UN, CIBJO Discuss Corporate Responsibility

Approximately 50 members of CIBJO, the World Jewellery Confederation, representing both national jewelry associations and associate members, were hosted Wednesday at the Palais des Nations, the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, for a full day of discussions about corporate responsibility and role of the jewelry industry in promoting sustainable economic and social development.

The Geneva meeting was part of an ongoing liaison program with the United Nations, following CIBJO’s acceptance in 2006 as an NGO with consultative status to the UN’s Economic and Social Council. The host of the meeting was Hanifa Mezoui, chief of the NGO Section at ECOSOC.

Mezoui noted that CIBJO and the international jewelry industry have come to serve as an example to other business sectors, in that the organization brings private sector interests under the umbrella of an NGO, in order to pursue the United Nation’s eight Millennium Development Goals.

“CIBJO’s emphasis on good practice for its retailers has detailed social and environmental responsibility initiatives. The preservation of basic human rights, condemning discrimination and forced labor and promoting fair worker remuneration and safe working environments go hand in hand with the spirit of the MDG’s,” Mezoui said.

CIBJO President Gaetano Cavalieri explained the organisation’s vision as a positive economic and social catalyst.

“CIBJO’s role is to lead the jewelry industry from the front, and this means identifying the issues, bringing them before our worldwide membership, and then generating a debate that results in appropriate responses. As we have proven time and time again, our industry has a very strong social conscience, and when we are properly informed we are ready to act and contribute,” he said.

Ricardo Espinosa, the UN NGO Liaison Officer, called on the CIBJO membership to develop concrete projects and programs to alleviate poverty.

“I encourage CIBJO to fulfill its role as an intermediary between the companies that it represents, the beneficiaries of its projects and the international community. In doing so, CIBJO will fully accomplish its role as an NGO,” he said.

Jean Fabre, Assistant Director of Public Relations for the UN Development Programme, underscored the fact “we live in a time of necessity, when we no longer are able to delay addressing the problems we face.” He said that ”while diamonds are a luxury that some of us can afford, poverty is something that nobody can afford.” At the same time, Fabre stated, ours is a unique generation, “in that we possess the ability to eradicate poverty and hunger, if we choose to do so.”

Currently, Fabre said, more than 4 billion, or about two thirds, of the world’s citizens survive on an income less than $3,000 per annum, but that still represents many trillions of dollars of turnover in economic terms. Businesses, he said, should not disregard that market potential, and by elevating these sectors of the world population to a higher economic status should be of prime interest. “Business needs to take human value into account,” he said.

Jean Pierre Diserens, Vice Chairman and Executive Vice President of the Convention of Independent Financial Advisors, an NGO that is following CIBJO’s path in its relationship with the United Nations, stated that investors in developing nations prefer that their capital  remain in the countries concerned. “The re-investment of added value in the country itself is a true contribution to sustainable development,” he stated.

“The luxury markets seem to stand ready to provide the economics for the transfer of wealth from the consumer to the workers in the producing and developing nations,” said Michael R. Haynes, the CEO of Collectors Universe, in his address to the meeting. “I encourage our dynamic and creative commercial enterprises in the jewelry distribution channel to work together with government and non-government institutions to provide the link between the wealthy consumers and the citizens of the country of origin.”

Pierre Strauss, the CIBJO case officer at ECOSOC, noted that “although I was sometimes criticized by my fellow students for my choice to advise and support to what clearly is a luxury product industry, I still took up this demanding and interesting challenge since I am convinced that in every business sector there are motivated and bright individuals who re willing to make a difference. As things turned out, I was correct.”

The final session of the meeting comprised of a brainstorming session, moderated by United Nations officials, in which the CIBJO delegates were encouraged to discuss concrete programmes that would advance the UN Millennium Development Goals, which are scheduled for completion by 2015.