« Bulgari has initiated a comprehensive study of its carbon footprint worldwide »
For the second edition of the Swiss Genius innovation award, Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO of Bulgari, discusses the brand's recent commitments to sustainability, including a complete review of its carbon footprint worldwide and significant investments of tens of millions of francs in this area.
By Cristina D’Agostino02 mars 2023
On March 7, the second edition of the Swiss Genius Awards will be officially launched at selected universities and schools in Switzerland. The Swiss Genius prize is open to all business school students currently pursuing a master’s degree. The prize challenges young talents and future leaders to imagine "How the luxury sector can use Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to attract young customers”.
In response to this question, Jean-Christophe Babin explains, in an exclusive interview, how Bulgari is pursuing its commitments in line with the LVMH Group's LIFE 360 objectives, some of which represent financial investments of several millions of francs.
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What are the new developments initiated by Bulgari that relate to the seventeen United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
Bulgari has just initiated a comprehensive program to study its carbon footprint worldwide. An assessment of all our units in Italy and Switzerland has been launched with Quantis (editor's note, the Swiss company specialized in sustainable development, recently acquired by the Boston Consulting Group), to obtain a very precise mapping of our CO2 emissions. Of course, we are monitoring our existing facilities, which are being restructured in Switzerland, in Saignelégier and Le Sentier. We will be carrying out redevelopment work there, initially undertaken with a goal to expand, but which will take advantage of this pre-work assessment to find out exactly what improvements are possible. These projects are fully aligned with LVMH's LIFE 360 program on carbon emission reductions by 2030 for production and commercial units.
What can you already tell us about this assessment?
The nature of our business puts us in a relatively modest energy consumption segment, since our activities include a lot of manual added value. But of course, improvements can be made in our industrial units. In this context, the program consists above all in switching from old generation machining equipment dating back ten years or so, particularly in Saignelégier, to new generation machines that are much more efficient. This is a major investment since each machine costs between 500,000 and 800,000 francs. Their productivity is three times higher, with 40% less energy consumption and much less space required.
You have also launched a major plant construction project in Italy. What about its carbon footprint?
Yes, we have started works at the end of 2022 on the Valenza site, where we will more than double the factory’s capacity, which will be 19,000 m2 added to the existing 14,000 m2. It will be the largest jewelry factory in the world. Bulgari is the major jeweler in the region, since 20% of the workforce in the basin is employed directly by Bulgari and another 20% indirectly. The goal of the project, which will be completed by mid-2025, is to be "zero footprint," where 100% of the energy used will come from green energy. We will produce 50% onsite, thanks to geothermal installations - more than 120 extraction points at a depth of 80 meters - on the hectares of land acquired and adjacent to the manufacturing site and photovoltaic installations on all the roofs of the parking lots. And the other half of the energy will be purchased nearby and from green sources. It is a first in the watch and jewelry industry to have an establishment of over 23,000 m2 powered solely by renewable energy.
What efforts are implemented on Bulgari's commercial surfaces worldwide?
We have been able to reduce the energy consumption of our 320 stores worldwide by over 75%, among other things by changing the lighting system. But we are going one step further by building a pilot store on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles in early 2024 that will try to be 100% powered by renewable energy, just like our factory in Valenza. This store will be the pilot for our future stores.
What about transparency regarding the provenance of raw materials?
We work with the Responsible Jewelery Council (RJC) to certify gemstones, particularly colored stones. We recently conducted an audit in Mozambique and Botswana, with LVMH, lasting several months, on several mines whose ethical approach we wanted to ensure. Our gold is 100% recycled, for our watches, as well as for our jewelry, of very good quality. It is also sometimes composed of some of our unsold goods, which we prefer to melt down rather than sell off. This is the circular economy, which I find even more responsible.
Are you also interested in innovative materials, whether it's leather-like fabrics or even lab-generated diamonds?
In the Accessories division, we are looking closely at some new materials that might be interesting to work with, both for their aesthetics, sustainability, and quality. But they are not intended to completely replace our leathers, which are mainly produced from cattle (calves, for the most part) dedicated to the production of meat and exotic species raised in very controlled farms. Alternative materials can be interesting for some of our retailers, such as Selfridges in London, who militate to have in its assortment a significant part of products composed of non-animal origin materials. And I would also like to point out that Bulgari embraces issues of inclusion in its ethical policies, mainly diversity and gender equality, since 62% of the directors, senior managers and members of the management committee are women worldwide, which represents 800 people out of 8000 employees.
What would you like to say to all the students who are going to participate in the Swiss Genius Award?
If they are interested in luxury, Bulgari is one of the most advanced brands in all aspects of social and environmental responsibility, a policy that is at the heart of its strategy, with significant investments, and which represents a whole range of active professions within the CSR department. But it also involves investments in common goods and culture, such as the financing of architectural and artistic restorations. I am thinking here of the Aria Sacra di Largo Argentina, the oldest Republican site in the heart of Rome, also known as the site where Julius Caesar was assassinated. Discovered in the 1930s, but never opened to the public, it will be in a few months. In the same way, we are financing the restoration of a selection of 120 marbles, part of Torlonia's largest imperial collection, which represents all the emperors from Augustus to Constantine, and which will be exhibited in 2024 in the Louvre.
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