How Ethical Is Tiffany & Co. Jewelry? A Supply Chain Analysis

How Ethical Is Tiffany & Co. Jewelry? A Supply Chain Analysis

By
Carla Shaik

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Tiffany & Co. is one of the most famous and beloved jewelry brands in the world. Since their founding in 1837, they have become known for their classic pieces and expert craftsmanship. But, much less is known about their ethics and sustainability practices. So, we had to ask: How ethical is Tiffany & Co. jewelry?

Tiffany & Co. is a fairly ethical company overall. However, a historic lack of transparency may suggest conflict diamond sourcing. Still, in recent years, the company has put rigid policies in place to ensure the highest standards in sustainable mining and worker rights. 

In this article, we will walk you through the steps of the Tiffany & Co. 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 Tiffany & Co. Jewelry

The global jewelry market is expected to increase from about $270 billion in 2022 to over $330 billion by 2026. And Tiffany & Co. is a leader in the industry with an annual revenue of around $4 billion through 326 stores around the world. 

Most jewelry is made using a variety of metals that often need to be mined and processed using labor and carbon-intensive processes. To be truly sustainable, a jewelry company needs to ensure that all their materials are sourced responsibly, processed minimally, and recyclable. 

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

Merriam Webster

To understand the ethics of Tiffany & Co. jewelry, we must assess them 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 Tiffany & Co. jewelryEach stage’s ethics
Sourcing of Tiffany & Co. jewelrySupply chain transparency: Historically, Tiffany & Co. has not been very transparent with the processes used across their supply chain. However, in recent years, they have published statements detailing their commitment to sustainable sourcing and the treatment of employees. 

Sourcing location(s): Tiffany & Co. has not historically been transparent about their material sourcing or the mines they use. But, since 2019, strict protocols have been put in place to track the source of their materials as much as possible. 

Human rights: In previous years, Tiffany & Co. has not been very transparent about their supply chain. However, in 2020, they officially formalized their commitment to upholding human rights. They now have strict protocols in place to ensure worker safety and satisfaction.

Conflict diamonds: Tiffany & Co. only started their drive to become completely transparent about their sourcing and processes in 2019 through their Diamond Provenance & Source Initiative. Therefore, it is difficult to decipher whether the company has a history of sourcing conflict diamonds. 

Environmental impact: Tiffany & Co. has remained committed to protecting the natural environment by sourcing their materials from a limited number of suppliers and by investing in conservation restoration projects. 

Societal impact: Tiffany & Co. has numerous initiatives in place to reduce their societal impact, such as career development courses. They also support charitable causes that benefit both local communities and the environment.
Manufacturing of Tiffany & Co. jewelryManufacturing location(s): Tiffany & Co. operates 12 manufacturing facilities across 10 countries. They are currently working toward using only recycled precious metals in their products and 100% renewable energy across their global operations

Transparency vs marketing: Tiffany & Co. is working to become a fully sustainable and ethical business, aligning with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. They also publish regular sustainability reports to lay out their processes, including recycling targets, community engagement, and conservation initiatives. 
Retailing of Tiffany & Co. jewelryUnethical marketing messages: Tiffany & Co. is one of the most visible luxury brands online. While there is no specific evidence of bluewashing, Tiffany & Co. follows an influencer marketing strategy and uses emotional storytelling advertisements, designed to align with the preferences of target audiences.

Operational margins: Tiffany & Co. operates at around a 17.74% EBIT margin, which is slightly higher than the average of 15.9% for the luxury sector. The company offers a decent living wage for all employees but sources rough diamonds directly from mines, which increases overall profit. 

Life-cycle duration: Tiffany & Co. offers a lifetime warranty for all their engagement rings and cleaning, repair, and fit alterations for the lifetime of all Tiffany jewelry. The company claims that every piece of jewelry is designed to last a lifetime as long as it is well cared for. 

As we can see from the chart above, Tiffany & Co. has not historically been very transparent with their practices. However, in recent years, they have made a dramatic shift toward showcasing their sustainability strategies and dedication to improving the ethics of the luxury jewelry industry.

