Make us your Homepage      

Pure Earth honours Belgian climate advocate Iris Van der Veken with Impact Award
First woman at the forefront of climate, human rights and gender

Iris Van der Veken
International nonprofit organization Pure Earth is honoring Belgian climate advocate Iris Van der Veken with the 2023 Pure Earth Impact Award. Pure Earth is heading the fight against mercury-lead pollution around the world. The Pure Earth Impact Award goes to outstanding champions in climate protection, human rights and gender. Iris Van der Veken is also the first woman in many of these areas.

Belgian secretary general of the international platform Watch & Jewellery Initiative, Iris Van der Veken, is being honoured in New York for her exceptional leadership and strong activism on climate, human rights and gender. 'Iris has been at the forefront of ESG reporting and United Nations Global Compact network for two decades and was the first woman to successfully lead the Responsible Jewellery Council. In her new role as secretary general of the Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030, from Geneva, Switzerland, she is promoting the 2030 Agenda and a strong partnership with United Nations Global Compact, UN Women and ESG Book. ' Van der Veken can rightly be called a trailblazer, a champion, in the industry,' says Richard Fuller, president and founder of Pure Earth. ' She has started a movement that will save the lives of so many people in the watch and jewellery supply chain.'

Unseen result

Van der Veken reacts : ‘I am deeply honoured to receive this Impact award from Pure Earth. The jewellery industry is an important part of the climate solution and the work Pure Earth is doing to reduce global mercury emissions by championing responsible, mercury-free gold mining practices, that includes the reforestation of damaged land. We all have a shared responsibility in leaving no one behind. Sustainability is a journey and it takes CEO leadership and everyone's involvement throughout the supply chain to create a positive impact on the ground. It is not easy and it requires hard work and commitment. I would like to dedicate this award to everyone in our industry, from mining to retail, that advances the 2030 agenda forward’

Van der Veken is currently executive director and secretary general of the Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030 (WJI 2030) founded by luxury goods brands Kering and Cartier and based on the Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. WJI 2030 brings together CEOs and decision-makers from all watch and jewellery players with a national and international footprint, to make a meaningful difference on three key pillars: climate resilience, preserving resources and fostering inclusiveness. Members collaborate with experts from around the world on sustainability and health. The work is focused on delivering concrete and measurable impact on the global jewellery and watch industry. In a world where consumer behaviour and rules are constantly changing, WJI 2030 guides its members to build trust through transparency and measured progress.

Mercury-free techniques

The watch and jewellery industry holds the key to a better world without mercury pollution or poisoning. Much of the mercury that ends up in the environment today comes from artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM), which supplies about a quarter of the world's gold. Mercury released there spreads around the world, contaminating rivers, oceans, fish and ultimately the global food chain. Pure Earth is working with the jewellery industry to train artisanal and small-scale gold miners worldwide in mercury-free techniques. In the Peruvian Amazon, Pure Earth is the leading organization working directly with miners to become mercury-free and to restore land damaged by destructive mining practices. The centrepiece of Pure Earth's collaboration with the jewellery industry is the annual Pure Earth Pure Gold Collection that aims to create awareness about the global impact of mercury pollution from gold mining, the plight of artisanal and small-scale gold miners and the solutions already being used in the Amazon rainforest and beyond. The annual auction raises money to support Pure Earth's work.

Life saver

Previous Pure Earth Impact Award winners include Beth Gerstein, the co-founder and CEO of the global jewellery company Brilliant Earth, which is working with Pure Earth to test and establish the first mercury-free gold supply chain from the Peruvian Amazon. Pure Earth is a leading nonprofit dedicated to saving and improving human and animal lives and protecting the planet. It tackles disease-causing pollution in low- and middle-income countries. Pure Earth prioritizes children and pregnant women living in toxic areas and exposed to lead and mercury. Working with governments, communities and industry leaders, Pure Earth aims to make pollution a global priority, create sustainable change and support a healthier future. Watch One in 36 Million, the Pure Earth film about childhood lead poisoning in Bangladesh, which was recently awarded the Grand Prix prize at the World Health Organization's (WHO) Health For All film festival.