New Group Will Target Social Issues

The industry has given birth to yet another association: The Council for Responsible Jewellery Practices (CRJP), a pipeline-spanning international group that will focus on “ethical, social, and environmental challenges.”

The Council, backed by heavyweights including the Diamond Trading Company, Zale Corp., and Jewelers of America, is a response to the now-regular campaigns targeting the industry from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), such as the conflict diamond and No Dirty Gold campaigns.

“Today, people want to know: How is the jewelry I’m purchasing produced?” notes David Baker, vice president of environmental affairs for gold producer Newmont Mining.

Its ultimate goal is a Responsible Practices Framework, which will define ethical and social standards for the entire industry. It has released a preliminary version—its “draft principles”—which it wants industry members to comment on via its Web site. (See sidebar.) The principles will be finalized at the CIBJO (World Jewellery Federation) conference next July.

“The idea is to set a standard that will be applied through the supply chain,” Baker says.

JA chairman Matthew A. Runci says that the group was formed when JA did a “social audit” of the industry.

“We came to the conclusion that this was far bigger than anything we could realistically tackle on our own,” he says. “We needed miners, manufacturers, retailers, the entire pipeline, to all work together.”

NGOs will have an advisory role in the new group, organizers said. The group is also reaching out to governments.

The plan is, once members have declared their fidelity to the group’s principles, an independent third-party auditor will monitor members’ compliance. Those who pass will get to display a group insignia.

Chikashi Miyamoto, an advisor for Rosy Blue, another founding member, says: “We don’t have the idea that ‘Here we are, we’re perfect. It’s the spirit of continuous improvement. We’re raising the bar for the industry.”

The group has a search committee looking for a London-based CEO. It deliberately did not want someone based in the United States lest people perceive it as an American organization.

At press time, it was unclear where the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, which has traditionally handled ethical issues in the United States, fits into the picture. JVC declined comment. Runci says, “JVC and any other trade association is invited to join. We want as many allies as possible.”

The group is actively recruiting members. To learn more, or comment on the principles, go to www.responsiblejewellery.com (note British spelling of “jewellery”). As an example of the challenges the industry still faces, www.responsiblejewelry.com (American spelling) has been taken by the No Dirty Gold NGOs.