How Ethical Is the Sourcing of Tiffany & Co. Jewelry

To determine how ethical the sourcing of Tiffany & Co. 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 Tiffany & Co. jewelry is ethical.

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

How Transparent Is Tiffany & Co. Jewelry About Their Whole Supply Chain

Historically, Tiffany & Co. has not been very transparent with the processes used across their supply chain. However, in recent years, they have published statements detailing their commitment to sustainable sourcing and the treatment of employees. 

In short, Tiffany & Co. is fairly transparent about their processes through published statements and Codes of Conduct. However, detailed information, such as specific mines and individual audits, are not available. 

Where Are Materials for Tiffany & Co. Jewelry Sourced From

Tiffany & Co. has not historically been transparent about their material sourcing or the mines they use. But, since 2019, strict protocols have been put in place to track the source of their materials as much as possible. 

  • Rough diamonds: Tiffany & Co. states that most of their rough diamonds are sourced directly from mines that follow the Kimberly Process in 10 countries including Australia, Botswana, Canada, Namibia, Russia, and South Africa. In addition, the company conducts a sustainability materiality analysis every five years to refine their processes. However, they also source from suppliers with a limited number of known mines.
  • Colored gemstones: Tiffany & Co. uses 60 varieties of colored gemstones in their products, which are notoriously difficult to trace. However, Tiffany & Co. has used strict protocols for sourcing in recent years. For example, in 2021, the company created a Colored Gemstone and Pearl Source Warranty Protocol to advance traceability. As a result, they have ceased the sourcing of precious stones from several areas, including rubies from Myanmar and lapis from Afghanistan. 
  • Gold and other metals: Tiffany & Co. gets all their gold from sources that can be directly traced to mines in the US or through recycled sources. In addition, they aim to achieve 100% traceability for all their gold, silver, and platinum as part of their 2025 Sustainability Goals. In addition, they apply innovative practices such as the ‘No Dirty Gold’ Golden Rules criteria to ensure socially and environmentally-conscious gold mining.

In short, Tiffany & Co. has taken multiple steps to ensure the sustainability and traceability of the materials they use in recent years. However, they have yet to achieve 100% traceability for all their materials.

How Does Tiffany & Co. Carry Out Their Human Rights Responsibility

In previous years, Tiffany & Co. has not been very transparent about their supply chain. However, in 2020, they officially formalized their commitment to upholding human rights. They now have strict protocols in place to ensure worker safety and satisfaction.

  • Forced labor prevention: Tiffany & Co. has a robust Code of Conduct in place to protect their employees, including voluntary employment requirements and strict guidelines surrounding working hours, fair treatment, wages, and worker grievances. They have also published a Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement detailing their audit processes, expectations, and training requirements. In 2020, the company received a ‘strong’ ranking for their responsible sourcing practices in the Human Rights Watch Responsible Jewelry Report—the only luxury jeweler to do so. 
  • Child labor prevention: Because Tiffany & Co. operates their own diamond cutting, polishing, and manufacturing facilities, they can oversee all processes and uphold high standards to prevent child labor and other human rights abuses. They state that no supplier should employ any child under the age of 15, the legal minimum age for working in the country, or the age permitted under ILO conventions—whichever is highest. 
  • Worker safety: The Tiffany & Co. Code of Conduct conflicts with local laws in underdeveloped countries, ensuring a higher standard of worker safety through regular monitoring and record keeping. In addition, suppliers are required to regularly assess the workplace for hazards and implement programs to mitigate any risks to worker safety quickly and efficiently. 
  • Fair labor practices: Through their Social and Environmental Accountability (SEA) Program, Tiffany & Co. runs risk assessments through a third-party calculator based on 708 factors. For example, in 2021, their audits found that 1.1% of these factors were violated, down from 1.4% the year before. Today, they run over 100 Employee Research Groups (ERGs) consisting of more than 1,000 employees to provide community-building activities and create an open dialogue between staff and managers. Since 2021, they have also committed to ensuring that all managers and employees take a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) course.

