Brilliant Earth is currently engaged as part of the Madison Dialogue, a collaborative of companies, nonprofits, advocates and other agencies working towards establishing verified sources of responsible gold, diamonds and other minerals. We are part of a fascinating discussion about how companies in the jewelry sector are bringing corporate responsibility and sustainability to a global scale. Estelle Levin is an active participant in the dialogue and recently introduced this framework for companies who are trying to achieve sustainability:
A 1st generation company would be one that is just beginning to consider its sustainability. 1st generation companies generally don’t really understand what sustainability means / requires of them. A typical activity of a 1st generation company would be choosing to do carbon offsets but doing nothing to actually reduce its carbon footprint, or following a philanthropic route without changing any of their business practices. I say, at least they’re starting to think about it!
A second generation company is doing more than just ‘offsetting’ or philanthropy but understands that it can make change through its actual activities. It is beginning to monitor and improve its institutional or operational sustainability. So they’re thinking about how to make their activities more sustainable (e.g. in their trading relations, in how they dispose waste, in how they deal with stakeholders, in how they source the coffee for the kitchen…!), are making some changes, and are keeping tracks of these to help improve performance. They see sustainability as a vehicle for managing risk and as a business (and maybe even political) opportunity.
A 3rd generation company has actually embedded sustainability in its decision-making at all levels of the organisation (operational, strategic, institutional, etc.), reporting on its sustainability activities in a transparent and regular way, and using its position as a ‘corporate citizen’ to help society at large become more sustainable. They see sustainability as moral duty.
A 4th generation company has not just embedded sustainability but is entirely driven by a vision that it is a vehicle for stimulating sustainability in society and is designed with this as the primary motivation, with profit-making understood as the motor necessary to ensure the company’s ‘maintainability’. Social entrepreneurs would fit into this category. Other industry examples might be Innocent Smoothies (UK), Patagonia (north america).”
We’ll be posting more on this topic, but in the meantime, chew on Levin’s framework and let us know what you think of it.