What’s New in 2020: Environmental + Ethical Transparency

Zurina Ketola Designs was established in 2004, and from the start, I strongly believed that environmental sustainability and ethical conduct were important parts of running a business.

Over the last ten years, it’s become clear to me that there is always room for improvement, and transparency is an important element. With that in mind, here’s a look at what I’ve been up to, and my plans for the future.

A Good Start

Even in those early days, I employed simple techniques to achieve this. As a foil to fast fashion, I choose to personally create timeless jewelry featuring quality materials with a mix of modern and classic details. Branding materials like business cards and tags were made using a less wasteful, water-less printing technique with sustainably farmed trees. As I moved online, I began using I recycled packaging and reusing shipping materials. I’ve also employed standard practices that just made sense, like recycling my precious metal scrap.

You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make. -Jane Goodall quote

Environment + Sustainability: ZKD Guidelines

When I started back in 2004, I began with the three main principles of reducereuse, and recycle. In 2019, I officially added two additional concepts: repurpose and revise.

Below is a breakdown of these concepts and how I apply them to have a more sustainable and environmentally friendly small business. 

R E D U C E

Large retailers dispose of old stock and materials in a landfill, which is a terrible practice from an environmental standpoint. 

The materials I use in my handmade jewelry are precious resources and I always look for alternatives in these cases.

Rather than disposal, I donate materials I can no longer use.

R E U S E

Not only do I donate old stock, I make an effort to reuse these items in innovative and useful ways.

It’s often the case that leftover materials will remain from previous collections. 

These are kept in stock to use for future collections, and other new projects in development.

R E C Y C L E

Not only is mining awful for the environment, it’s both expensive and difficult. Due to this, it’s standard practice for precious metals to be melted and recycled into new raw materials.

I’ve been participating in this practice since the beginning. Precious metal scraps from making ZKD jewelry are saved and sent to be recycled.

R E P U R P O S E

In 2018, I donated all materials I no longer use to a Chicago area school with a well developed art program, and took all old design stock with me.

Many pieces still fit my aesthetic and are available for sale.  Others will be used as materials in an exciting new concept currently in development: Upcycled Jewelry Workshops!

R E V I S E

As new discoveries are always made in relation to environmental sustainability, it is of the utmost importance to have the ability to be adaptable and flexible. 

To ensure both adaptability and flexibility, I revisit and reevaluate my workflow annually to determine where improvements can be made. 

Ethical Business Practices: ZKD Guidelines

Currently, I make all the jewelry you see on the site, and plan to keep it this way. From this perspective, I can confirm that your jewelry is made using fair practices. 

For the last few years, however, my focus has moved to my supply chain. One of the biggest concerns for me has always been the social and environmental impact of mining and gemstone finishing. I’ve come to realize that I’m not able to have as much visibility into these processes as I’d like, but I still want to know from my suppliers: How did this material get in my hands?  Was it done safely for workers, and for the environment? Are they provided with fair wages? Am I unintentionally supporting organizations that don’t align with my ideals?

It is notoriously difficult to find this information in this industry. While people often know what country and sometimes region materials originate, I noticed that people just won’t answer more specific questions. It was frustrating, and I came to realize it was often because they just didn’t know. Since I couldn’t get direct answers, I choose to educate myself. To have a better sense, I did research on the sociopolitical and environmental factors regarding the origin of gems I was interested in using. During this time, I would take notes on whether current circumstances  might contribute to unethical conduct in the supply chain. For example, I wouldn’t buy materials if my research determined that they originated from a war torn part of the world, or location that was known to  promote poor treatment of workers or particularly bad environmental standards. Definitely not a perfect system, but I’m glad I did the work.

In 2018 and 2019, I began to take stock of all my regular suppliers and reach out to them addressing my concerns. I wanted to see where everyone stood the on environmental and ethical issues most important to me. My goal was to align myself with those in the industry that shared my values. While some suppliers were unable to answer my questions, several were able to confirm their own commitment to the environment, and ethical practices. Some highlights of my persistence? 

  • My leather supplier not only produces the finest quality leathers in the world, but the dyeing process is environmentally friendly. 
  • My largest metal supplier is an industry leader in environmental and sustainable practices and they provide metal recycling and sell recycled metal materials. 
  • One of my favorites gemstone suppliers not only confirmed they are aligned with my ideals regarding sustainability, environmental practices, and ethical business conduct, but they were inspired by my inquiry and commitment. Over our correspondence, they informed me they would be making their own Environmental Commitment Statement on their website in the spirit of transparency. 

If my efforts to improve my own standing inspires larger companies that actually work closely with mines within the industry to be more transparent, that’s not only a win for me – it’s win for everybody. Even though it hasn’t been easy,  this alone makes me happy to keep moving forward.  

The Blockchain: I'm a Supporter!

As I’ve gotten more involved in learning about my supply chain throughout 2019, I started to hear how blockchain technology could be a useful tool. I didn’t know much, but it came up enough that my interest was piqued. This curiosity lead me to many useful resources and contacts, and at this point, I’m really on board with the idea of using blockchain technology as a way to trace where materials come from and how they are managed along the supply chain.

It’s is a revolutionary concept that could be used to promote all the areas that are important to me – environmental standards, ethical business conduct and accountability within the supply chain across the globe. While it’s a complex topic, I recommend learning more about it. If you’re curious, you can find out a little more here.  here!

Work in Progress

I’ve added a new Environmental + Ethical Transparency Statement page to the site that will be updated annually for your review.  This post features everything that you see there.

Current changes on the website from my efforts over the last year include noting all sustainable and  ethically sourced materials and products made using recycled materials on product pages in an effort to be more transparent for you. 

As I move forward in 2020, I remain committed to working with suppliers that have a strong stance in alliance with the environmental and sustainable ideals that you’ve seen me discuss here, and I will officially be phasing out my work with suppliers who can’t provide transparency. My hope is that this will shine a light on these issues and encourage change.

If you have any questions or comments for me on the topic of environmental sustainability, or ethical business practices , please contact me. I look forward to hearing from you!