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Nadja Swarovski: Money is not the only currency in business

Nadja Swarovski, an executive board member of the Swarovski company, has spoken of how businesses must approach the digital age, its attitude to social responsibility and its involvement with the Academy Awards.

Businesses must adapt quickly to the digital revolution, she told CNBC's Tania Bryer at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week.

"Swarovski has been part of the four industrial revolutions: water, electricity, electronics, digital. All of these have been challenges, but also fantastic opportunities, and I think the message to companies is that change is not necessarily negative but how quickly can you adapt and embrace that position," she said.


Nadja Swarovski (left) with model Karlie Kloss at The Fashion Awards 2016
Mike Marsland | British Fashion Council
Nadja Swarovski (left) with model Karlie Kloss at The Fashion Awards 2016

She added that employees are a focus of the 121 year-old business, which makes crystals, optical equipment and tools.

"We do see a discrepancy of labor costs in Asia versus Austria but we do feel very strongly about maintaining the labor in Austria, celebrating that craft… the purity and integrity that is invested in the creation of that product. We absolutely believe that the spirit of these local Austrian factory workers that is entering the product that they are creating permeates out to the end consumer."

Swarovski makes its crystals in Austria, India, Lichtenstein, Thailand, Vietnam, Serbia and the U.S., according to a 2016 online corporate factsheet.

The company set up its Swarovski Foundation in 2013, supporting wellbeing, female empowerment, education and the environment, Nadja Swarovski said.

"The foundation is not there to promote the business, the business is here to support the foundation, and the foundation gives and offers the cooperation and the possibility to reach other arenas beyond just commerce.

"And we like to say money is not the only currency, we see benevolence as another currency, and certainly the benevolence one sees with service or with a deed or a meaningful, positive product, that's very powerful."


The stage at the Dolby Theatre at the 2016 Oscars, using Swarovski crystals in a set designed by Derek McLane
Scott Diussa | Courtesy of AMPAS
The stage at the Dolby Theatre at the 2016 Oscars, using Swarovski crystals in a set designed by Derek McLane

Nadja Swarovski added that China and Europe are big markets for the company, and that there is potential in North America.

"We still think there is an amazing potential in the North American market in particular, because we see such a tremendous change in the brand perception, North America has been quite different and that is something we want to embrace."

Swarovski has worked on set design for the Academy Awards since 2007, and in 2016 decorated Hollywood's Dolby Theatre with more than 200,000 crystals.

"Next month we will be once again adorning the Oscars stage with the Swarovski curtain and we will be launching a curated diamond collection for the red carpet… So there are different areas of opportunities we see worldwide and it's really important for us to acknowledge and recognize the various different opportunities and react to them."

The company's executive board is made up of five fifth-generation members of the Swarovski family and its 2015 revenue was 3.37 billion euros ($3.61 billion), according to a 2016 company factsheet on its website.

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