May 26, 2021

This Luxury Brand Means Business in Sustainability Governance, Accountability, and Oversight

By: Robin Ferracone

Recently, through my not-for-profit board work at WildAid, where I am Chair of the Board, I had an opportunity to invite 8 friends and colleagues to participate in a virtual “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” where Anisa Kamadoli Costa, Chief Sustainability Officer of Tiffany & Co. and Chairman and President of The Tiffany & Co. Foundation discussed Tiffany’s sustainability efforts, social impact, and oversight. Below is an annotated selection of questions we posed to Anisa. I thought it would be valuable to showcase some of the great work Tiffany & Co. and The Tiffany & Co. Foundation continue to do in their efforts to contribute to a more sustainable and equitable world.

Robin Ferracone: Anisa, thanks so much for joining the Breakfast at Tiffany’s program. I know everyone left the session super energized and excited about what we learned you are doing around ESG efforts.  Can you explain broadly what Tiffany & Co. is doing on sustainability and how it links to the work of the Foundation?

Anisa Kamadoli Costa: For over 180 years, the beauty of the natural world has inspired Tiffany designs, and many of the precious raw materials we source come from the Earth, whether diamonds or precious metals. Because of this, over the past two decades, we have worked to integrate environmental and social considerations into our core business practices. The company truly believes it has a responsibility to influence culture and set the standards for excellence—not only in fine jewelry and craftsmanship but also in what it means to be a responsible corporate citizen. We are committed to minimizing our impact as a business and also using our brand to advocate for important issues that positively affect communities and protect the planet. We believe that we have a responsibility to contribute to sustaining the natural environment and protecting our planet and its creatures for future generations.

For over two decades, our strategic philanthropy through The Tiffany & Co. Foundation has been a key pillar of our sustainability efforts, allowing us to use the reach of both our company and our Foundation to make an even bigger impact on critical issues like responsible mining and ocean conservation. We awarded one of our first grants in 2000 to support coral conservation. Since that time, we have given $25 million for coral and marine conservation in over 30 countries worldwide. To me, it is particularly poignant that as we celebrate two decades of support for marine conservation, the world’s oceans are more at risk than ever from climate change and human activities. We have long recognized that coral reefs are the cornerstone of healthy oceans and a buffer against climate change, which is why we have focused our dollars on supporting collaborative initiatives to expand of the world’s marine protected areas and funding educational outreach, awareness and research.  As a company, Tiffany & Co. was also one of the first jewelers to stop using coral in its products over a decade ago and has since advocated for others in the jewelry and home décor industries to do the same.

Robin: You began your tenure at Tiffany & Co. nearly two decades ago and have since built up Tiffany’s sustainability program and were then appointed to Chief Sustainability Officer at Tiffany & Co. in 2015 Can you share how the company’s sustainability efforts have evolved over time and where you have seen the most impact in your efforts?

Anisa:  Our sustainability efforts really began in earnest two decades ago. There was a proposed gold mine that threatened Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. As a company, we decided to speak out and advocate against the mine moving forward. We realized then what we all know today, what happens in the origins of supply chains matters, for the end product, for the brand, and for our customers. Since that time, we have focused on responsible mining issues, though we do not mine ourselves.  We have addressed responsible mining, of course, in our supply chain, but go well beyond that through standards setting, advocacy and philanthropy. Today, there is more of an understanding about why this matters for business and how it affects communities and people around the world. Consumer, employee and investor expectations have only grown, and I believe it will continue into the future.

Robin: Our firm has coined 2021 “The Year of the Stakeholder.” With our partners in the Global Governance and Executive Compensation Group (GECN Group) where Farient is a founding partner, we recently published our annual Global Trends research. This year we focused on 2021 and Beyond: Global Trends in Stakeholder Incentives. We defined stakeholders beyond shareholders to include employees, customers, suppliers, and communities. How do you see the role of broader stakeholders unfolding over the next 5-10 years?

Anisa: To begin with, it’s important to note that stakeholder value leads to shareholder value, so it’s an important question. Today, the universe of stakeholders generally consists of investors, clients, employees, suppliers, governments, and NGOs (or civil society organizations). Engaging with our stakeholders is one of the hallmarks that guide our work. We spoke about the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) as an example of best practices in stakeholder engagement – as this mining standard was developed, all mining stakeholders ranging from fellow purchasers of mined materials, to mining companies, NGOs, labor unions and mining-affected communities have a seat at the table, for equitable decision making. I hope that the field move towards more co-creation versus consultation (as is the case with IRMA) because there is immense value in stakeholder partnership and dialogue. In addition, I believe the trends for more transparency and accountability will only continue, and the engagement of stakeholders is critical for business to meeting those demands.

Robin: I really appreciated a comment you made at the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” program, “Jewelry should never be discarded.” From a sustainability and climate perspective it makes sense. Can you explain how Tiffany’s diamond traceability and vertical integrated supply chain contribute to accountability and oversight. How do you measure the success of this program and where and how is it reported to shareholders, customers, and employees?

Anisa: Traditionally, the jewelry industry has been quite opaque, with multiple layers to the supply chain, and not enough transparency. I believe that the jewelry industry can be a positive source of social and economic development for communities and workers along the supply chain. For this reason, we have been investing in the sustainability and vertical integration of our supply chain for nearly 20 years and are now driving forward a new level of transparency by sharing the full craftmanship journey of our diamonds. With greater transparency we can better maintain environmentally- and socially-conscious operations that respect human rights and the communities and regions we work in, as well as the mines from which we source.

We’ve long been transparent about our sourcing practices through our sustainability reporting, and we can now share our diamond’s full craftsmanship journey directly with our clients, including the cutting, polishing, and setting location. All of this information is now shared with Tiffany clients for each newly sourced, individually registered diamond. This information will be available from any sales professional at the case line and it will also be printed on the Tiffany Diamond Certificate.

Robin: Anisa, thank you so much for leading the discussion at the breakfast. It was truly phenomenal to learn more about you and Tiffany’s impact on environmental social and governance around the world. I look forward to remaining a lifetime customer and passing along keepsakes to the next generation.

Tiffany & Co. is a  leader in global environmental, social and governance (ESG) efforts.  Understanding sourcing and every step of disintermediation is critical to ensure that minerals such as diamonds and gold are tracible and mining companies enforce a strict code of ethics from the source of extraction across the supply chain. To focus the company’s philanthropic efforts, the Tiffany & Co. Foundation was established in 2000. Since then, the Foundation has awarded over USD $85 million in grants to nonprofit organizations working around the world to advance issues of importance on a local and global scale.

Robin Ferracone is the Founder and CEO of Farient Advisors. She is the author of the book, Fair Pay, Fair Play: Aligning Executive Performance and Pay, and a frequent presenter for well-known organizations including the Council of Institutional Investors, Society for Corporate Governance Professionals, the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) and The Conference Board, among others. Robin has written extensively on the topics of performance management, incentive plan design, goal-setting and corporate governance. She has been quoted by numerous business and industry publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Learn more about Robin.