Swiss watchmaker Greubel Forsey is the latest luxury brand seeking to attract younger shoppers by going greener, in this case by eliminating animal leather from its straps.
The company, whose watches start selling at more than $200,000, will begin using plant-based bands from January, it said Tuesday, without specifying the material.
Watchmakers are jumping on a sustainability bandwagon that goes beyond packaging initiatives and sustainable sourcing as they seek to attract environmentally conscious consumers. They are joining other luxury companies in finding ways to cater to the growing affluence of Millennials and Gen Z, from ditching mined diamonds in favour of lab-grown ones to getting rid of animal fur.
“An increasing number of customers as well as younger generations are much more informed and conscious about what they buy,” said Bassel Choughari, a portfolio manager that focuses on climate solutions at Montpensier Finance. “Companies have to reinvent the way they do business in almost every industry and there is no reason why watchmaking should be the exception.”
Richemont’s IWC Schaffhausen started offering alternative straps for its Portugieser and Portofino models, made from a paper-based material and coloured with natural dyes. Another Richemont brand, Panerai, established a new supply chain to create a watch that’s nearly completely made of recycled materials.
Here’s what some watchmakers are doing to stay ahead of the curve:
Swatch Group AG’s namesake plastic brand, which has been suffering from weak demand, last year introduced a collection that’s cased in bio-sourced materials extracted from the seeds of the castor plant. This year it followed with a series made of a mix of ceramic and bio-sourced plastic.
Breitling has teamed up with sustainable apparel brand Outerknown to create an econyl yarn strap that’s re-purposed from nylon waste pulled from the oceans.
Numerous other brands have announced plans to incorporate re-cycled and up-cycled materials, even as questions remain whether these initiatives move the needle in protecting the environment.
The Rise of Small Businesses Using Digital
There has been a rise in small firms using digital to become more sustainable over the past year, as the pandemic prompts business owners to see saving the planet as increasingly critical.
Research from Small Business Britain and BT Skills For Tomorrow found a third of small firms have taken greater action to become more sustainable, with 47 per cent saying digital technologies have been a key enabler to this.
The study found that the Covid-19 pandemic has catapulted helping the environment to the forefront of business owners’ minds. Virtually all small firms (99 per cent) are now convinced of the importance of sustainability, with almost half (47 per cent) seeing this issue as more important than before lockdown began.
And the widespread pivot to digital during the pandemic is helping small businesses make sustainability gains. Over a third of small firms (42%) now make greater use of digital alternatives, such as online events, and have boosted their digital skills (48%) across everything from marketing to accounting.
The heightened sense of imperative for environmental sustainability is also revealed by the fact that over two thirds (68 per cent) of small firms are keen to commit to the UK government’s target of going net-zero by 2050.
This shift has been driven particularly by a desire to protect the planet, with over four-fifths (88%) of business owners citing this as their primary motivation. Almost half (48%) are also prompted by growing customer demand for more environmentally sustainable products and services.
“Covid-19 has sparked profound change. While it’s been a tough time for small businesses, the silver lining is the powerful way firms have adopted digital, which not only builds future resilience but also delivers some fantastic sustainability gains,” said Michelle Ovens CBE, founder of Small Business Britain.
Representing 99 per cent of UK business small firms can play a huge role in helping the UK, and the planet, get to net zero. We just need to give them the right support.”