Earth Day and Sustainability Q&A with Founder Camille Parruitte McKenna

Earth Day and Sustainability Q&A with Founder Camille Parruitte McKenna

Celebrate Earth Day 2021 with us and learn how Nouvel Heritage honors the planet every day. We sat down with founder and CEO, Camille Parruitte McKenna, to talk all about how the brand values sustainability and ethical jewelry-making practices.   

Can you tell us more about Nouvel Heritage and its ecosystem when it comes to manufacturing?

Of course! To understand our values around sustainability, I think it’s important to know that Nouvel Heritage is part of the MCGP group, which was founded by my mother and is today fully family-owned. MCGP’s main activity is jewelry manufacturing, so all Nouvel Heritage jewelry is made in-house in one of our workshops in France.

Why do you think sustainability is important within the jewelry industry, and how does Nouvel Heritage follow such practices?

Sustainability within the jewelry industry is essential because some parts of our activity, particularly when it comes to sourcing materials, can have negative social and environmental impacts. The stakeholders of the industry decide to rally together to improve their practices throughout the supply chain. The current standards are regulated by the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), which ensures that companies follow strict guidelines throughout the manufacturing process that are ethical and sustainable.   

Our workshops are certified by the RJC, which means that we abide by their standards, as well as other company standards that we believe in. For example, as much as possible, we use solar panels to power our production, we reuse water and focus on green energies.

Beyond sustainability, our group tries to positively impact its community, employees, and the industry overall. We are heavily invested in teaching and training people to create jobs for people who might not have been aware of our profession before.  

Since the workshop is certified by the RJC and is removed from the harmful sourcing practices that you mentioned, can you explain the advantages of using recycled gold and conflict-free diamonds to create your jewelry pieces?

For us, it’s about philosophy and personal values. There was simply no way we could ever sell jewelry produced by harming communities and the environment.

Speaking of the environment — tell us about the vegetable garden!

At our factory, we built a 10,000+ sq ft garden to grow vegetables for our employees. Our gardener makes baskets with the harvests for our employees to bring home. We grow tomatoes, kale, lettuce, zucchinis, eggplants, and so much more! We even have apple and pear trees.

How did the idea to create a vegetable garden for the workshop employees come about?

My mother came up with the idea! She read about a hospital that converted its roof into a garden and used its harvests to feed its patients. First of all, you should know my mother grew up in the countryside, and her parents had a large vegetable garden. Some of my best childhood memories are with my grandfather picking peppers and lettuce in the garden. During quarantine, I actually turned my small New York apartment’s terrace into a full vegetable garden. I think both my mother and I had this connection to growing your own food in the first place.

For both of us, growing your food and giving it away is a way to be more sustainable and care for people. It takes a lot of love and patience to grow these plants *laughs*, so giving them away to our employees is a small way to show we care for them. 

What are some other sustainable practices you have brought from your personal life to Nouvel Heritage?

Nouvel Heritage and MCGP are both owned by my family; my sister and father also work in the company. We built our companies from our personal values around respect, ethics, and sustainability. Our company values are based on respect, trust, and transparency.

Looking at the jewelry industry as a whole — what are some trends or practices that you are seeing or would like to see more of regarding sustainability and social responsibility? 

Sometimes the jewelry industry is afraid of innovation because they fear it could destroy the savoir-faire we built over centuries. At Nouvel Heritage and within our production, we strongly disagree. We invest a lot of R&D and innovations because we believe it can bring traditional jewelry craftsmanship forward. Innovation can help give more creative freedom to our artisans, and it can also help transfer this savoir-faire to others to keep this profession alive. As much as possible, we try to encourage innovation at every step of the manufacturing process.

Why do you think it's important for consumers to care about ethical and sustainable practices in jewelry crafting?

Fine jewelry is so much more than a fashion accessory; it carries a message and an emotion. I believe people want to know how and where the jewelry was made to understand its value. Every piece of jewelry is made by hand by an artisan that crafted it as a small piece of art in a way. Everyone’s relationship to jewelry is deeply personal.

Moreover, jewelry is constantly in contact with your skin, and most of us have at least one piece of jewelry we never take off. That piece must be made with quality materials so that it is safe but also lasts forever.

Giving back has been an important value for the brand since its inception — how does Nouvel Heritage commit to this, and how does it extend to outside partnerships?

When you make a purchase on our site, you can select the charity of your choice, and we will donate 10% of your order to it. The donation process is automated through our provider, ShoppingGives, which is a certified B Corporation. It is also important to note that we donate at no cost for you!

Our family groups donate to several charities and foundations every year. We have recently given to art foundations, helping to promote craftsmanship and public gardens close to our factory.

When it comes to giving back to our community, we are also heavily invested in training to create jobs for people who never considered jewelry as a career path before.

You're currently living in the U.S. while still having strong ties to your French roots, do you think the attitude around sustainability differs between the two cultures? 

I believe we are both on the same page! People are increasingly gaining knowledge on sustainability and discovering new ways they can make a positive impact. Maybe the only difference would be around jewelry craftsmanship which is a big part of French culture and heritage. We feel compelled to protect our savoir-faire and to keep it alive.

Learn more about the Nouvel Heritage story and explore our workshop's certifications here.