At the Vegas show, I was given an update on the Responsible Jewellery Council …
First, the RJC (which was formerly the CRJP, for those keeping track of such things) is moving ahead with its goal of an audited ethical supply chain. It’s currently looking for auditors, and giving members self-assessment workbooks. Eventually, all members will have to pass independent audits that assure compliance with its “Code of Practices.” They will then get a RJC certification, which will involve some form of seal of approval, which the Council also hopes to market on a consumer level. This could potentially “reposition the jewelry industry’s reputation,” says RJC vice chairman John Hall. (About time!)
But what struck me is how the RJC will likely make good business sense for the industry – and not just in the sense that “good corporate citizenship” means good business (I hope that’s been well-established already.) It could also reduce expenses.
Running and verifying programs like De Beers’ “Best Practice Principles” and Rio Tinto’s “Business Excellence Model” costs a lot of money. Some jewelry manufacturers currently go through multiple audits – not just from producers, but from retailers like Wal-mart and J.C. Penney. The RJC, therefore, could stand as an all-around seal of approval. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the big companies, including the top producers, move away their home-grown programs and towards just requiring RJC compliance for its customers. Miner BHP has already done so for companies that participate in its auctions. This would mean less work and expense for companies throughout the chain. It would also make the RJC a potentially very powerful organization, as not complying with its dictates could mean losing multiple customers. One could also see how it could work with other systems, such as the Diamond Development Initiative’s proposed “Diamond Development Standards.”
The danger here is that the RJC will attract mostly (bigger) companies who are already compliant with ethical rules, which won’t lead to very extensive “change on the ground.” Still, the RJC says it wants to show “continous improvement,” and plans to increase its outreach. (It currently has 103, mostly bigger, companies as members.) I think we all agree that, if the RJC is to really have an impact, it must include companies of all shapes and sizes.
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