Philanthropy and Social Responsibility

Philanthropy and Social Responsibility

Initially, the concept of corporate social responsibility is arguably a voluntary ideology that corporations are obligated to fulfill. However, there is much debate about the intentions behind corporate social responsibility. Some researchers argue that corporate social responsibility is a marketing ploy to leverage goodwill. The terms “greenwash” and “bluewash” emerged from many organizations using language euphuisms and deceptive marketing to embellish their green initiatives. Therefore, the legitimacy of organizational philanthropic claims has been criticized.

It is imperative that a corporation takes a holistic look at its corporate social responsibility in conjunction with philanthropic and sustainability plans can help organizations find opportunities for improvement. Additionally, it can ensure that all the stakeholder’s priorities and ethical values are aligned.

This paper will investigate the philanthropic undertakings of Tiffany & Co. to determine which ethical theory—deontology, utilitarianism, or virtue ethics—most aligns with the organization’s giving philosophy. It will also analyze the organization’s philanthropic plan and strategic philanthropic priorities to evaluate if they align with its mission and values. It will expand on how corporate philanthropy can enhance the company’s social responsibility and image, including environmental sustainability. Next, it will determine the extent to which diversity plays a role in their plan and the implications of these findings. It will also reflect on how Tiffany & Co. avoids the appearance of legal and ethical biases and their philanthropic giving plan and priorities. Lastly, this paper will describe how an organization can remain ethical after receiving various benefits from philanthropic giving.

Tiffany & Co.

Founded in 1837, Charles Tiffany & John Young started a stationery and fancy goods store in New York City called Tiffany & Ellis (Tiffany & Co., 2020b). In 1841, the two gentlemen recruited a partner, J. L. Ellis, which led to the store’s birth, Tiffany, Young, and Ellis. Charles Tiffany quickly became the “King of Diamonds” after throwing caution to the wind to purchase diamonds from eager aristocrats looking to exchange diamonds for cash. After Young and Ellis’ retirement in 1853, Charles Tiffany assumed control over the company and renamed it Tiffany & Co. (Tiffany & Co., 2021). Charles Tiffany built Tiffany & Co. (colloquially known as Tiffany’s or T & Co) into the premier source of luxuries. Today, the company is known for its .925 sterling silver standard jewelry and diamonds. Since its inception, it has become a multinational conglomerate.

One of Tiffany & Co.’s first philanthropic efforts started in 1999 when they led the U.S. participation efforts in the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS). The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme is a unified commitment to removing conflict diamonds from the global supply chain (Kimberley Process, n.d.). Conflict diamonds are located and mined in areas controlled by government rebels or bandits. 

Soon after this effort, they established and launched the Tiffany & Co. Foundation, which focuses on the company’s philanthropic efforts. Since its establishment, Tiffany & Co. has started Laurelton Diamonds, Inc., which manages its diamond supply chain. It also stopped buying stones from Myanmar (Burma) and selling coral jewelry. Tiffany & Co. has made strides to align with universal sustainability principles, from solar-powered projects to signing the United Nations Global Compact.

Tiffany & Co’s Philanthropy

Tiffany & Co’s philanthropic plan aligns with John Elkington’s triple bottom line—the product, the people, and the planet. It has established three pillars to its approach—The Tiffany & Co. Foundation, Tiffany & Co. Corporate Giving, and Tiffany Cares. Through these pillars, they seek to conduct business responsibly, sustain the natural environment, and positively impact communities.

The Tiffany & Co. Foundation

Tiffany & Co’s philanthropic efforts are managed through their Foundation: The Tiffany & Co. Foundation. The Tiffany & Co. Foundation is one of the company’s three endeavors in its philanthropic giving approach. It was established with the mission of preserving seascapes and landscapes globally. That led the Foundation to focus on two main initiatives: responsible mining and coral preservation. Grants issued to organizations focused on responsible mining support ways to remediate and protect natural landscapes. In contrast, those who receive coral conservation grants promote the preservation of corals and marine ecosystems.

