The Genteel
February 24, 2021


The Kapal Bambu showroom is made almost entirely of bamboo. Source:
Pieces from the Bamboo Collection.

Canadian designer John Hardy started working on his first Bali-inspired pieces in 1975, the result of a fateful, creative pitstop on an around-the-world trip that would soon see the art student working alongside his future wife, Cynthia. Both of them had traveled to Bali separately in the mid-'70s and early '80s and both had fallen in love with the island. By 1989, they had met and started working together on a small collection of items. 

From the beginning, both were very interested in working with recycled metals and traditional Balinese jewellery-making techniques, such as signature chain weaving and "backgrill" designs. Hardy himself took the time to learn the techniques, but he also hired local artisans to make sure he respected the traditions of the people around him during the design process. 

Although John Hardy designs sell today at high-end stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, the company has decided to keep its production original by manufacturing every single piece by hand. Artisans use mostly sterling silver and 18k gold combined with all types of gemstones to produce bracelets, necklaces and earrings. 

But Hardy is one of the designers who has decided to take his business a step further. Over the last decade, John Hardy has implemented a number of strategies designed to enact the "Greener Every Day" attitude the company has adopted. The company's ultimate mission is to become carbon neutral by planting enough greenery to offset the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by the company's workshop and operations.

We believe we have developed a business model where investing in the people and the environment provides a better lifestyle for our employees.

While other companies are focusing on planting hardwoods, John Hardy is staying true to local roots by supporting bamboo agroforestry. This is known as their "Wear Bamboo, Plant Bamboo" program. A percentage of the company's sales go towards planting bamboo seedlings in Bali's Nusa Penida island. "To date, over 800,000 bamboo seedlings in 114 villages have been planted," says the company's CEO, Damien Dernoncourt. "That's more than five times the size of Central Park in New York City." 

The company is going full circle by using the same bamboo to construct the compound where the offices and factory are housed. The land surrounding the offices is being used as an organic rice field farm and the company serves healthy lunches - made with local organic food - for all its employees. In 2009, the company went a step further by starting its "Jobs for Life" program, which helps train disadvantaged Balinese orphans. Those who graduate from high school are then invited to join the company in full-time employment. 

Dernoncourt believes there's one thing in common about being green and running a business - both have to be sustainable. He notes, "We believe we have developed a business model where investing in the people and the environment provides a better lifestyle for our employees." This in turn is also more profitable for the company. It all comes from a simple idea - the more you give, the more you receive.



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