Award: From luxury watches to environmental projects: Why Rolex supports charitable projects

As soon as the awards season has begun, the big sparkle begins.

Award: From luxury watches to environmental projects: Why Rolex supports charitable projects

As soon as the awards season has begun, the big sparkle begins. Because when awards like the Emmys, Grammys or Baftas are awarded and stars walk on red carpets, not only the film and music industry celebrates, but also the jewelry world. For several years now, it has been common practice for such events to be sponsored by large manufacturers such as Bulgari, Tiffany or Cartier. Gold, diamonds and dazzling stars – a liaison made for each other.

But not every company in the luxury segment is vying for attention with increasingly ostentatious pieces of jewelry. Rolex is one of them. Loud noise? It doesn't fit the Swiss brand. It's better to be reserved. If your logo appears as a perimeter advertisement at tennis tournaments or car races, that is the highest of feelings.

Although the brand also presents an award every two years, these are not given to superstars from the world of film and music, but to everyday heroes. People who advance sustainable and charitable projects with special ideas. Since 1978, Rolex has supported outstanding inventors and researchers from all over the world.

It all started with a “Wanted” poster

The award was once called the "Rolex Award", but because the brand was reluctant to push itself into the foreground, it was given a new name, the Prize for Enterprise. Initially it was advertised in a newspaper advertisement. “Wanted” was written in large letters and indicated that Rolex was looking for worthy winners who they wanted to support with 50,000 Swiss francs. The only hurdle: The projects eligible for the prize had to come from the following areas: environment, science and medicine, applied technology, cultural heritage and exploration and discovery.

Almost nothing has changed to this day. Rolex still invests a large amount in the award-winning projects. However, the brand leaves it open whether it is still 50,000 Swiss francs. It says the winners received "a sum of money to carry out their project and become members of the network of Rolex Laureates, many of whom still work together today." It is rumored that the amount has long since doubled.

Rolex Prize for Enterprise: The 2024 Winners

This year's winners also include Constantino Aucca Chutas. The Peruvian biologist founded the association Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos (ECOAN) 24 years ago and is dedicated to the renaturation of the ecosystem in the forests of the high Andes. According to his own information, he has so far planted 4.5 million trees and established 16 protected areas in the mountains of Peru and neighboring areas.

Also supported is Beth Koigi, a Kenyan social entrepreneur who is setting up solar-powered water generators, giving thousands of people access to clean drinking water.

The third prize winner, primatologist Inza Koné, will use the prize money to expand forest protection in Ivory Coast, such as the Tanoé-Ehy reserve. Forests are essential for species protection and already serve as indispensable refuges for endangered animal species.

Denica Riadini-Flesch, on the other hand, is dedicating the prize money to the empowerment of women and the preservation of local Indonesian cultural traditions. She does this by producing sustainable fashion with her company SukkhaCitta and enabling rural people to do a fair job.

This year's fifth Rolex Prize goes to scientist Liu Shaochuang, who has dedicated himself to researching wild camels and wants to establish protected areas to preserve the last wild herds in the Gobi Desert.

Sustainability and Rolex money

The reason why Rolex supports inventors and researchers like these is due to the brand's corporate form. Rolex is a foundation. This not only gives it the opportunity to protect profits and sales from the public in Switzerland, but also makes it a tax-privileged company. With the enormous revenue attributed to the brand, many people are left with the question of where the money is going. A campaign like the Entrepreneurship Prize shows people where Rolex invests at least part of its profits.

Although Rolex is committed to sustainable concepts, its commitment is primarily aimed at companies that have nothing to do with the Swiss company's core product. When it comes to sustainability, people are reluctant to let their cards be seen. Where does the gold in your watches come from? Or her diamonds? Although the brand claims to place great value on the origin of its raw materials, its secrecy led to the "WWF Watch Report" placing it in 21st place in the sustainability rating of luxury watch and jewelry brands. This meant that Rolex ended up in second to last place after Patek Philippe.

In Geneva, the brand's headquarters, the placement will probably have been shrugged off. Why not? It is part of the company credo not to comment on positive or negative criticism. After all, the Prize for Entrepreneurship supports many important projects around the world - and shows that it can be done without pomp and red carpet.