‘Leaders’ and ‘laggards’ named in advocacy campaign

The No Dirty Gold campaign placed a full-page advertisement in &I>New York Times&/i> saying that eight of the nation’s top retailers have pledged to move away from “dirty” gold jewelry sales and are calling on mining corporations to ensure that gold is produced in more socially and environmentally responsible ways. The ad was placed in the newspaper on Monday and was timed to coincide with Valentine’s Day, one of the biggest jewelry-buying holidays in the United States.

The retailers named in the ad as “leaders” for agreeing with the campaign’s advocacy are: Zale Corp., the Signet Group (the parent firm of Sterling and Kay Jewelers), Tiffany & Co., Helzberg Diamonds, Fortunoff, Cartier, Piaget, and Van Cleef & Arpels.

The eight companies identified in the ad represent $6.3 billion in retail jewelry sales, or 14 percent of sales in the United States, which is second only to India in annual gold consumption, the nongovernmental organization said. Four of jewelry firms—Zales, Kay Jewelers (Sterling/Signet), Tiffany & Co., and Helzberg Diamonds—named as leaders are among the top ten jewelry retailers.

“Because jewelry retailers buy the majority of gold produced worldwide, they have the power to help clean up the mining industry,” Payal Sampat, co-director of the No Dirty Gold campaign and international campaign director for EARTHWORKS, said in a statement. “We applaud the leadership of these companies. It’s an important first step.”

The &I> Times&/i> ad features a heart-shaped locket with images depicting the environmental and human toll of gold mining, and the headline “There’s nothing romantic about a toxic gold mine.” The ad then names both the retail jewelry “leaders,” who the NGO says, have made in-principle commitments to sourcing more responsibly produced gold.

The NGO also named eight “laggards” in the ad. They are: Rolex, Wal-Mart, Sears/Kmart, Jostens, Fred Meyer Jewelers, QVC, JC Penney, and Whitehall Jewellers.

“Despite growing demand from concerned consumers, mining corporations have yet to significantly reduce the harm their operations are inflicting on communities in many parts of the world,” said Keith Slack, co-director of the No Dirty Gold campaign and senior policy advisor for Oxfam America. “When major jewelry retailers demand ethically produced gold for their products, it’s time for the mining industry to take note and make changes in their practices.”

The No Dirty Gold campaign was launched two years ago. Since that time, it says that more than 30,000 consumers have signed a petition urging mining corporations to clean up their act and produce gold more responsibly.

The jewelry industry “leaders” named by the No Dirty Gold campaign have endorsed human rights, environmental, and social justice principles that call for responsible practices in producing gold and precious metals. These include:

* Respect for basic human rights outlined in international conventions and law; 

* Free, prior, and informed consent from affected communities; 

* Respect for workers’ rights and labor standards;

* Protecting parks and natural reserves from mining; and,

* Protecting oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams from mining wastes.