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How the Jewellery Industry Can Address the Responsible Sourcing Issues Raised in the Human Rights Watch Report, ‘The Hidden Cost of Jewelry’

How the Jewellery Industry Can Address the Responsible Sourcing Issues Raised in the Human Rights Watch Report, ‘The Hidden Cost of Jewelry’

February 19, 2018, by Dr. Yolande Kyngdon-McKay


On the 8th of February 2018, Human Rights Watch released a report on how the jewellery industry is managing human rights abuse risks in its gold and diamond supply chains. The gold and diamond industries are home to an array of human rights risks, including forced and child labour, unsafe working conditions, and unchecked environmental harm.

In its report, Human Rights Watch examined the supply chain practices and policies of ten major jewellery brands. It also analysed the efficacy of well-known industry standards and certification mechanisms in enabling responsible sourcing, including the Kimberley Process and the Responsible Jewellery Council.

“For a jewellery brand to be considered to be sourcing gold and diamonds responsibly, Human Rights Watch required that it fulfil a suite of eight criteria:

  1. Put in place a robust supply chain policy that is incorporated into contracts with suppliers;
  2. Establish chain of custody over gold and diamonds by documenting business transactions along the full supply chain back to the mine of origin, including by requiring suppliers to share detailed evidence of the supply chain;
  3. Assess human rights risks throughout their supply chains;
  4. Respond to human rights risks throughout their supply chains;
  5. Check their own conduct and that of their suppliers through independent third-party audits (a systematic and independent examination of a company’s conduct);
  6. Publicly report on their human rights due diligence, including risks identified;
  7. Publish the names of their gold and diamond suppliers;
  8. And source from responsible, rights-respecting artisanal and small-scale mines.”

- Human Rights Watch, ‘The Hidden Cost of Jewelry’, 2018.

Human Rights Watch’s report is important: it draws much needed attention to what is happening in gold and diamond supply chains and will motivate jewellery companies to address human rights issues as a matter of priority.

At Levin Sources we promote a ‘better business’ mentality and approach to help jewellery companies embrace responsible business conduct in a pragmatic and achievable fashion. By focusing attention on the three dimensions of compliance, profit, and sustainability to ultimately protect and build more value through every sourcing decision you make, you can build a better jewellery business.

Human Rights Watch found that, while some of the brands investigated are taking meaningful steps towards sourcing gold and diamonds responsibly, none met all of its criteria. This is unsurprising. The criteria in Human Rights Watch’s report are, at this point in time, aspirational at best for the vast majority of the jewellery industry.

Jewellery companies face a number of barriers to realistic responsible sourcing.

Over the six weeks, we will unpack these barriers and focus on why they are difficult but hugely important to overcome. By breaking them down, we want to offer actionable guidance and share with you the total value mentality we call ‘Better Business’.

Starting next week (click to go to blog):

Week 1: Transparent Supply Chains

Week 2: Traceable Materials

Week 3: Building Capacity for Change

Week 4: Culture as the Key to Sectoral Transformation

Week 5: Why Inclusion is Essential, but Challenging

Week 6: Responsible Sourcing vs. Sustainable Sourcing: Key Differences, Unique Challenges

Along the way, we’ll look at real and hypothetical best practices, recommend essential tools and reading, and share actionable steps to drive improvement.

If you have experiences you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you. We’re keen to hear from actors right across the jewellery industry. Please send an email to jack.cooper@levinsources.com.

For more information on improving your sourcing strategy and respecting human rights in your business and supply chains, reach out to our Due Diligence Manager and Human Rights Expert, Dr. Fabiana Di Lorenzo.

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