Kowalski Testifies on Coral Conservation

Michael J. Kowalski, Tiffany & Co. chairman and chief executive officer, testified Tuesday before the House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans on the U.S. consumer demand for wildlife products that are traded illegally or unsustainably.

As one of the world’s leading jewelers, Tiffany & Co. has been at the forefront of the sustainability issue for the past ten years. In his testimony, Kowalski said that the company has made “an unequivocal commitment to sustainability and protecting the natural world,” and he praised Congress for drawing attention to the need for consumers and retailers to be educated on the ecological and economic impacts of wildlife trade.

With specific regard to coral conservation, Kowalski said that “for the past eight years, The Tiffany & Co. Foundation has supported research focused on coral reef systems. And since 2003, Tiffany & Co. has helped protect coral in the most simple and direct way we could, by prohibiting its sale in our stores. While we remain committed, most retail jewelers, and certainly most consumers, are still sadly unaware of the global destruction of coral, and their complicity in that destruction.”

Kowalski did say, however, that there is “enormous concern among consumers about the impact their consumption decisions have upon the environment. And we are confident that when given the opportunity to make a responsible choice, most will do precisely that.”

“More information is desperately needed,” he said, “and with that information the effort to inform retailers and consumers about this destructive trade can be greatly strengthened.” In addition, he called for Congress to do “much more to better define the threats to our marine ecosystems, and coral in particular. Specifically, we are hopeful that Red Coral (Corallium) will be listed under CITES Appendix II.”

Kowalski added, “I hope the light this hearing can shed on the many threats to coral will cause both consumers to demand, and retailers to wholeheartedly support, a stop to this trade.  As a jeweler, it strikes me that perhaps the greatest tragedy here is the insignificance of coral for the jewelry industry as a whole. And unlike gemstones, pearls, or precious metals, which are vitally important to the industry but can be produced responsibly, there is no such benign possibility for coral jewelry. To destroy our coral resources for something as insignificant as coral jewelry defies both scientific and economic logic, and simple common sense. Some things are indeed ‘too precious to wear.’”