Guya Merkle belongs to a new generation of businesswomen who stands for economic success in harmony with ethical principles. Founder of Earthbeat Foundation and CEO of Berlin based luxury jewellery brand VIERI Guya is spearheading the movement for responsible business practise.
Her love of jewellery began at a very early age, as a child she would play in her father’s safe with all the beautiful little gems accompanying him to fairs and appointments around the world. Although she loved every second of her travels with her parents, she was quite adamant that she would never work within the jewellery industry but all that suddenly changed when 12years ago her father passed away.
Taking responsibility for this third generation family business she attended the GIA in London, and was horrified by images of a goldmine, of the hazardous living and working conditions of the miners and the impact mining had on the environment, she simply could not comprehend such destruction and brutality to that of a product so adored and often given with love. It was then that she decided to do something different.
When a customer walks into a jewellery store, treating a loved one or celebrating a special occasions are usually at the forefront of our minds. Rarely does that customer think of where the jewellery comes from, let alone its social and environmental costs. The tragedy of “blood diamonds” – illegally traded diamonds used to fund conflicts in Africa – has managed to permeate consumer consciousness and generate change, yet most consumers have little idea of where their gold jewellery comes from or how it’s produced.
For the uninitiated amongst us the extraction of gold is an extremely harmful process to people and the environment. Twenty million people worldwide work in the artisanal mining industry and one hundred million are indirectly involved in the supply chain. 90% of the work is manual and often undertaken without technical aids. Gold miners are exposed to toxic chemicals such as mercury, which are commonly used in the extraction process. Not only does this harm the miners with hazardous consequences on their organism, the chemicals used for the extraction also poison the soil and groundwater in the surrounding areas, leading to a significant environmental degradation. This also negatively affects the surrounding agriculture – which is often a major source of income for neighbouring communities.
Whilst researching these mines Guya discovered there were a few Fairtrade mines in Peru here miners were offered better working conditions as legally employed workers, there was no child exploitation and the impact on the environment was managed and after visiting the site Guya questioned why in fact all mines where not ran in this way and thus Earthbeat Foundation was born.
“It is my vision to build a company, that does not only act and produce responsibly but also makes the world a more beautiful and better place through its products,” Guya Merkle.
Gold has been mined for centuries and there is an abundant amount in circulation, in fact more than enough to sustain us, obviously the larger more prestigious brands tend to steer away from utilizing this already sourced gold but by recycling gold the impact on the environment would dramatically reduce. Of course hundreds of people within these mining communities rely heavily on sourcing gold for their livelihoods regardless of there working conditions so closing all the mines would of course have an adverse effect so Guya’s, Earthbeats Foundations looks at way to create alternative opportunities for those who make a living within these communities and raises awareness among gold consumers and the industry by exposing the inhuman working conditions including child labour and the usage of highly toxic chemicals.
Through her brand VIERI, all collections and pieces of jewellery are derived from recycled or ethically sourced gold, this co-existence enables Guya to educate not only those within the gold industry but the consumers themselves and as fashion moves towards a more sustainable and ethical future she believes that responsible business practice and high-class Jewellery cannot exist without each other.