Many luxury brands have incorporated social justice and sustainability initiatives into their business models, especially now that Gen Z is driving the conversation about what it means to be a purpose-led brand. But few have invested as much in those initiatives, nor for as many years, as Cartier.
That fact was made clear last week, when the French jeweler and watchmaker marked the 15th anniversary of the Cartier Women’s Initiative (CWI) at a three-day celebration in Dubai.
Founded in 2006 as a joint partnership between Cartier, the Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society, McKinsey & Company and INSEAD business school, the annual international entrepreneurship program was conceived as a way to honor forward-thinking and socially conscious businesswomen in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America. Since the first laureates were awarded in 2007, the program has supported 262 women impact entrepreneurs from 62 countries with $6.4 million in prize money.
“During all these years this initiative has brought together a community of passionate social entrepreneurs, who have developed successful business models improving lives around them,” Cyrille Vigneron, president and CEO of Cartier International, said during the ceremony. “This community is a constant source of awe and inspiration.”
This year, the program did not accept new applications because the focus was on celebrating #15yearsofimpact. Instead, the entrepreneurship competition recognized nine former fellows making extraordinary impacts on their communities, and presented Impact Awards in three categories: Improving Lives, Preserving the Planet and Creating Opportunities, which are based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).
The first-place winners, announced on March 6, during the Impact Awards Ceremony at the Dubai Opera House, included one honored in the “Improving Lives” category: Temie Giwa Tubosun, whose company, LifeBank, uses data and technology to deliver essential medical products to hospitals in her native Nigeria; and two who earned prizes in the “Preserving the Planet” category: Charlotte Wang, a 2020 fellow from East Asia working on creating energy efficiency solutions using artificial intelligence and big data through her company, EQuota; and Fariel Salahuddin, a 2019 fellow from South Asia and Oceania that has created a bartering service, UpTrade, that enables rural communities to use livestock as currency.
Mercedes Abramo, president and CEO of Cartier North America, said that in addition to the first-place winners cited above, the second- and third-place winners had created businesses whose impacts were “both immense and consistent,” she wrote in an email. They include Lorna Rutto, a 2011 fellow from Sub-Saharan Africa whose company, EcoPost, recycles waste plastic to manufacture into eco-friendly plastic lumber, and Joanne Howarth, a 2020 laureate from Australia who manufactures environmentally responsible insulated packaging made from sheep waste wool for transport of temperature-sensitive goods through her company, Planet Protector Packaging.
“The fact is that while we’re all women in business who have faced similar challenges in getting a seat at the table, the focus of their businesses are so different from my day-to-day work that I find them each fascinating in their own right,” Abramo added. “The measurable and immeasurable ways in which their work makes a positive impact both moves and inspires me. It also gives me hope that future generations just might inherit a more sympathetic and connected world.”
The ceremony also featured special guests Guo Jingjing, a world diving champion from China, and American actor and producer Yara Shahidi, who shared their visions of gender equality and women’s empowerment.
In a moving keynote address, Shahidi spoke of the global experience uniting the women who’ve participated in the Cartier Women’s Initiative. “As women, many of us are born into cultures that show us that hope is in our hard work,” she said. “Our ability to gain access to new opportunities and create new lives happens through a deep commitment. In short, we are all born into a dream and therefore we are all born dreamers.”
She went on to say that many of the women could relate to “experiencing a world that does not support our dreams,” she said. “And as we wake to the realization that the dream was not imagined with us in mind, we do what comes to us oh so naturally: We activate.
“The Cartier Women’s Initiative continues to keep us inspired through the beautiful work of honoring women that are redefining a more inclusive dream,” Shahidi added. “Tonight represents 15 years of innovation, discipline and commitment in this very room. We’re drawn together by a shared interest in using personal passions to serve the world at large.”