In short, Tiffany & Co. has a strict Code of Conduct and rigorous risk assessment protocols to prevent infringements on human rights in their own facilities and their suppliers. 

Does Tiffany & Co. Have a History of Sourcing Conflict Diamonds

Tiffany & Co. only started their drive to become completely transparent about their sourcing and processes in 2019 through their Diamond Provenance & Source Initiative. Therefore, it is difficult to decipher whether the company has a history of sourcing conflict diamonds. 

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

In short, it’s unclear whether Tiffany & Co. has historically sourced blood diamonds. However, due to the age of the company, it’s likely that some conflict sourcing has taken place, particularly as they still source diamonds from high-conflict areas. 

What Is Tiffany & Co.’s Environmental Impact of Sourcing Their Materials

Tiffany & Co. has remained committed to protecting the natural environment by sourcing their materials from a limited number of suppliers and by investing in conservation restoration projects. 

  • Ecosystem disruption: In 2004, Tiffany & Co. was one of the first companies to stop using coral in their jewelry because of the potential harm to oceanic ecosystems. In addition, they have invested in an initiative to conserve and restore 4,000sq km of critical wildlands in the Chyulu Hills, Kenya, as part of their pledge to protect biodiversity. Furthermore, Tiffany & Co. uses 73% recycled gold, with the remaining coming from just one mine in Utah, lowering their overall environmental impact.
  • Land erosion: Mining can cause irreversible damage to the environment. As Tiffany & Co. is one of the largest jewelry companies mining diamonds, their land erosion impact is likely to be fairly high. Saying that, Tiffany & Co. received an ‘A-’ rating for performance and transparency on climate change by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CPD) in 2020. The following year, multinational holding company LVMH acquired majority shares of Tiffany & Co. receiving an ‘A’ rating in 2022. Soil erosion has been linked to climate change because it can be worsened by increased precipitation.
  • Toxic chemicals: Tiffany & Co. runs a vertical integration system, allowing them to have full control over the standards followed across their supply chain, including the control of toxic chemicals. Through their Tiffany & Co. Foundation, the company also supports organizations that restore abandoned mines to clean up polluted landscapes and waterways, as well as organizations working to protect oceanic ecosystems. By 2021, these initiatives have helped to protect 10 million acres of US lands and marine areas covering 11 million square meters. Gold mining in particular has come under scrutiny from environmentalists because the process releases cyanide. However, Tiffany gets all their gold from one mine that doesn’t use cyanide to extract gold.
  • Water usage: Tiffany & Co. is working toward more efficient water and electricity usage through the development of energy management systems and LEED-certified facilities (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). In 2022, over 12% of their floor area was LEED silver certified or above and they are currently on track to increase this to 30% by 2025. 
  • Greenhouse emissions: Tiffany & Co. has pledged to achieve net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2040, focusing on the sourcing of raw materials, distribution, manufacturing, and engagement with suppliers. 

In short, Tiffany & Co. is dedicated to protecting and restoring our natural world and reducing their impact through green energy initiatives. 

What Is Tiffany & Co.’s Societal Impact of Sourcing Their Materials

Tiffany & Co. has numerous initiatives in place to reduce their societal impact, such as career development courses. They also support charitable causes that benefit both local communities and the environment.

  • Employment: Tiffany & Co. employs over 14,000 people across 40 countries, representing more than 70 nationalities, many of whom work in underdeveloped countries. Tiffany & Co. celebrates all DEI holidays (diversity, equity, and inclusion) throughout the year and actively ensures that women are an integral part of the workforce to prevent gender inequality. For example, as of 2022, 94% of the workforce at their Hai Duong site, Vietnam, consisted of women from local communities. Furthermore, they offer a Grow with Tiffany career-development program to employees at all levels to help them achieve their career aspirations. 
  • Community support: Tiffany & Co. is dedicated to supporting local economies, particularly in Africa, where the majority of their materials are mined. For example, in 2018, the company provided over $59 million in economic benefits to Botswana’s economy. Furthermore, in 2021, they pledged $2 million in scholarship funding to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) through their Love Scholarship Program.
  • Nature restoration: Tiffany & Co. works to offset their environmental impact by investing in conservation initiatives around the world. For example, in 2021, they raised over $6.5 million in support of the Nature Conservancy through the auction of a Nautilus watch featuring a Tiffany Blue® dial. Since 2000, the company has also awarded more than $100 million to support coral reef conservation efforts, responsible mining, urban parks, and the decorative arts. 

