October 15, 2018
As has been the custom of the past several years, the Opening Session of the CIBJO Congress was followed by one that focused specifically on the subjects of Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainability in the jewellery and gemstone sectors. It was moderated by the CIBJO President, Gaetano Cavalieri.
“There is no debate in our industry whether we should act and seen to be acting responsibly, be it to our employees, customers, stakeholders and the wider society socially, environmentally and in terms of the way we do business,” Dr. Cavalieri said in his opening remarks. “But there are questions and disagreements about procedure and practice, and whether a system that is appropriate for a large corporation can fairly be applied in a smaller company. There are also questions about verification, which in principle is a good thing, but can be costly, putting smaller organisations at a disadvantage. These are issues we must struggle with, and try and find solutions.”
Tyler Gillard, who leads the lead the multi-stakeholder negotiation of the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas, said the OECD document is a general one on due diligence that is applicable to all products. “Companies need to track their supply chain work. It’s about building trust and consumers among consumers. We have taken the framework that we developed and it is now applicable to all areas of the economy.”
Edwin Molina, President of Aprecol, the Colombian Emerald Producers Association, said Colombia is committed to responsible mining. “Artisanal miners see that we respect them when we interact with them with this policy. They trust us that we are not simply doing it for legal reasons, but that we care about the way they work. Our emerald fund has helped them,” he stated.
Stephane Fischler, President of the World Diamond Council, was asked about the difficulties caused by consensus-based decision-making process of the Kimberley Process. He said that the advantage is that once agreed, then decisions are carried out solidly by all members. “The success of the KP up to now has been due to its narrow focus on rebel forces using conflict diamonds. We are in the process of trying to change this. … Changes do not go as fast as we would want, but it does allow participants to put all their comments on the table.”
Philip Olden, Head of the CIBJO’s Responsible Sourcing Guidance Project, said that as with CIBJO’s Blue Books, CIBJO will now help members on responsible supply chain operations.
Edward Johnson of the Responsible Jewellery Council was asked why coloured gemstones are now included in its now expanded scope of operations. “The strongest requests came from our retail members,” he said.
“We are focusing on ruby, sapphire and emeralds because they provide the most value in the supply chain and our Code of Practices now include them. We are happy to receive more comments. We are looking to raise more awareness of our work to promote a responsible supply chain for fine jewellery and watches. I have been shocked at how few people in our industry know what CSR even is so we have a great deal of work ahead of us,” he added.
Laurent Cartier spoke about sustainable pearl farming and drew a distinction between this sector of the industry, and the other sectors, where raw supply is predominately mined. With pearls, the sustainability movement came about largely is response to a growing recognition that climate change is instigating a situation which, in 50 years’ time, we may not have pearls. That means that pearl farmers need to take the lead in how to institute responsible practices, he said.
Assheton Carter, CEO of the Dragonfly Initiative and Project Director for the Coloured Gemstones Working Group, representing large brands in the jewellery trade, said the coloured gemstones sector is very different from many other areas of the jewellery industry supply chain.
“We had to build a framework for CSR and a common language,” he said. “We developed different standards for different elements of the coloured gemstones industry. Our system is based on enabling improvements in companies’ operations. We will also create a resource centre so that people are working on the same playing field.”
Natalia Uribe Martinez, Head of Standards and Certification at the Alliance for Responsible Mining, which is an organisation that promotes responsible standards and criteria for artisanal and small-scale mining in Latin America, Asia and Africa, was asked how challenges for miners in South America are different than for those in Africa. Usually there is a lack of mining frameworks, she said, and it’s also expensive for small-scale miners to comply.
Are we seeing the creation of an ethical hierarchy, whereby larger firms that can afford to institute responsible sourcing are being seen by consumers as more responsible, Dr. Cavalieri asked the panel.
Tyler Gillard said it cannot be said that it’s easier for bigger firms because all companies face their own specific challenges. Smaller firms, for example, can easily streamline policy across their operations, he explained.
Stephane Fischler said we always forget that when we talk about large versus small companies, the large firms only represent 15 percent of the market.
Edward Johnson said 65 percent of RJC members are smaller and medium-size companies. He added that there is a lot of work left to do to encourage smaller firms to adapt responsible sourcing standards.