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Guiding Principles

Rapaport Fair Trade Conference Outlines Core Set of Industry Values

Jun 27, 2014 5:00 AM   By Rapaport News
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RAPAPORT... The annual Rapaport Fair Trade Conference that took place in Las Vegas in June sought to develop a broad set of values that would promote greater corporate social responsibility (CSR) across the jewelry supply chain. The conference succeeded to reach a consensus of support for 10 to 12 points that would encompass what the industry aspires to in its CSR programs.

The discussion purposefully avoided delving into specific actions or legislative measures that might become a burden to the trade.

“Our goal is to find a common ground to figure out what our aspirational values are as an industry,” said Martin Rapaport, the chairman of the Rapaport Group, who moderated the discussion. “Being more general and not tying into specific points gives people the opportunity to interact and find the right way that they can participate, with the right balance that is suitable for them.”

The panel consisted of members from the artisanal mining sector, diamond manufacturers and dealers, jewelers, representatives from the colored gemstone trade, as well as civil society and government representatives. Participants included:

• Ngomesia Mayer-Kechom, manager of international programs at the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI),
• Eric Braunwart, president of Columbia Gem House,
• Moti Besser, managing director of the Israel Diamond Exchange (IDE),
• Gaetano Cavalieri, president of the World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO),
• Kenneth Porter, fair-mined business development officer for the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM),
• Tebelelo Mazile Seretse, Botswana’s ambassador to the U.S.,
• Martin Rapaport, chairman of the Rapaport Group,
• Christina Miller, executive director of Ethical Metalsmiths,
• David Bouffard, vice president of corporate affairs at Signet Jewelers,
• David Bonaparte, president and CEO of Jewelers of America,
• Ronnie Vanderlinden, president of the Diamond Manufacturers Association of America (DMIA),
• Douglas Hucker, CEO of the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA), and
• Roland Naftule, vice president of CIBJO.

Braunwart opened the discussion explaining the Gem Vision 2020 initiative his company developed with its partners in Malawi to develop goals that organizations can support and work from. The idea is loosely based on the United Nations millennium development goals that aim to uplift the world’s poorest.

The Gem Vision principles that Braunwart outlined enable stakeholders to:

1. Acknowledge and support that from mine to consumer, everyone is important in the industry. In so doing, he explained that the industry can work together to try and improve its product and the emotional value of the product.
2. Develop the concept of absolute beauty for gemstones that not only includes their intrinsic value but also their human emotional value – contributed by the individuals that bring them to the market.
3. Encourage everyone in the supply chain to support each other to achieve their goals,
4. Identify health standards in the industry.
5. Support good environmental stewardship across all locations and sectors.
6. Encourage and support education at different locations to help people understand what our product is and how it is produced, and possibly assist people in the industry to get an education that they can use in other areas.
7. Develop a minimum set of basic safety standards that can be used throughout the supply chain.
8. Support the concept of sustainable job diversification in the various areas, but particularly in the mining regions.
9. Enhance the concept of using gemstones and jewelry as a poverty alleviation tool.
10. Encourage and promote the beauty and emotional value of a humanitarian supply chain.

Subsequent discussion suggested the inclusion to the list not to support “exploited labor” along the supply chain, and to enable equal opportunity for everyone within the industry.

Braunwart stressed the human element of the principles and the need to transcend the product to the people involved in the jewelry industry. “It all comes back to people,” he explained. “People are what brings our product to market, and people also buy it. So we need to develop a people to people understanding of what we do in order to guarantee that our product will leave a positive impression.”

Much of the discussion centered on explaining what the initiative is not. Primarily, it’s not a piece of legislation. Neither does it obligate members of the trade to additional audits. Panelists noted there is significant “audit fatigue” in the industry due to requirements of the various source verification programs. In fact, the discussion was carefully steered to avoid requiring any specific action that holds participants accountable.

Rather, the intention was to keep the list as general and inclusive as possible to ensure that the principles apply to everyone in the industry. Companies or organizations that have an interest to involve themselves deeper in specific issues within their CSR programs can do so on their own accord, without contradicting these guiding industry principles.

Signet’s Bouffard stressed that to be successful, the initiative would require tripartite support that includes industry, government and civil society. The panel agreed, after dismissing concerns that government’s involvement might result in a move to enact legislation – a move very few in the panel would be prepared to support.

Braunwart stressed that the idea was to focus on what everyone can agree on, rather than trying to find solutions about points of disagreement. That may explain the unusual lack of resistance that typified the discussion. Everyone supported the general principles that Braunwart outlined, at least verbally.

The next step would be to do so in writing. Panelists agreed that an open document should be prepared that would be sent to participants for approval, and would outline the core values for the industry to follow.

While a deeper consensus from the communities that each panelist represents may be more complicated to achieve, there are seemingly very few barriers to supporting the principles outlined by Braunwart – and, by default, the subsequent document. After all, these principles are designed to be broad and inclusive enough to apply across the entire jewelry supply chain. The idea, as panelists noted, is to engage support for the values that we can all agree upon. Defining a set of values guiding the industry would be a positive development and demonstrate that the jewelry trade is indeed a humanitarian supply chain that cares about its people more than its product. 

Written by Avi Krawitz.
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Tags: africa, diamonds, Fair Trade, fairtrade, jewelers, mining, Panel Discussion, precious metals, Rapaport Conference, Rapaport News, sustainable
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