Responsible Mining

The Tiffany & Co. Foundation has committed to two overall goals: to remediate areas where mining has occurred and to protect places of natural and historical importance from mining (Tiffany & Co., n.d.). They showed dedication to these commitments in 2006 when they became a founding member of the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) (IRMA, 2019; Tiffany & Co., n.d.). The Tiffany & Co. Foundation has become active in its supply chain process. Tiffany & Co. has gone above and beyond the Kimberley Process standards. For example, according to Human Rights Watch (2018), Tiffany & Co. can trace all its newly mined gold to a single origin and regularly assess human rights at the mine. When assessed in 2018, Tiffany & Co. was the only company out of 13 that received a rating higher than “moderate” when reviewed, fulfilling all criteria for responsible sourcing as outlined by The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (Human Rights Watch, 2018). They have also actively spoken about broadening the Kimberley Process’s scope to include human rights and stem environmental and labor abuses (Tiffany and Co., 2017). In the 2020 report, they have included seeking Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) of Indigenous people when operating in their territories (Tiffany & Co., 2020a).

Additionally, Tiffany & Co. has pledged to source their metals from responsible large-scale mines, responsible artisanal small-scale mines, and recycled sources (Tiffany & Co., 2020a). These efforts position Tiffany & Co. to provide their customers with responsibly sourced materials from their iconic Blue Boxes to the gems in their jewelry.

As a founding member of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), Tiffany & Co. promotes practices to address human rights, labor rights, environmental impact, mining practices, and product disclosure to other retailers. The Foundation has also provided over $20 million in grants to support responsible mining practices.

Coral Conservation

Coral reefs strengthen ocean biodiversity and provide important benefits. For example, they play a critical role in providing food, providing a livelihood for millions of individuals in the tourism industry, serving as natural marine barriers that protect coastal communities from high-impact waves, and providing medicinal components (Wildcoast, 2018). The Tiffany & Co. Foundation backs several organizations that focus their attention on the preservation, awareness, or research of coral reefs (Tiffany & Co., 2020a).

Tiffany & Co. Foundation has actively advocated for protecting at least 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030. This is a significant increase from the United Nations target of 5% by 2020 (Tiffany & Co., 2020a). They have also awarded $26 million to projects that support coral and marine conservation, such as the Wildlife Conservation Society, Conservation International and Oceana, and Oceans 5. These efforts have contributed to actions that have protected over 10 million square kilometers of the ocean (Tiffany & Co., 2020a).

Tiffany & Co. Corporate Giving

Through its corporate giving program, Tiffany & Co. has supported the communities where Tiffany & Co. has a local presence. They have been able to use their funding to address local needs by making charitable contributions through their retail stores and manufacturing facilities worldwide. For example, they have donated 100% of their Tiffany Saves the Wild collection profits to the Wildlife Conservation Network. Since 2017, they have raised over $10 million to protect elephants, rhinos, and lions. In 2020, they were able to support the global humanitarian organization CARE by donating 100% of their profits from the sale of the Tiffany Infinity collection. In 2021, under new direction, Tiffany & Co. teamed up with BeyGOOD, Beyoncé Knowles’s philanthropic arm, and Shawn Carter Foundation, Beyoncé’s husband’s charitable organization, to provide financial support to students in creative fields from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) (BeyGood, 2021).

Tiffany Cares

The final arm of Tiffany & Co.’s philanthropic endeavors is their employee giving and volunteer matching program. Their Employee Giving Program matches donations for employees based in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong. Additionally, they donate $20/hour for personal volunteer hours that employees contribute to eligible nonprofit organizations. Lastly, their Employee Resource Groups determine the organizations that Tiffany & Co. is encouraged to support with charitable contributions.

Ethical Theory

Historically environmentalists have not been satisfied with the ethical theories of utilitarianism and deontology. It has been noted that these theories are not intended to apply to nature (Holly, 2006; Hursthouse, 2009). Utilitarianism and deontology are ineffective in resolving environmental moral problems. Virtual ethics provides an alternative theory that leans more toward the intended application. Aristotle’s virtual ethics places moral concern on the subject. Traditionally, virtue theory applies human characteristics to the subject for the betterment of the person. This juxtaposition between humans and nature poses an issue.

Hursthouse (2009) suggested that a change must occur in which nature is approached. She called this concern with articulation and defense of the green belief. With green belief as the moral subject, environmental virtue ethics has emerged as the central theory when explaining the nature of environmental morality (Piekarski, 2020). Thomas Hill (1983) led the conversation on environmental virtue ethics by deconstructing the virtue ethics idea to apply to an individual’s environmental approach. Instead of proving if nature has intrinsic value or justifies non-human rights, Hill (1983) questioned the character of a person who would behave ill towards nature. Environmental virtue ethics approach virtue ethics from an environmental perspective (Cafaro, 2009). It investigates the moral relationship between a human and their environment.

