Tiffany: Consumers Expect Responsible Sourcing

Today’s consumers want and expect responsible sourcing, Tiffany’s chairman and chief executive officer Michael Kowalski said Monday during a panel discussion at the American Express Publishing Luxury Summit.

"I think what we always assume as part of any luxury brand promise, certainly part of the Tiffany brand promise, even if unarticulated, is the assumption that nothing terrible happened in the creation of that product," Kowalski said. "I think the consumer understands that, as part of the promise, a luxury brand attends to those issues on behalf of the consumer."

Kowalski said the company has changed its business model "to have as much control as possible over the supply chain as we can."

"We integrated downward," said Kowalski. "We don’t mine. We don’t cut anything from the ground yet. But we’ve gone right to the mine heads so we could say to the consumer: We’ve seen the mine this particular diamond comes from, and we’ve seen that it is done in an appropriate way."

Tiffany set up its own diamond and cutting facilities in Botswana, South Africa, and Namibia. Ten years ago, the company fought for third-party certification of mines.

"One of our big objectives is to create a social infrastructure so that those who mine and source products have a more equitable share of the profits of the entire supply chain," Kowalski said.

The panel, titled "The Power of Being (and Doing) Good," included Christopher Cowdray, CEO of the Dorchester Collection, a luxury hotel company, and Adam D. Tihany, principal and founder of Tihany Design, an architecture firm specializing in luxury hotels and restaurants, including the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Las Vegas, where the three-day event is being held. Nancy Novogrod, editor-in-chief of Travel + Leisure, moderated.

Tiffany chairman Michael Kowalski (second from right) and Christopher Cowdray field questions from Nancy Novogrod. Not shown is architect Adam D. Tihany.