The environment is a hot topic. Quite literally, as life for us will become far less sustainable as the earth is heating up. It will make the oceans rise, the weather far more unpredictable and volatile, accelerates desertification, and the list goes on. To turn the tide, a change is needed, fast and quite radical. While the vast majority of the watch industry underscores this, making actual changes proves to be quite challenging.
One of the most significant issues is that, in particular, high-end watches are luxury goods. As the name already implies, these are things that are (very) nice to have but by no means a necessity. Closing down production is not a solution, as this is along the line of committing collective suicide to save the environment. The best course of action is to do things differently. That is, by itself, already a momentous task because it is sometimes complicated to determine the best way to serve the environment, also because the impact of individual actions cannot be measured so easily, let alone compared.
I struggle with this in my personal life as well, and those struggles are not any different for watch manufacturers. We can debate on what the best course of action it, but I feel that the best thing is to start simply somewhere. Chopard has been a trailblazer when it comes to lowering the environmental footprint of the use of gold by using only 100% ethical gold in their manufacture, which not only focuses on the environment, but on social aspects as well.
Panerai has also set out on a quest to become an environmentally responsible watch manufacturer, as they showed with the eLAB-ID PAM01225. They even shared the details of their suppliers, allowing other brands to follow in their footsteps.
These are actions that make a difference, as Oris also proves. That brand is working very hard to make sustainability the core of its DNA, not only by raising funds for non-profit environmental organizations but also by investing in its facilities and production process to lower the overall impact as much as possible. They even publish a sustainability report, making them accountable for their actions, and I would very much like to see more brands doing this.
Sometimes I hear the opinion that brands only do this to look more sympathetic and sell more watches. While they are indeed a business, I seriously doubt if this is the case. Making a change often comes with significant investments, some of which you never will recuperate in an economic sense, even when you sell significantly more watches because of it (which I doubt). The question is also if these actions are even optional because if a change is not made now, it might be too late, and that is perhaps even the biggest threat to sustaining the business model.
What do you think; should watch brands take more action to lower their own footprint in order to save the environment? Would you stop buying watches from brands that don’t?