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Jewelry Ethics Committee Welcomes U.K. Transparency Initiative

Jun 27, 2014 11:46 AM   By Gem-A
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Press Release: The British government announced this week that Business Minister Jenny Willott will work with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) to produce a number of recommendations for U.K. retailers to address human rights abuses in their supply chains.

Later this year, the BRC will work with its members and key stakeholders to produce a publication highlighting good practice and make recommendations for companies on ethical accreditation and auditing. The jewelry industry has been making significant progress in improving ethical practice over the past 10 years, particularly in the gold supply chain.

With regard to large-scale mining, the World Gold Council has produced a conflict-free standard for mines, while other measures to prevent the sale of gold from financing conflict have been created for refiners and smelters of gold, covering gold which is used to produce jewelry and electronics.

Similarly, for diamonds, The Kimberley Process was designed to eradicate the financing of conflict through rough diamond sales. However, conflict is only one part of the problem for jewelers. Human rights abuses such as slave labor, child labor and issues associated with poverty are still prevalent in some sectors of the industry. Some of the most vulnerable people in the supply chain work in the small mines of developing countries and in the workshops which polish diamonds and gems or manufacture jewelry.

The introduction of some initiatives, such as Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold in 2011, have truly transformed the way in which the industry can access gold from small-scale miners, who, under both schemes, benefit from a fair pricing structure guaranteed at minimum of 95 percent of LBMA-fix price, with an additional premium on every gram of gold sold. The premium is then invested by the miners into community development. To date, two mining communities in Peru have benefited from local gold mines becoming Fairtrade certified, with premiums being used to improve healthcare and education. Two more are on track for certification in Bolivia and Peru later this year, while policy work continues with small-scale miners on child labor and mercury eradication in other sites in South America. Nine pilot sites have been identified in East Africa, impacting over 3,000 miners and their communities.

Greg Valerio of Fairtrade International describes the key benefits of the Fairtrade system: “Fairtrade gold offers the U.K. jewelry trade a verifiable and trusted way of improving ethical performance. It is the country’s only consumer certification stamp for gold and gives the consumer a guarantee that what they are buying can be traced to a certified Fairtrade mining group. It is truly the best gold story in the world.”

Over the past five years, The Jewellery Ethics Committee U.K. (JEC-UK) has been working with companies like Fairtrade International to ensure U.K. retailers are aware of the issues within their own supply chains and have practical advice on how to resolve these issues. Comprised of the three main trade associations, representing retailers, manufactures and gem and diamond professionals in the U.K.: the National Association of Goldsmiths (NAG), the British Jewellers’ Association (BJA) and the Gemmological Association of Great Britain (Gem-A), the JEC-UK has worked with jewelers, manufacturers and producers in and around the U.K. to provide 10 recommendations to improve transparency in the gold supply chain. As they are now working on a similar diamond paper for publication in 2014, news of the Business Minister’s announcement and the BRC’s subsequent report has been widely welcomed by all parties involved in the initiative.

Simon Rainer, the CEO of BJA, said, “I am extremely pleased that BRC and HMG have chosen to highlight the issues prevalent in retail supply chains. I am even more pleased that the BJA, NAG and Gem-A recognized these issues several years ago and have been working earnestly, with all stakeholders, to create and effect change for the betterment of the U.K. jewelry industry."

Michael Rawlinson, the CEO of the National Association of Goldsmiths, said, “Retailers should be in a position to answer consumers questions regarding the source of their jewelry and the industry has been working for several years on initiatives that will enable greater transparency.  We will be delighted to help the BRC in producing their report with information relating to initiatives in the jewelry industry.” 

James Riley, the CEO of Gem-A, welcomes the government move, saying, "This is great news and reinforces the stance of JEC-UK. It shows exactly why the three associations are working so closely together on these issues -- so that we can assist our members in running ever more responsible businesses. At Gem-A we are currently working in partnership with The World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO) and The World Jewellery Confederation Education Foundation (WJCEF) on a chain of custody solution, which is accessible to small and medium enterprises and will help them tackle many of these issues."

The chairman of JEC-UK, Vivien Johnston, commented, “We’ve been developing a series of steps for each sector of the industry to apply to their supply chains. Ultimately, we see the need for a credible assurance system for small businesses to demonstrate their ethical behavior. We also want to make consumers aware of the commitments companies have undertaken to eradicate human rights abuses, so they are in the position to make an informed choice about the ethical provenance of the jewelry they purchase.”

 

To find out more about JEC-UK and the work they do, please visit the JEC-UK website at www.jec-uk.com and sign up to mailing list.   You can also find out further information about the Fairtrade Gold initiative at: www.fairgold.org

U.K. Jewelry Industry Facts

6,500 companies

62,000 employees

Possible additional 180,000 dependents

Industry annual revenue of $16 billion (GBP 8.5 billion)

Generating $1.5 billion (GBP 720 million) annual profit



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Tags: committee, ethics, gem-a, gold, Jewelry, metals
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