Mejuri: Drafting a New Sustainability Roadmap
This article first appeared in the special edition of The State of Fashion: Watches and Jewellery, co-published by The Business of Fashion and McKinsey & Company. To learn more and download a copy of the report, click here.
Direct-to-consumer fine jewellery label Mejuri had sustainability and innovation built into its brand DNA from the beginning, says co-founder and former engineer Noura Sakkijha. At the time of its Series B funding, Net-a-Porter founder and investor Natalie Massenet, whose fund Imaginary participated in the round, said the brand’s affordable prices and socially responsible sourcing model were “set to disrupt the industry.” To date, Sakkijha has attracted over $48 million in venture capital funding for the brand.
Known for its female-centric designs — of which around 75 percent are bought by women as self-purchases or gifts for friends — and innovative product drop model, Mejuri sources exclusively from either Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC)-certified suppliers or family-owned businesses near the brand’s headquarters of Toronto, Canada. As she looks ahead to the next five years, Sakkijha says that while existing infrastructures can facilitate initial steps towards improving the industry’s impact, the next generation of jewellery brands have an opportunity to grow if they look beyond existing sustainability frameworks, dig deeper into their supply chain and draft their own roadmaps for change.
BoF: Concerns for the environment and workers across the industry’s value chains have been put even further under the spotlight by the pandemic, yet the jewellery sector has been criticised as one of the slowest to implement change. How do you see this tension point around sustainability becoming an opportunity for jewellery brands?
Noura Sakkijha: I think it’s a silver lining to the pandemic, because we all have to push for better practices across all industries. One of the challenges is that existing infrastructures mask how deep companies go in their due diligence… From far away, they make it look like if you check the box, you’re doing the right thing but when you start to [scrutinise] more, you see there are limitations.
The majority of our sales are for products made from gold, so we decided we would have the [biggest] impact if we started with our gold supply chain. We’ve set ourselves up with RJC-certified suppliers, but we also went back to our suppliers and asked more. We are upping our targets for the amount of certified recycled gold we use. Next, we’re turning to silver. Our ultimate goal is for all our materials to have visibility from mine to market, but with the current infrastructures in the industry, it’s not easy for us to immediately figure that out… You have to ask the right questions… and having the right expertise on the team [to do so] is really, really important.
How important do you think circularity is going to be for jewellery brands over the next five years?
Figuring out circular models is very important because you will have excess inventory at some point… We’re never going to be able to 100 percent [accurately] predict demand. But what is unique about the jewellery industry is anything excess in inventory that doesn’t sell can be refined back into the supply chain. There are opportunities to figure out how to recycle gemstones, though we’re still early in the research… so it’s not [yet] mainstream.
Becoming smarter in how much you actually produce from the get-go is not just a financial tool, but it also has a responsibility aspect to it. The more compressed your supply chain, the less risk you have. That’s why a lot of big brands are moving closer to their manufacturing facilities.
Younger consumers say that brands are not always honest enough when it comes to their environmental or social impact. How can brands avoid being called out for greenwashing or acts of performative social justice?
The consumer is not [always] aware of the industry’s complexities, so how can we influence positive change and also show the friction points? I think it’s all about transparency — not just about what we’re doing, but transparency about the challenges too. Our role is to set the roadmap, to ask the right questions and push for change, but it cannot happen overnight.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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