As a company, Tiffany & Co.’s philanthropic goals answer the question, “What environmental efforts make a good company?” The company’s approach to its philanthropic endeavors through The Tiffany & Co. Foundation supports environmental virtue ethics. Since 2015, they have aligned their philanthropic goals to the Sustainable Development Goals outlined in the United Nations Global Compact. The United Nations Global Compact is a non-binding agreement that businesses are encouraged to accept. This agreement asks businesses and firms to adopt sustainable and socially responsible practices and policies to help shape a better world (UN Global Compact, 2020). Throughout their 2020 Sustainability Report Summary (2020a), Tiffany & Co. references how they have met the minimum requirements and urged other companies to join them to exceed the minimum targets.

Tiffany & Co.’s corporate giving and employee-driven philanthropic activities best reflect the virtue ethics theory. The giving structure is localized to the areas around the cities and communities where they operate. This structure contrasts with utilitarianism, which seeks to maximize the happiness of all involved. Unlike deontology, virtue ethics focuses on what ethical exemplars we should imitate. This theory allows employees to determine what type of person they ought to be. The corporation then supports that person’s ethical nature through donation and volunteer matching.

Diverse Philanthropy

Tiffany & Co. has integrated some aspects of diversity within its organization’s philanthropic plan. For example, since 1995, Tiffany & Co. has been advocating the protection of Indigenous people’s land where mining is active (Tiffany & Co., 2020a). Beginning in 2017, Tiffany & Co. has invested in the Chyulu Hills Conservation Trust project. This project supports the conservation of the Chyulu Hills, where more than 140,000 Indigenous people live and farm. Tiffany & Co.’s philanthropic efforts include protecting landscapes. Some of those landscapes are culturally and recreationally valuable and significant to indigenous people (Tiffany & Co., 2020a).

Recently, Tiffany teamed up with Beyoncé and Sean Carter to sponsor scholarships for students with financial needs who attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The About Love Scholarship pledged $2 million towards funding students in the arts and creative fields.

Tiffany & Co.’s partnership with BeyGOOD and Shawn Carter Foundation can be portrayed as a hurried attempt to appear more diverse and inclusive with their philanthropic efforts. It will behoove the company to provide scholarships for a more inclusive group of minorities and employment opportunities in areas of the company that promote intellectual prowess.

According to their 2020 sustainability report, their goal is to provide a more inclusive and innovative workplace culture by 2025. Their plan includes increasing their inclusion index score to 85% by 2024. Currently, they have only provided 45% of their global staff with unconscious bias training. Regarding a diverse workforce, Tiffany & Co. still has much to accomplish. The company’s majority is 47.8% white, where 68.4% of managers and above are white. They acknowledge that they have a mission to accomplish in this area, and please identify opportunities to increase diverse hiring and recruitment practices (Tiffany & Co., 2020a).

Although in 2020, they reported that 45%of their vice presidents were female, only 33% were minorities. Tiffany & Co. could benefit from creating a career pipeline where minority employees have a path that leads them to senior director and vice president positions. Additionally, implementing a sponsorship program where a senior director or vice president advocates for lower-level employees as they move throughout their career pipeline.

Corporate Philanthropic Plan

Organizations with effective corporate philanthropy start with a strategic plan. Tiffany & Co.’s strategic plan is grounded on Godfrey’s moral capital theory (Valor, 2007). Godfrey’s moral capital theory has two conditions. The first condition is that it must have internal consistency—what the organization does and its philanthropic activities must align. Inconsistencies in communication across stakeholders can cause misrepresentation of the actual corporate philanthropic endeavors. The second condition is that the external representation should match the internal. The strategic plan must align with the stakeholders’ ethical values.

Valor (2007) suggested a framework for planning and implementing a corporate philanthropy strategy. This framework allows an organization to identify its mission, objectives, and strategy to navigate economic, social, environmental, and concerns (Valor, 2007). Tiffany & Co. created a broad social agenda that allowed them to make a positive contribution but also was broad enough that they were not locked into a specific project. Their social agenda focuses on the company’s features, stakeholder claims, and the pressing needs of the community their organization most affects.

