New global jewelry group to promote industry’s ‘corporate responsibility’

A global umbrella organization has been set up to draft, and promote adherence to, corporate ethical and social standards for the worldwide jewelry industry and to preserve consumer confidence in it. The organization, called “The Council for Responsible Jewellery Practices” was legally established in May in London, England. Its founding members include almost 20 national and international industry organizations and trade groups, among them, Jewelers of America , the largest retail jewelers group, and CIBJO.

A formal announcement of the formation of the CRJP and its goals is expected in the near future.

Matthew A. Runci, president and CEO of JA, which has some 11,000 retail members, detailed plans of the new organization in his seminar on “Consumer Confidence and Social, Ethical and Environmental Responsibility,” presented Thursday during the education program of JCK Show in Las Vegas, Nev.

In today’s world, issues in one segment of the jewelry industry, such as conflict diamonds in the mining and manufacture sectors, affect consumers’ opinions of the entire trade, he noted.

“You, the retail jeweler, are the face of the industry to the public and most directly affected,” said Runci. “If we lose the consumer’s confidence in us and our product, we lose business.

That’s why jewelers should support this effort to establish corporate standards for the worldwide industry to deal with potential social, ethical, and environmental issues before they generate negative media and special interest groups’ reports, he said.

“It’s no longer enough to say we nice, ethical people,” he said. “We must be able to prove it” through active industry collaboration, as other industries—such as forestry or cocoa—have already done.”

The intent of the CRJP, said Runci, is to set standards for corporate responsibility for the industry, from mining to retailing; to promote compliance with them through education and cooperation among national and international groups, and to be a spokesperson for the industry on issues that arise. Work on establishing the international group has been going on since last October.

Immediate plans for the CRJP in the next six months call for:

* Meeting with various Non-Government Groups, which are special interest and church groups which have actively campaigned and/or expressed concerns about practices in the industry, especially in the mining and manufacturing segments. The aim, said Runci, is to eventually to involve them in the new organization in an advisory capacity.

* Develop operational, membership, financial, and marketing plans for the CRJP. The organization, headquartered in London, is in the process of putting together a professional staff, including a director.

* Consulting with industry members, starting this summer with “forums” at industry trade shows around the world.

* Drafting a “Code of Principles” and a “Code of Best Practices.” Formal adoption and implementation of those is anticipated for 2006, following industry input and review. A Web site will be set up that will present the drafts of the codes and also be a means to reach out to other industries that have interest.

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