In short, Tiffany & Co. supports impoverished communities and conservation efforts around the world, offsetting their societal impact.

How Ethical Is the Manufacturing of Tiffany & Co. Jewelry

Tiffany & Co. is working to become a fully sustainable and ethical business, aligning with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. They also publish regular sustainability reports to lay out their processes, including recycling targets, community engagement, and conservation initiatives. 

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

Where Is Tiffany & Co. Jewelry Manufactured

Tiffany & Co. operates 12 manufacturing facilities across 10 countries. They are currently working toward using only recycled precious metals in their products and 100% renewable energy across their global operations. 

  • Manufacturing facilities: Tiffany & Co. operates workshops in Botswana, Belgium, Mauritius, Thailand, Cambodia, Canada, and Vietnam, where more than 2,300 employees polish and cut the diamonds. The company prides themselves on hiring locally and providing all employees with a living wage. All diamonds are then evaluated at their Tiffany Gemological Laboratories in the US, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Diamond setting is conducted in the US.
  • Sustainable material usage: The iconic Tiffany Blue Box® is Forest Stewardship Council Certified and made with paper from sustainable sources. Moreover, in 2021, the company could trace 99% of their silver, gold, and platinum from a known mine or recycled source. They are now in the process of moving toward only using 100% recycled gold, silver, and platinum, which will reduce their metal procurement carbon footprint by 90%. They also use any leftover metal in the crafting process of future products.
  • Carbon footprint: Tiffany & Co. is actively working toward their goal of using 100% renewable energy across all their facilities. As of 2021, 89% of their global energy usage came from clean, renewable sources, including solar panels and renewable electricity credits. 

In short, Tiffany & Co. has already taken huge steps toward achieving a sustainable, circular business model through the sourcing of recycled metals, employing from local communities, and developing more energy-efficient facilities. 

How Ethical Is the Retailing of Tiffany & Co. Jewelry

Tiffany & Co. is one of the most visible luxury brands online. While there is no specific evidence of bluewashing, Tiffany & Co. follows an influencer marketing strategy and uses emotional storytelling advertisements, designed to align with the preferences of target audiences.

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

Wikipedia 

In short, Tiffany & Co. has made sustainability an integral part of their business strategy, collaborating with governments and like-minded organizations as the public becomes more environmentally conscious. 

How Ethical Are the Profit Margins of Tiffany & Co. Jewelry

Tiffany & Co. operates at around a 17.74% EBIT margin, which is slightly higher than the average of 15.9% for the luxury sector. The company offers a decent living wage for all employees but sources rough diamonds directly from mines, which increases overall profit. 

  • Employee wages: The average annual salary for Tiffany & Co. employees in the US is $58/hour, with the lowest paying admin roles offering around $60,000 annually. The company states that all employees at their manufacturing facilities are paid a location-specific living wage using the Anker methodology to support local communities. 
  • Net profit: Tiffany & Co. recorded a $541 million net profit in 2019. This has increased in recent years since the company’s acquisition by LVMH. As of 2020, Tiffany & Co. has been operating at a 22.79% EBIT margin.
  • Material sourcing: Tiffany & Co. creates 65–75% (by value) of their polished diamonds from rough diamonds that the company purchases directly from known mines. This method reduces overall costs and therefore increases profitability. However, Tiffany & Co. accepts just 0.4% of the world’s gem-grade diamonds to maintain their high standards and exclusivity. As a result, many of the diamonds they purchase get resold back to the market at a low cost. 
  • Sustainable investments: Since 2000, the Tiffany & Co. Foundation has invested over $100 million in grants to protect the world’s most vulnerable natural habitats. This includes supporting the development of 30 Marine Protected Areas and the protection of 10 million acres of biologically diverse lands across America. Their sustainability investments also involve upgrading all their facilities to be LEED-certified by 2040.

