Sustainable Jewellery

An overview of the jewellery production at Felecia Design (Thailand)'s new factory

The jewellery industry has entered a new era in which consumers tend to prioritise sustainability over price. For manufacturers, a measured approach, transparent policies and practices, and a network are needed to keep up.

Felicia Design began operations in Thailand 28 years ago. From day one, the company integrated Norwegian business ethics into its operation, where sustainability is an important element. A recent move to a new factory allowed the jewellery manufacturer to ramp up its efforts but there was also a realisation that the company has more work to do.

“Our environmental efforts can really get under way with the opening of this new factory. We have focused on what’s most important for us to be a sustainable business and will continue to add to that foundation over time,” Mrs Vibeke Lyssand Leirvåg, Founder and Managing Director at Felicia Design, notes: “However, as an SME, financially we cannot do everything at once. The required investment is costly, but we can take steps until we gradually get there.”

This is a challenge many small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face. While large multinational corporations have the resources to implement various aspects of ESG principles faster than SMEs, Mrs Leirvåg urges that the latter be held to a different set of expectations.

She adds that it would be good to see government tax incentives offered to SMEs that take steps towards sustainable actions. This would encourage and support further investment in sustainability. It would also allow jewellery manufacturers to be more competitive at a time when consumer concerns are shifting.
“In the jewellery industry, the focus used to be on price and quality. Today, jewellery brands want to know about sustainability and the sourcing of materials, because that is what the end consumer will ask them. It is a new way of doing business. The younger generation is more informed and cares about this,” Mrs Leirvåg says.

Of course, there must be an understanding of what is and isn’t possible when it comes to sustainability. Let’s use the example of recycled or traceable materials. “In volume production, it’s not possible to guarantee the use of 100 percent recycled materials. There simply isn’t enough of it to go around, therefore we must use a mix of recycled and non-recycled materials in our jewellery. This is the case for most companies” Mrs Leirvåg reports.

She continues, “The industry has evolved over the years and is increasingly responsible overall. One reason for this shift is an increased availability of tool kits and education on how to best manufacture.”
In Thailand, there is no governing body monitoring sustainability efforts. This means the onus is on the companies themselves to find guidance and support.

“Each industry in Thailand should have clear policies in place to reach the country’s sustainability commitments. For jewellery, there is no local guidance available, but internationally, we have the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC),” Mrs Leirvåg details.

Part of something bigger

The RJC is playing a crucial role as the sustainability standard setter for the jewellery and watch industry across the globe. In order to become a member, companies must pass an independent third-party audit on the organisation’s Code of Practices, a robust set of guidelines covering all areas of operations, including the entire supply chain.

Qualifying as a member of RJC was not easy, but it has elevated Felicia Design’s sustainability efforts while giving them a competitive edge as a trusted OEM supplier.

“The RJC required us to be more structured as a company, and the audit assures we have the right policies in place. Passing is a huge accomplishment” Mrs Leirvåg says. “When you are an RJC-certified company, those you work with expect you to maintain those standards at all times. It has made us a more responsible company, not only in our manufacturing, but throughout our supply chain.”

Additionally, Felicia Design supports the UN Global Compact since 2017. The initiative was launched for companies to follow universal sustainability principles, including human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption.

“In many ways, the ten principles in the UN Global Compact were principles we already practiced. We wanted to publicly state our support for them, and it’s something more SMEs should consider. It is a platform that we are contributing to even though we aren’t a large business,” Mrs Leirvåg notes. “This gave us a network and platform to achieve results. You gain both opportunities and knowledge while collaborating with other companies toward a common goal.”

Another notable milestone for Felicia Design was gaining membership in the Thai Collective Action against Corruption (CAC), a leading platform fighting graft in the country. This allowed the company to demonstrate its Norwegian ethics to clients in a meaningful way. This is not the only Norwegian standard Mrs Leirvåg would like to see Thailand and the jewellery industry as a whole aim for.

Gender balance at the leadership and boardroom levels is something the company values. “From day one, Felicia Design has been providing equal opportunities. We employ more women than men, not by choice, but by equal opportunities,” Mrs Leirvåg says. “In my role as Chairwoman of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand (JFCCT), I do not feel I have less respect because I am a woman. Diversity is positive for any organisation.”

Critical network

It is not just industry and global networks that have helped Felicia Design over the years. As a foreign-owned business in Thailand, local networks were instrumental in the company’s growth through knowledge building, support and meeting others who can assist.

“Being part of a local network as a foreign-owned business is invaluable. That can be anything from joining a local foreign chamber of commerce to a group that’s related to your company’s industry,” Mrs Leirvåg advises. “Here in Thailand, networking is a big part of doing business. Knowing or simply being introduced to the right people makes all the difference.”

For Mrs Leirvåg, her decision to join the Thai-Norway Chamber of Commerce (TNCC) in 1996 proved to be rewarding. Being a part of this network opened doors and provided insights that Felicia Design would not have otherwise had as a Norwegian start-up operating overseas.

“There are a lot of business leaders who are members of the TNCC, on whom I can rely on for support. They share resources and an understanding of regulations I may not be experienced in. It can help you avoid mistakes,” Mrs Leirvåg notes. “Simply signing up isn’t enough, though. You must be active and utilise the membership. You can connect with people and even customers in some cases.”

A misconception SMEs may harbour about joining a foreign chamber of commerce is that these are reserved for bigger corporations only. In reality, start-ups, entrepreneurs and smaller firms are the ones who have the most to gain by signing up and being active.

Joining the TNCC opened up the opportunity for Felicia Design to be a part of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand (JFCCT) which consists of 34 chambers and business associations representing more than 9,000 companies.

“When you join a local chamber, you’re also able to be a part of the JFCCT. This is another way to expand your network and seek out information or support from those who are more experienced,” Mrs Leirvåg says. “There are a lot of opportunities available for Norwegian businesses overseas but having a network will help you find them.”

Fact Box 

  • Felicia Design is an OEM jewellery manufacturer that began operations in Thailand 28 years ago
  • In 2023, the company moved to a new factory allowing it to increase sustainability efforts
  • Felicia Design is a certified member of the RJC, the sustainability standard setter for the jewellery and watch industry
  • The company began supporting the UN Global Compact in 2017 and is also a member of the Thai Collective Action against Corruption
  • Felicia Design utilises a Norwegian business model, Italian technology, French guidance and Thai artisans
  • Mrs Leirvåg currently serves as Vice President of Thai-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce, Chairwoman of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand and Advisor to Board of Trade Thailand

Registration will be open
in September 2023

Registration will be open in September 2023