JA Not Happy About NGO Survey Questions

A new NGO survey of jewelry retailers has led to protest from Jewelers of America, which claims its questions are “likely to blindside” retailers.

The controversial questions include “What actions are you taking on smuggling from the Ivory Coast?” and “[What are] your policies for ensuring that your suppliers are responsibly sourcing diamonds?”

JA chairman Matt Runci argued in a statement that neither the Kimberley Process nor the System of Warranties require retailers to take steps on these matters, adding that it’s more effective to deal with these issues through the World Diamond Council rather than on an individual basis.

JA also objected to the survey’s timing; retailers were asked to return the questionnaires by Jan. 5. JA noted that this was a “very difficult time for retailers—their prime selling season—making it difficult for them to respond in the time frame you’ve suggested.”

In 2004, Global Witness and Amnesty International conducted a similar study of American retailers and found, it said, that most did not have a policy on conflict diamonds. But that also raised hackles, since it involved questioning sales associates.

The World Diamond Council, meanwhile, sent out a statement urging retailers to participate in the survey.

Corinna Gilfillan, head of Global Witness’s U.S. office, said the point of the survey is that retailers need to go beyond the System of Warranties.

“We don’t think that jewelers should only stick to what’s agreed,” she said. “We think the big jewelers have a responsibility to do more.

“The retailers need to better screen their suppliers to make sure they have responsible sourcing,” she continued. “Some retailers do spot checks on their suppliers and more need to. Major retailers need to ask, ‘How do you know that your diamonds are not coming from Côte d’Ivoire?’”

She said retailers need “some kind of auditing measure” of their conflict-free warranties, such as having their auditors do it, or implementing a system like Tiffany’s, which uses the International Standards Organization. She notes that the Council for Responsible Jewellery Practices is developing such a system, but it won’t be up and running for a while.

As for JA’s complaint that the survey was sent out at the height of the holiday season, Gilfillan noted that her group plans to follow up. “Retailers should be ready to go and to respond to these types of queries,” she said. “Especially during the holiday season.”