IITF reviews issues

The Industry Image Task Force (IITF) met in New York in October to review the status of key issues facing the jewelry industry’s public image. The task force is comprised of key leaders from associations in all sectors of the industry, and various members of the trade press.

Matthew Runci, chairman of Jewelers of America, discussed the status of the conflict diamonds situation. At present, the industry and the various non-governmental organizations involved with the cause seem to be in harmony on proposed legislation, and there does not appear to be any NGO activity planned against the industry this holiday season. Runci said it should continue this way as long as progress and the Kimberly Process continues to move forward, but he cautioned that the issue is far from dead and that if progress slows or stops, they may move forward with alternative plans to address the issue.

Media activity is generally quiet about the issue right now, but the specter of a connection between diamonds and terrorism-including events of September 11-has risen. National Geographic magazine is scheduled to air a special on the diamond industry soon, and the United Nations Security Council has issued a report on Angola indicating that nothing has changed in the situation there. Reports on Liberia and the Congo are expected to be released soon.

The Task Force also discussed potential problems with tanzanite mining. There is an upcoming conference for NGOs, sponsored by the Ford Foundation, that will address the issue of mining in general. Gem mining, particularly tanzanite, is expected to come under discussion, and it is obvious that our industry has caught the attention of the NGOs and is likely to remain under scrutiny for some time.

The Task Force will work on ways to ensure the industry’s positive image is protected. David Rocha of Jewelers of America discussed a project JA has undertaken to develop a social, ethical, and environmental statement of principles for all JA members to be able to adopt. It will address many areas of concern, including human rights, labor rights, environmental issues and business ethics, and will allow member jewelers to reassure customers they are aware of the issues and doing whatever possible to make sure any products they buy do not support unsavory activities.