Fossil is a fashion company known primarily for their state-of-the-art watches. They present themselves as a shining light on social justice, global inclusion, and environmental progress. Fossil released their 5th generation Smartwatch in 2019, equipped with a pedometer for tracking daily exercise, and bluetooth to connect your phone and all your apps. Before they came out with the product, they developed several human rights and sustainability initiatives to follow, outlining their connection to UN sustainability goals such as Responsible Production and Consumption, Life Below Water, Life on Land, and Partnerships for the Goals. However, these initiatives are really just words on a page--how they hold themselves accountable for these promises is what allows the company to succeed in the sustainability realm. Fossil aspires to be the world’s most sustainable watches, but did they take action toward this goal in their newest smartwatch or is this just another large corporation greenwashing scandal?
The materials used in the smartwatch are unclear, as Fossil made it quite challenging to follow their manufacturing process. The list provided includes stainless steel, leather bands, and tin for the packaging. The most pressing material from this list is tin, as it is a 3TG--or ‘conflict’--mineral. Tin comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo region, which is a high-risk, conflict-affected area. Oftentimes these minerals are illegally controlled and traded, which puts people and the economy at risk. At the same time, this illegal sourcing finances the conflict within the region. Fossil has recognized this issue and included in their pro-planet initiative that they will thoroughly analyze their supply chain, remediate issues and source more responsibly. A goal for the future of this company’s issue should be to track its progress on 3TG supply in their watches and make that data available to consumers.
Fossil’s pro-planet initiative includes sustainable material alternatives for future products (again, not included in the Smartwatch Gen 5), such as solar powered batteries, eco leather made from natural fibers and plant oils, 50% recycled steel, and bio-material with castor oil as an alternative to fossil fuel-based virgin plastics. We do not see these plans take action in the latest smartwatch, so let’s hold Fossil accountable for some transitions in upcoming products.
Oddly enough, Fossil is an American company with its origins in Texas, yet none of its manufacturing process is based in the US. There are no definitive answers for why this is, but an intuitive reason is that labor costs are much cheaper in East Asian countries, where the largest number of Fossil factories are located. Smartwatch production occurs in China, India and France. Materials are sourced from different parts of the world and shipped to these central locations for production. Because sourcing is not localized, the transportation requires excessive greenhouse gas emissions from planes, freights, boats, and 18 wheelers. Greenhouse gases are the leading cause for climate change, so by supporting the practice of unrestricted sourcing, we allow for further corporate contribution to climate change.
Unlike other its other factors of production, labor practices throughout Fossil are widely accessible to the consumer. The website includes a supply chain page containing a code of conduct for manufacturers, statistics on gender equality in the workplace, and goals to further drive inclusivity and diversity. What I found most striking as a woman is that 65% of the Fossil workforce is composed of women. This inclusiveness in decision making and innovation empowers women both at work and in the community. Likewise, according to the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, Fossil was listed as having the best practice on LGBTQ equality in corporate America. I do not want to give brownie points to Fossil for including all genders in work and conversations, as this should be a norm in the 21st century; however, it is satisfying to see a more equitable workplace in a globalized company.