Attire Accessories - May/Jun 2018 (Issue 70)

ATTIRE 81 Time for change Jewellery and watch companies must take action to ensure the supply chain is free from human rights abuse, says the Human Rights Watch report A new report by the Human Rights Watch has suggested that jewellery and watch companies need to do more to ensure that their supply chains are free of human rights abuse. The report, ‘The Hidden Cost of Jewellery: Human Rights in Supply Chains and the Responsibility of Jewellery Companies’ scrutinises the sourcing of gold and diamonds by 13 major jewellery and watch brands that collectively generate over US$30 billion in annual revenue – about 10 per cent of worldwide global jewellery sales. As part of the report it highlights the abusive conditions under which precious minerals and metals are sometimes mined – children have been injured and even killed doing hazardous work in small-scale gold or diamond mines. Likewise, communities have faced ill-health and environmental harm because mines have polluted waterways with toxic chemicals. Additionally, civilians have suffered due to abusive armed groups or governments enriching themselves through mining. Juliane Kippenberg, Associate Child Rights Director at Human Rights Watch, says, “Many jewellers can do more to find out if their gold or diamonds are tainted by child labour or other human rights abuses. When someone buys a piece of jewellery, they should ask their jeweller what they have done to find out about its origin.” TAKING RESPONSIBILITY Under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, businesses should put in place safeguards known as ‘human rights due diligence’ – a process to identify, prevent, address, and account for their impact on human rights throughout their supply chains.The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has developed this approach further in its ‘Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas,’ the leading due diligence standard for minerals. It is said that while some companies have taken important steps to address human rights risks in the gold and diamond supply chain, others simply rely on the untested assurances of their suppliers. Many companies do not have full traceability for their gold and diamonds, and do not sufficiently assess human rights risks. BE THE CHANGE Human Rights Watch also found that existing initiatives on responsible sourcing, such as the Kimberley Process for diamonds, and certification by the Responsible Jewellery Council, do not by themselves provide sufficient assurance that diamonds or gold have been mined without contributing to abuse.The Kimberley Process is focused narrowly on diamonds linked to rebel forces, applies only to rough diamonds, and places no direct responsibility on companies. The Responsible Jewellery Council, an industry group with more than 1,000 members, is said to have flawed standards, governance, and certification systems. According to the Human Rights Watch, the council should strengthen its standards and auditing practices to set a higher bar for responsible sourcing practices by the industry. Kippenberg says, “Too many companies point to their membership in the Responsible Jewellery Council as being all the proof they need of responsible sourcing, but this is not enough to truly ensure clean supply chains.” A growing number of small jewellers are making efforts to source their gold from small-scale mines where rights are respected, often with the assistance of non-governmental organisations. “It is heartening to see that some jewellery companies, small and large, are taking steps in the right direction,” Kippenberg said. “Their actions show that change is possible.” Two of the companies surveyed have since pledged to take specific steps to improve their practices.The UK jeweller Boodles has started meeting with its diamond suppliers and initiated its first responsible sourcing audit.The company has pledged to develop a comprehensive code of conduct for its gold and diamond suppliers and to report publicly on its human rights due diligence from 2019; and to conduct more rigorous human rights assessments. Human Rights Watch also began a public campaign, #BehindTheBling, to put pressure on jewellers. “An increasing number of customers want to be sure the jewellery they buy has not fuelled human rights abuses,” Kippenberg said. “Jewellery companies owe it to their customers and to the communities affected by their businesses to source truly responsibly and allow public scrutiny of their actions.” Visit for more information. HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH