Responsible Jewelry Group Releases Ethics Code

The Council for Responsible Jewellery Practices officially released its extensive list of ethical, social, and environmental practices its members must comply with.

All members of the group, now called the Responsible Jewelry Council, will be audited by third parties to verify their compliance with this code, which can be seen on the group’s Web site, responsiblejewellery.com.

“This is obviously a very ambitious system,” said RJC chairman Matthew A. Runci, who also is president and CEO of Jewelers of America. “We now transition from being a research and development organization to being an operating organization.”

The group also released its new logo, which can be seen with this article.

Runci said that the group, now comprised mostly of big players like De Beers and Zale, will start to recruit new members, including smaller, independent jewelers. He notes it’s looking at ways to reduce the cost of compliance for smaller companies.

The people behind the group say “green” and related issues may not be the trade’s biggest problem right now, but they cannot be ignored.

“I think the green agenda has gained strength over the past two or three years,” said Tiffany chairman Michael Kowalski, a member of the Council’s board of directors. “I sense a rising tide of consumer knowledge. People want to know more and the RJC will provide those assurances.”

Robert Headley, Tiffany’s vice president of technical services and chair of the RJC standards committee, added that “these issues are not in the headlines now, but they certainly could be tomorrow.”

“As you read the code of practices, they are all common sense,” he said. “They are things like we don’t offer bribes. We don’t employ children. Imagine yourself not in the industry. You would say ‘Of course.’ Consumers expect retailers to do the right thing.”

Runci said that being a RJC member could serve as “point of differentiation” for companies, and added: “It will also be a point of differentiation between our industry and other industries that have not been so thorough.”

The group’s name change will be accompanied by a new logo. “The new name is just simpler and more intuitive,” Runci said. “We all wish that we agreed on it two years ago. And we think the new logo will stand out better.” 

One part of the new code, the “Mining Supplement,” is still undergoing a public consultation process. It is expected to be finalized in March 2009. Kowalski, whose company has taken a stand against certain mining practices, admits that’s because mining is one of the “most difficult” segments of the industry. 

“But I don’t think these are intractable questions and we will find a way,” he said.

The group also announced Mila Bonini will be its new communications manager. Bonini previously held a senior communications role with the World Jewellery Confederation for seven years.