In short, Tiffany & Co. has relatively large profit margins compared to the rest of the luxury jewelry sector. However, they offset this by investing back into sustainability and conservation efforts to protect the natural world. 

What Is the Typical Life-Cycle Expectancy of Tiffany & Co. Jewelry

Tiffany & Co. offers a lifetime warranty for all their engagement rings and cleaning, repair, and fit alterations for the lifetime of all Tiffany jewelry. The company claims that every piece of jewelry is designed to last a lifetime as long as it is well cared for. 

  • Jewelry care and maintenance: Jewelry cleaning is a complimentary service offered by Tiffany stores around the world. Polishing services, as well as repairs and adjustments to jewelry pieces, are also offered for an additional fee. To preserve their jewelry, Tiffany & Co. recommends pieces be protected from household cleaning products and harmful chemicals. They offer a range of cleaning products on their website and recommend regular cleaning of jewelry to avoid tarnishing or excessive wear. 
  • Warranty and repair cover: Tiffany & Co. awards a Tiffany Diamond Certificate to certify the integrity of specific diamonds. This also comes with a lifetime guarantee. Repair prices for their products vary depending on the materials used. They recommend you speak to one of their experts so they can assess your piece and the work required. 
  • Customer reviews: Tiffany & Co. states that they always aim for the highest level of customer service and product quality. However, they have been criticized on customer review sites for long delivery times and poor customer service when it comes to repairs and refund policies.
  • Recycling: Tiffany & Co. doesn’t offer a buy-back program but instead offers a limited Ring Upgrade program for those who purchase an engagement ring. Therefore, consumers have to find alternative ways to recycle or repurpose their Tiffany jewelry. However, as of 2022, over 65% of the materials used to create their Tiffany Blue Boxes® and bags are made of recycled content and all materials are sustainably sourced. In addition, over 99% of their metals are purchased from sustainable mines or recycled sources. 

In short, Tiffany & Co. jewelry is crafted to last a lifetime using mostly sustainable materials. However, their customer service needs improvement as well as their recycling policies.

Has Tiffany & Co. 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 Tiffany & Co. Joined That Are Directly Connected to Their Business Organizations

Historically, Tiffany & Co. has not collaborated with many organizations to showcase their sustainability and inclusion initiatives, instead choosing to donate to a range of charities. To date, Tiffany & Co. has mainly collaborated with high-profile brands and talented artists to create new jewelry collections, including Nike, Supreme, and Daniel Arsham.

These are the organizations that Tiffany & Co. has collaborated with to showcase their commitment to philanthropy and conservation:

In short, Tiffany & Co. can do a lot more to improve their philanthropic and sustainability approach by collaborating with more charities rather than partnering with other luxury brands and artists. 

Which Organizations Has Tiffany & Co. Joined Where They ‘Only’ Contribute Money

Over the years, Tiffany & Co. has donated to a wide range of charities to promote inclusion and protect our natural planet through the Tiffany & Co. Foundation and Tiffany Cares. However, while these are nice additions, they don’t directly improve the overall ethics of a company because there is no lasting commitment. 

In short, Tiffany & Co. has shown their dedication to improving humanitarian aid and conservation initiatives through regular donations to numerous charities over the years. 

Final Thoughts

Today, Tiffany & Co. is a leader in the crafting of luxury jewelry and sustainability. However, questions remain over their historical mining practices, especially in terms of some of their more iconic pieces, such as the 128.54-carat yellow Tiffany diamond. To improve further, Tiffany & Co. should focus on more conservation and philanthropic collaborations to promote their sustainability goals and better connect with the new environmentally conscious generation.

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