Sunday, June 16, 2024

How B Corp Label Otiumberg Is Shaping a Future Just As Timeless As Its Classic Jewelry

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The jewelry industry has seen a swell of ethical commitments in recent years — from responsible mining to sustainable materials. The sister-led U.K.-based Otiumberg may be small compared to the industry leaders, but its impact is creating big change.

Founded in 2016 by siblings Rosanna and Christie Wollenberg, the British jewelry label Otiumberg prioritizes ethical sourcing — a growing trend in the jewelry industry seeing responsible mining practices and alternatives like lab-grown diamonds finding more mainstream placement.

Otiumberg’s efforts earned it the Marie Claire Sustainability Award in 2021, and, most recently, Certified B Corp status — a rigorous process of accountability only achieved by a handful of jewelry labels.

Unlike many brands that focus on aggressive growth, Otiumberg emphasizes made-to-order practices and small production batches using recycled metals and rejecting seasonal trends. The label is distinguished by its annual life-cycle assessments, which evaluate its environmental footprint.

The Otiumberg small-batch and responsible philosophy has paid off, with A-listers Paul Mescal, Margot Robbie, and Olivia Palermo donning Otiumberg pieces. The jewelers have also worked with labels including g Alex Eagle, Hunza G, and most recently Australian brand Camilla and Marc.

The recent B Corp status for Otiumberg (which comes from the Latin, ‘otium’, or leisure time devoted to an artistic endeavours and enjoyment. And ‘berg’, the founders’ surname) earned the label a score of 82.4, which the jewelers say reflects their positive contributions across five pivotal sectors: community, customer, environment, government, and workers.

“We are delighted to have achieved B-corp status; a testament to the responsible ethos and stubborn determination of our team to do things better in an industry that is often very closed,” the Wollenberg sisters said in a statement.

Sisters Rosanna (left) and Christie Wollenberg
Sisters Rosanna (left) and Christie Wollenberg | Courtesy Otiumberg

“We are incredibly proud and now even more determined as a team to continue to do better: this is really just the beginning. Whilst certification is very much a cause to celebrate, we recognise that we have a long way to go and already have many new plans in the pipeline to help us get there. We hope that our certification inspires others to sign up to the process also. After all, wider industry change is what we are seeking.”

Otiumberg recently launched its inaugural Single Mine Origin gold collection. This line offers fully traceable gold that’s exclusively sourced from one mine. The initial offerings, which include Men’s Wedding Bands and the Domino Ring made from 9ct gold with an ethically procured smokey quartz, will come with an SMO barcode. This unique feature educates customers about the origins of their gold, its journey, and its consequent positive impacts.

We recently caught up with the Wollenberg sisters via email to learn more about the label, its recent B Corp status, and how its sustainability commitments inform its designs.

*This interview is edited for length and clarity.

Ethos: Can you tell us about the journey to achieve B Corp Certification and what it means for Otiumberg as a brand?

The Wollenbergs: As a small brand, we have invested a huge amount of time and resources into being more responsible, and B Corp is an accreditation we have been working towards for over a year and a half. It’s a wonderful achievement to see our commitment and efforts formally recognised with this prestigious certification.

B Corp gives us a framework to grow and evolve in a responsible manner, laying the foundations for a new type of business model in the industry. It’s an incredible honour to be part of the B Corp community and something that motivates us to do even better. It is worth saying that whilst we are over the moon with our B Corp status, this is by no means our end goal, it’s just part of our journey. We will always ensure that we are evolving, learning, and improving.

Ethos: With an 82.4 B Impact Assessment score, which impact areas did Otiumberg focus on to make a positive difference in the community, environment, government, workers, and customers?

The Wollenbergs: We have a 360 approach when it comes to being responsible and with a score of 82.4 it’s clear we have a way to go. From our recycled metals to the way we audit our workshops and look after our staff here in London, it really is a holistic approach that guides us to be a more rounded responsible business.

Ethos: How does Otiumberg’s rejection of seasonality and emphasis on made-to-order and small production runs set it apart from its contemporaries in the jewelry industry?

The Wollenbergs: We have always believed that jewellery should not go on sale nor be subservient to trends. Each piece is handcrafted through centuries-old traditional methods in the fine precious metals of solid gold, vermeil, and sterling silver — pieces to take care of and cherish.

A model in Otiumberg earrings
A model in Otiumberg earrings | Courtesy

With that said, we find that a focus on timelessness, made-to-order, and producing in small quantities underpins this ethos and stands us apart from an industry that is increasingly bombarding customers with end-of-season sales and flash markdowns. We want our customers to treasure their items and know that their value will remain for years to come.

Ethos: What role does ethical sourcing and annual life-cycle assessments play in Otiumberg’s commitment to sustainability and reducing its environmental impact?

The Wollenbergs: As a small voice in a huge industry, we try to do the very best we can. Our Life Cycle Assessment has been an important way for us to track our impact across the supply chain annually. This allows us to understand where the problem areas are, as well as the improvements. There is no denying that we produce internationally, so we need to be conscious of our footprint and how we can lighten it as we grow.

Ethos: What inspired the decision to launch the first Single Mine Origin gold collection, and how does it contribute to the brand’s mission of traceability and responsibility?

The Wollenbergs: We recognise that mining is not going anywhere overnight and as a brand that contributes to the demand for gold, we have a responsibility to work towards improving the industry.

Otiumberg rings
Otiumberg rings | Courtesy

Single Mine Origin gold is a fantastic project that gives full transparency in a supply chain that has so often been difficult to obtain. Alongside our core collection of recycled precious metals, we have launched a capsule of solid 9-karat yellow gold rings which includes a new category of Men’s wedding bands and women’s diamond bands.

Each purchase is accompanied by a QR code detailing the exact mine that the gold was mined from including its best-in-class environmental, governance, and social impact.

Ethos: What are Otiumberg’s future plans to further improve its environmental and social efforts within the jewelry industry?

The Wollenbergs: As a team that continues to drive forward without external investment, we remain nimble in how we can update or change our responsibility programme. This allows us to be constantly learning, reading, and adapting.

Recent updates include a renewed partnership with Choose Love, where our donations will support Amna (formerly Refugee Trauma Initiative). Amna is an incredible organisation that provides refugee communities with safe spaces where they can heal from the effects of conflict and war. Each team member has a role to play in our responsibility programme from our recycling and compost at HQ to our supply chain and diversity training.

Learn more at the Otiumberg website.

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