Jewelry is meant to be a symbol of beauty, love, and commitment. Every year, consumers purchase nearly US$300 billion of jewelry for themselves or for loved ones. But increasingly, promoting the story of beauty, love, and commitment is not enough – customers want to be sure that the precious minerals and gems in their jewelry have been sourced responsibly.
The conditions under which gold and diamonds are mined can be brutal. Miners – including children – are injured and killed in unsafe gold or diamond mining pits. Indigenous peoples and other local residents living near large-scale mines are forcibly displaced. In conflict zones, civilians suffer enormously as abusive armed groups and criminal networks enrich themselves by exploiting gold and diamonds. Mines are polluting waterways and soil with toxic chemicals, harming the health and livelihoods of whole communities.
Jewelry companies are not doing enough to ensure they are sourcing responsibly, and many fail to publicly and transparently report on the due diligence efforts they say they undertake. Companies often rely on the Responsible Jewellery Council, which brings together over 1,000 companies in the jewelry supply chain. But the Responsible Jewellery Council promotes standards that allow companies to be certified even when they fail to support basic human rights. The Kimberley Process, another scheme often used by companies, is focused too narrowly on diamonds linked to rebel forces, applies only to rough diamonds, and places no responsibility on companies. Governments rarely require industry actors to undertake robust human rights due diligence. The United States and the European Union have adopted laws on the responsible sourcing of gold (as well as tin, tungsten, and tantalum), but more countries need to follow their lead, and laws should apply to a wider range of minerals.
Jewelry companies can meet the demand for ethically sourced jewelry by putting responsibility and transparency at the heart of their business – and a few have already begun to do so. Under existing voluntary standards, established by the United Nations and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, companies are expected to put in place a “due diligence” process to identify human rights risks, address these risks, and account for their efforts to the public and to independent auditors.
We, the undersigned NGOs and trade unions, are calling upon the jewelry industry to turn its commitment to responsible sourcing into effective action.
Jewelry Companies Should:
Published on HRW on February 8, 2018