“Moving towards a competitive and sustainable French jewelry industry” – interview with Bernadette Pinet Cuoq, Executive President of the UFBJOP, member of the WJI2030

Marianne Riou

On September 9, during the VincenzaOro trade show in Italy, the Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030 announced that two new affiliate members, the UFBJOP and the CIBJO, had joined. To better understand the rationale behind the WJI2030, the specific characteristics of the French jewelry industry and its CSR and sustainability challenges, Rubel & Ménasché interviewed Bernadette Pinet Cuoq, Executive President of the l’Union Française de la Bijouterie, Joaillerie, Orfèvrerie, des Pierres & des Perles. Read on for an impassioned, committed and hard-hitting interview.

Bernadette Pinet Cuoq, could you introduce us to the UFBJOP. What is its role exactly?

The Union Française de la Bijouterie, Joaillerie, Orfèvrerie, des Pierres & des Perles (the French Union of Jewelry, Goldsmiths, Stones and Pearls) is the only professional organization in France to represent all the players of the French jewelry industry, including manufacturers, retailers, brands and SMEs, etc. The Union has been in existence for nearly 160 years. It was founded in 1864, under the impetus of Frédéric Boucheron, Antoine Mellerio, Auguste Savard and Marcel Carpentier, with the role, even then, of defending the professional and economic interests of its members. Today, it still strives to promote the industry, protect its interests and drive its competitiveness.

In addition, the Union also includes the Haute École de Joaillerie (established 156 years ago, ed.) and the Laboratoire Français de Gemmologie (established nearly 100 years ago, ed.)

The UFBJOP is very active both in France and abroad. Through the UFBJOP, France is a founding member of the CIBJO (the World Jewellery Confederation). It is also a founding and active member of the European Federation of Jewellery, which also includes Italy, Spain and Portugal, and promotes the interests of the industry in Brussels and in the European Parliament. Finally, the UFBJOP is also on the board of the RJC.

Could you tell us about the specific characteristics of the French jewelry industry?

In France, the core business is manufacturing. But what makes France special today is that we are able to blend culture, history and know-how.

French jewelry expertise dates back to Catherine de Medicis, Louis XIV and even before! * Our industry combines many different trades and skills: lacquering, modeling, polishing, setting and glyptics, etc.

France is also perfectly integrated on a global scale. Our industry structure is multi-faceted: major luxury groups have expanded globally, while co-contractors, SMEs and innovative start-ups have consolidated in recent years to meet the needs of a very demanding market. This diversity is what makes our market strong and competitive.

We should also bear in mind that, in 2009, with the challenges of the recession, France remained among the European leaders. Our industry is dynamic, highly export-focused and adds value to France’s balance of trade. ** Finally, jewelry brands need to conquer the international markets and five of the world’s largest jewelry competitors are of French origin (Chanel, Hermès, Kering, LVMH and Richemont).

What are the major challenges facing the French jewelry sector?

We must continue to grow in this booming market! Recruiting talent and ensuring the sector remains attractive in the employment sector are major challenges. We must succeed in recruiting, training and retaining talent.

We also have to support our dynamic SMEs in their consolidation strategies.

Finally, of course, CSR issues and the need to make our industry sustainable are also fundamental. Fortunately, our “materials” can be reused over and over again and are sustainable…

Why did you become an affiliate member of the Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030? What will be your role?

The WJI2030 is an association, launched by Cartier, delegated by Richemont, and Kering in October 2021. It brings together different members of the jewelry and watchmaking sector – these include Rubel & Ménasché by the way! Its ambition is to engage jewelry and watchmaking industry players to the path towards sustainability. It has three core goals: climate resilience, conserving resources and fostering inclusiveness.

It was only natural for the UFBJOP to join this initiative, which formalizes and takes the industry further in certain areas. It does not mean that other initiatives are excluded. The approach is complementary.

The UFBJOP and the CIBJO are the first professional organizations to join the WJI2030. Just as they were with the RJC, about 17 years ago!

