There are so many ways in which people use the phrases 'ethical' and 'sustainable'. In this post, I talk about what I mean by these - arguably overused - terms.
Ethical means so many different things to so many different people. And that's fine, so long as you know what someone means when they use that term. For me, it covers the nebulous and vague concept of 'doing good'. When I make the claim Leonard of London is ethical, I mean I'm doing my best in a pretty gnarly set of conditions; the trouble is, once you start really looking into the ethical and sustainable implications of anything you do, it becomes very clear very quickly that there's no Right Answer.
Environmental cost vs Human cost
After researching all the ins and outs for a while, it became clear to me that there are two main considerations: what is good for the environment, and what is good for people.
Sadly, these things aren't always easily in alignment, so it's important to think about what you feel is the best fit for you. When it comes to jewellery, there are few ways in which you can have an ethical or sustainable piece of jewellery.
Leonard of London has taken a multi-strand approach to Ethics, by offering a combination of reclaimed, Grown and fully traced gemstones, and recycled and Fairtrade certified metals. Some of these techniques and sources have a smaller environmental impact, but remain more neutral when it comes to assuring the livelihoods and conditions of those who mine the raw materials. Others are more beneficial to communities, but have more current impact on an already impacted environment.
So what is the 'right way'?
Personally, I feel that there is no 'right' way - the best thing you can do is research as much as possible what your options are. Below are some of the factors that are worth considering when trying to decide what is the best approach for you, as we see them.
The three main ways which we source stones are as follows:
- Grown Stones
These are minimal impact in terms of mining, but are high in energy use. They are traceable and conflict-free, and are to all intents and purposes, diamonds. I will be writing a post soon with more info on Grown diamonds, as they're super fascinating
- Reclaimed Stones
Repurposing gemstones is a great way to give new life to a previously loved piece of jewellery, that has a history attached to it. In terms of impact, it can be seen as 'neutral' as the stone was already mined. On the flip side, this means that we can't know the original environmental or human impact.
- Traceable Stones
These stones are traced from rough mined stone, through the cutting process, to your jewellery. In terms of human impact, the stones are guaranteed to have come from conflict-free environments, with miners working in good conditions. Often, these are small-scale, artisinal mines, with the miners being the sole breadwinner of the family. These miners are paid a fairer price for their rough than they would otherwise get, which enables them to have a positive impact on the communities in which they live. There is still an environmental cost, however, as mining in and of itself is a high impact activity.
The metals that I use are along a similar line: either reclaimed, or traced from certified mines.
- Recycled metals
With recycled metal, as with reclaimed stones, we cannot be sure the conditions in which the metal was mined originally, but for modern purposes, it can be seen as neutral impact and is a great way to minimise your footprint without taking too much away from the planet.
- Fairtrade Gold
Fairtrade Certified Gold is the world’s first independent ethical certification system for gold; it means that a fair price has been paid for the precious metals that are mined, and the premium they earn goes towards ensuring better working conditions and improvements in the towns and villages where the mining communities live. Whilst the amount of Fairtrade gold mined is small, the number of workers in it is proportionally much larger, meaning your jewellery can make a meaningful difference to the lives of the people who mine it. This choice of metal does still have a significant impact on the environment, but due to the nature of the Fairtrade certification process, the environmental impact of this mining tends to be lower than more industrial scale mining.
So there you have it
Clear as mud! Honestly, for me as a person, and as a business owner, I reeally feel that you have to go into this as informed as possible, and happy with the choices that you are making. Realistically, it's all about compromise, and arming yourself with the knowledge that will enable you to make those choices. At the end of the day, we are all doing the best that we can, and that's all anyone can ask for.