Pure Earth Honors Iris Van der Veken


Iris Van der Veken, secretary general of the Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030, accepted the Pure Earth Impact Award at a dinner in New York City on Oct. 16. Pure Earth gives the award to honor champions of climate protection, human rights, and gender equality.

Van der Veken has been head of the Watch & Jewellery Initiative since July 2022. The program was founded by luxury goods brands Kering and Cartier, to promote environmental and resource protection and inclusiveness in the industry, based on the Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact and the U.N.’s sustainable development goals.

In her acceptance speech, Van der Veken paid tribute to Pure Earth’s work removing mercury from the gold supply chain. “Artisanal and small-scale mining is the largest source of global mercury emissions,” she said. “But it is also, at the same time, a livelihood for 50 million people and 4 to 5 million women and children.

“[When] mercury is released, it travels into the rivers and oceans, contaminating marine life and, eventually, getting into the food we eat. We are all impacted. I cannot emphasize enough the great work Pure Earth does.”

She also urged the jewelry industry to do more far as social responsibility. “We work in an industry of beauty and emotion. When do you buy a piece of jewelry? You buy it because you love someone, because you have arrived in a new step in your career, because you had a happy day and you want to buy something beautiful.

“We need to show to the consumer that we care, and that actually, behind the jewelry, are processes that are also beautiful and impacting positively on the climate and human rights. And that is a collective responsibility and an opportunity. My message to the industry is: We need to step up. We can’t just sit there. We need to accelerate and we need to strengthen transparency more than ever.

“We have a huge responsibility to our children and grandchildren,” she added, “that they can inherit a world that is just, that is healthy, that respects human rights, and that is filled with compassion and dignity for all.”

Beth Gerstein, CEO and cofounder of jewelry e-tailer Brilliant Earth, was last year’s winner of the Pure Earth Impact Award.

Top: Iris Van der Veken and her award (photo courtesy of Pure Earth)

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By: Rob Bates

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