Under the auspices of the RJC, our jewelry industry has established best practices from mining to retail. Quite honestly, this is a major competitive advantage. But it also makes our industry virtuous. The WJI2030 can build on this foundation of proven best practices over the years. All our members are RJC-certified. They therefore adhere to the very demanding KYC standards, the virtuous value chain and comply with the Kimberley Process, etc.

Our job will be to help companies in the sector join the approach proposed by the WJI2030. To help them organize themselves enough to be able as to answer the question “How do you manage your value chain in a sustainable way?” This should be considered in view of current events and the need for a clean planet.

Once again, sustainability and competitiveness are intrinsically linked.

Could you tell us more about the complementarity between the RJC and the Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030?

The Responsible Jewellery Council focuses on technical aspects and international standards to implement best practices. When the RJC was founded in 2005, this approach was visionary. These standards, which concern both SMEs and large luxury groups, are solid.

The WJI2030 will commit the international jewelry industry to move further, ‘towards’ the UN’s 2030 SDGs. The auditing culture that our industry has already developed is indeed a vital asset. This industry is demanding of its members. We know that we need to “prove” our sustainability claims if we are to satisfy our customers and reassure consumers.

Can you give us some concrete examples of your sustainability work that fall within the scope of your involvement in the Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030?

On October 18 and 19, we will organize our annual industry meeting, Précieuses Confluences. October 19 will be dedicated to sustainable development. We will invite service providers specializing in sustainable development, CSR, climate and inclusion (Agefiph, for example) and connect them with French jewelry professionals.

We have also launched a CSR club that brings together CSR managers from the major groups. They present their CSR policies and sustainability initiatives.

We are also partnering with BPI France (a public investment bank) to establish a CSR Task Force, aimed at a dozen French manufacturing workshops. The aim is to assess their CSR progress, share experiences and help them think about financing their actions. Each CSR plan must be tailored to each company!

By participating in the WJI2030, UFBJOP will be able to provide effective strategic and operational support for its members. We will therefore build a link between the workshops and the requirements of the luxury groups.

Have you identified any specific CSR needs in France?

We must continue to raise awareness of these issues among the industry’s players and to train them to meet the challenges of CSR.

Via the Haute École de Joaillerie, the UFBJOP offers a sustainable development course that provides a 360° view of the CSR challenges facing the jewelry industry. It also teaches companies how to implement them internally and identify useful levers.

The method for implementing a CSR policy is crucial for small companies or workshops. How do you involve your teams in this CSR approach? With what resources? How do you assess your consumption in order to calculate your carbon footprint? In concrete terms, how do you set a carbon footprint target and is it really possible to work towards achieving a zero footprint? How do you develop a CSR policy which, logically, should be linked to the Maison’s history, etc.?

Finally, it is essential to support and finance this CSR policy. This also needs to be documented in a CSR quality report.

The UFBJOP intends to help its members find key players who can help them and contribute to making the jewelry industry even more competitive while preserving the planet.

Source Rubel & Ménasché

Read about on Rubel & Ménasché:
Rubel & Ménasché is committed to CSR and encourages its application within the jewelry industry – practical advice from the UFBJOP roundtable

* Historical note: as early as 768, Pepin the Short, King of the Franks, gave goldsmiths a protected status. In the 15th century, under the reign of Charles VII, his favorite, Agnes Sorel, required courtiers to wear pearls, diamonds and sumptuous ornaments. In 1530, François I created the collection of Crown Jewels, which included the famous white Regent diamond and the Blue Crown Diamond, later cut to become the Hope diamond.
The industry and the expertise (of working with precious metals and stones) have developed over the centuries thanks to a succession of royal orders…

** In 2020, the French jewelry industry generated estimated sales of more than 6.4 billion euros (excluding VAT) for the export market (‘Chiffres clés 2020, horlogerie-bijouterie-joaillerie,’ Francéclat).

Photos © UFBJOP.