Another key framework component is establishing commitments such as donation size and type (Valor, 2007). Tiffany has done this in several ways. For example, their Tiffany Cares program limits the total amount the company is willing to match per employee each calendar year. Additionally, when they support initiatives, like their response to COVID-19, it is limited to a certain collection over a certain amount of time.

When implementing the corporate philanthropy plan, the organization must determine which nonprofit partners will fit their budget and carry out the specific project. The partner must match the company’s philanthropic goals and can create value (Valor, 2007). Through The Tiffany & Co. Foundation, they can provide guidelines for partners who request funding for responsible mining or coral conservation. These guidelines are strict and available for organizations in the U.S. with a 501(c)(3) status.

Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability

Tiffany & Co. has engrained corporate social responsibility into their overall company sustainability plan. Their sustainability framework aligns with the triple bottom line—product, people, and the planet. Under the Product pillar, the company’s goals are to achieve 100% traceability of their diamonds, responsibly source key materials, and identify areas of innovation. According to their 2020 Sustainability Report, these goals align with the following United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals:

  • 1: No Poverty
  •  8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 10: Reduced Inequalities
  • 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
  • 13: Climate Action
  • 14: Life Below Water
  • 15: Life on Land
  • 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
  • 17: Partnerships for the Goals

UN SDG 16 asks companies to ensure they use sustainable consumption and production patterns. Not only is Tiffany & Co. making strides toward this goal and advocating for improved standards and protections for miners (Tiffany & Co., 2020a).

The company’s second pillar in its sustainability framework is People. They have committed to becoming a luxury brand that employs a diverse and inclusive workforce and integrates inclusive practices in marketing and design. Lastly, they aim to grow a more diverse workplace committed to ensuring comprehensive employee benefits.

According to their 2020 Sustainability Report, these goals align with the following United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals:

  • 1: No Poverty
  • 4: Quality Education
  • 5: Gender Equality
  • 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 10: Reduced Inequalities

The last pillar of their sustainability framework is Planet. By 2025, Tiffany & Co. has committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, achieving LEED Silver certification on at least 30% of new construction, and implementing circular economy principles to reduce material waste (Tiffany & Co., 2020a).

According to their 2020 Sustainability Report, these goals align with the following United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals:

  • 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
  • 13: Climate Action
  • 14: Life Below Water
  • 15: Life on Land
  • 17: Partnerships for the Goals

UN SDG 13 asks companies to take urgent action to combat climate change (UN Global Compact, n.d.). Not only is Tiffany & Co. making strides toward this goal but also advocating for responsible climate policy and the protection of biodiversity (Tiffany & Co., 2020a).

Ethics of Giving

When a corporation uses private means to create public goods, there must be a balance between adhering to private inspiration and achieving public benefits (Sievers, 2006). Sievers (2006) noted that collective action and value pluralism converge when corporations practice philanthropy. The collective action problem arises when a conflict of interest between multiple parties prevents them from collaborating on a solution that will work best for everyone involved. Value pluralism is when there are different values of equal measure, yet they conflict with each other. Sievers (2006) and Valor (2007) suggested that donors’ actions reflect the organization. Therefore, this becomes the philanthropic version of the collective action problem.

Philanthropic efforts can lead to varying consequences. For example, it could provide insight into the organization’s interests and goals. It could also sway decision-making by influencing private donors (Sievers, 2006). Lastly, it can magnify the flaws in the market.

A significant benefit arising from Tiffany & Co.’s philanthropic partnerships has been their collaboration with Beyoncé and Shawn Carter. Since they all partnered for the About Love Scholarship, Beyoncé and Shawn Carter have been brand ambassadors for the company. Beyoncé and her husband were spotlighted in August 2021 for Tiffany & Co.’s About Love campaign. During that campaign, Beyoncé became the first Black woman to don the iconic 128-carat Tiffany diamond (Treisman, 2021). After the 2022 Academy Awards, Beyoncé was seen wearing “The Historic 1939 World’s Fair Necklace (Eckardt, 2022)”. This necklace is the company’s most expensive necklace and has never been worn before.


Tiffany & Co. has been remarkable at tying together its philanthropic, social responsibility, and company goals together. They have been able to marry all three of these concepts together to build a sustainability framework that focuses on their product, their people, and the planet. They have created a corporate giving plan that strategically avoids legal and ethical issues of bias. Tiffany & Co. has also been able to limit the benefits received due to its philanthropic giving.


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