, Cartier is very present on social media and uses emotive storytelling and influential celebrity ambassadors to reach a wide audience. However, they have been criticized for some of their marketing campaigns, particularly those featuring native tribes. 

How Ethical Are the Profit Margins of Cartier Jewelry

Cartier’s umbrella corporation, Richemont, achieved an operating profit margin of 17.7% in 2022. This is slightly higher than the average of 15.9% for the luxury sector. Cartier offers their employees a decent wage that is slightly lower than the national average, depending on job title. 

  • Employee wages: The average annual salary of Cartier employees in the US is around $53,000, or $25 per hour. This is 22% lower than the national average salary of $66,000. Cartier employee salaries in Switzerland range from 33,000–105,000 CHF (approx. $38,000–$121,100 USD), with the national average being 78,000 CHF (about $90,000 USD). 
  • Net profit: In 2022, Richemont published sales of over $21.6 billion with a net operating profit of more than $326 million. This shows a growth rate of 19% compared to the previous year. There are no specific details for the net profit of Cartier. 
  • Sustainable investments: In 2020, Cartier launched their Cartier for Nature initiative to complement their sustainability goals. Through this, they have financially contributed to conservation and restoration efforts around the world. Most of their grants are between 100,000 and 500,000 CHF per year ($115,000–$580,000 USD) for a minimum period of 3 years. Since their founding, Cartier for Nature has awarded over 8.5 million CHF (approx. $9.8 million USD) to more than 20 partner organizations working to preserve biodiversity. 

In short, Cartier has relatively large profit margins compared to the rest of the luxury jewelry sector. However, they pay their employees an average wage and invest in conservation initiatives to offset their environmental impact. 

What Is the Typical Life-Cycle Expectancy of Cartier Jewelry

Cartier doesn’t state the life-cycle expectancy of their jewelry. However, they do encourage customers to meticulously care for their pieces to prevent damage. Cartier only offers 30-day warranties but repairs can be performed for an additional cost. 

  • Jewelry care and maintenance: Cartier states that their jewelry pieces require care and attention on a daily basis to prevent excessive wear or damage. For example, jewelry should be wrapped in individual cloths to prevent rubbing and kept away from intense light or heat sources. If a piece of jewelry contains precious gems such as lapis lazuli or emeralds, they should only be professionally cleaned at a Cartier boutique. Any other jewelry can be cleaned at home using warm, soapy water. 
  • Warranty and repair cover: Cartier offers repair services for all their jewelry at an additional cost, such as gem replacement, link repair, and reshaping. However, they do offer a complimentary shining service. You generally have up to 30 days to return any Cartier jewelry under warranty.
  • Customer reviews: Cartier states that every piece of jewelry is expertly crafted with care. While customers generally agree with this statement, the company has been criticized on customer review sites for their alleged poor customer service and expensive, complicated return and repair policies. 
  • Recycling: Cartier doesn’t offer a recycling or buyback service for old jewelry. For example, they state that their rings are made from 100% natural materials so if they were to be discarded, there would be no damage to the environment. Cartier jewelry not only holds its value but often increases in value over time, due to the unique craftsmanship that goes into each piece. 

In short, Cartier offers a range of repair and cleaning services for their jewelry but these generally come at a high cost. Each piece of jewelry is beautifully crafted, however, their customer service and recycling policies need improvement. 

Has Cartier Joined Any Organizations to Showcase Their Social Responsibility

Now, more than ever, it’s important for companies to show awareness of their impact and their commitment to social and environmental responsibility. By joining specific organizations, companies can boost worker morale and give back to the community. Studies have shown that 87% of Americans are more likely to buy from a company that advocates for issues they care about.

Which Organizations Has Cartier Joined That Are Directly Connected to Their Business Organizations

Historically, Cartier has not collaborated with many organizations to showcase their sustainability and inclusion initiatives, instead choosing to donate to a range of charities. To date, Cartier has collaborated with several business schools and high-profile companies, such as Drest, to expand their reach and develop more innovative products.

These are the organizations that Cartier has collaborated with to showcase their commitment to philanthropy and conservation:

  • StrongMinds: Since 2018, Cartier Philanthropy has been working alongside StrongMinds to help African women overcome depression by raising awareness through their platforms and via financial and business support. During the COVID-19 pandemic, StrongMinds developed Africa’s first phone-based group therapy for depression. 
  • SDA Bocconi School of Management: In October 2020, Cartier announced that they would be the main partner of SDA Bocconi School of Management in the launch of their post-experience modular program on luxury management. The project is designed to educate the next generation of luxury leaders and entrepreneurs on topics such as brand management, analysis, and trends. 
  • INSEAD Business School: In 2006, Cartier partnered with INSEAD Business School to establish the annual Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards. The aim was to drive change by empowering female entrepreneurs. To date, the program has financially supported 198 female-led businesses from 49 countries

In short, Cartier can do a lot more to improve their philanthropic and sustainability approach by partnering with more charities rather than just donating money.

Which Organizations Has Cartier Joined Where They ‘Only’ Contribute Money

Over the years, Cartier has donated to more than 58 charities across 40 countries to promote inclusion and protect our natural planet through Cartier for Nature and Cartier Philanthropy. However, while these are nice additions, they don’t directly improve the overall ethics of the company because there is no lasting commitment. 

  • Birdlife International: Since 2023, Cartier for Nature has been financially supporting Birdlife International’s efforts to protect endangered wildlife on the archipelago.
  • ANAK-Tnk: Cartier Philanthropy is currently funding the efforts of the charity ANAK-Tnk to help get children living in extreme poverty in Manila off the streets. Through their funding efforts, Cartier is aiming to provide critical support and shelter for 1,500 children over the next 3 years. 
  • Food4Education: Food4Education is a Kenyan-based school meals enterprise that provides affordable hot school meals to the lowest-income families. In the first quarter of 2023, the charity served 140,000 children daily. Cartier is now offering financial support to the charity to expand their services and reach 194,000 children daily by the end of 2024. 
  • Planet Indonesia: Since February 2023, Cartier for Nature has financially supported the efforts of Planet Indonesia to safeguard vulnerable ecosystems in the country and improve agricultural practices to bring local communities out of poverty. 
  • CARE: From 2013–2017, Cartier Philanthropy funded CARE’s teams in Haiti, Cameroon, Ecuador, and Bangladesh to provide job opportunities for vulnerable people and help them rebuild their lives.

In short, Cartier has shown their dedication to improving humanitarian aid and conservation initiatives through regular donations to numerous charities over the years. However, exact donation amounts are not available to the public. 

Final Thoughts

Today, Cartier is a leader in the crafting of luxury jewelry. However, questions remain about their mining practices and business ethics because a lot of information is not publicly available. The company has not been without controversy over the years, particularly in 2023, when they came under fire for using unauthorized photos of Amazonian tribes for marketing purposes. So, to improve their ethical standpoint, Cartier should focus on being more transparent in their business strategies and build more conservation and philanthropic collaborations to promote their sustainability goals. 

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