Dirty Gold or Dirty Pool?

Again the jewelry industry is prey to a nongovernmental-organization effort to affect demand by targeting retailers. Previous efforts have focused on the diamond business. Now the focus is the gold-mining business and retailers that sell gold jewelry.

This time, retailers include as diverse a group as a big box retailer, a traditional jeweler, and QVC, and others have been identified as “laggards” in the effort to stop pollution and address other social justice or environmental issues in gold- mining operations. At the same time, other retailers were credited as enlightened subscribers to the NGO perspective. Their inclusion is not necessarily an endorsement of the No Dirty Gold campaign but rather because they support the Council for Responsible Jewellery Practices. All this took place in an NGO-sponsored ad in the New York Times just before Valentine’s Day.

I think it’s fair to say that every firm listed as a “laggard” is opposed to polluting the environment and exploitation of any kind. From my own experience at Diamonique (a subsidiary of QVC), I can state that QVC took very seriously its role in verifying that global factories it used as sources did not employ children or convict labor.

No rational executive in today’s world wants his or her firm to be branded as a facilitator of contaminated water, or a destroyer of traditional ways of life, or be accused of uprooting people from their homes (without due process). Yet these were copy points used in the ad. Perhaps the most significant quantitative point was that production of one gold wedding ring requires “an average of 20 tons of toxic waste.”

Readers should know that the identification of “laggard” is the apparent result of failing to respond to an e-mail or a letter from the NGO. Two key jewelry executives I spoke with said they had never seen the e-mail or letter. And Rolex and Jostens—also accused of being “laggards”—are not retailers. The retailers identified as leaders are those who either responded or who have joined CRJP.

Ends do not justify means. The NGOs’ tactics are carelessly executed. Several facts as stated in the ad are incorrect and have been disputed and/or disproved by the gold-mining industry. In fact, the top producers in the gold-mining community have voluntarily signed on to the rigorous standards established by the International Council for Mining and Minerals. These organizations are in the process of joining CRJP.

The jewelry industry has demonstrated time and again that it will address problems. The Kimberly Process is one example, and CRJP is another. To be fully informed, go online and visit two Web sites: www.nodirtygold.org and www.responsiblejewellery.com. Be sure to use the British spelling of jewellery—if you use the American spelling you’ll land at the No Dirty Gold Web site again. Is that dirty pool? Dirty gold. Dirty pool. You decide.

frankdallahan@comcast.net