July 01 2014

UK Government announces initiative on Transparent Supply Chains

The British Government announced this week that Business Minister Jenny Willott will work with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) to produce a number of recommendations for UK retailers to address human rights abuses in their supply chains.

Later this year The BRC will work with its members and key stakeholders to produce a publication with recommendations for companies on ethical accreditation and auditing.

The jewellery industry has been making significant progress in improving ethical practice over the past ten years, particularly in the gold supply chain. Cred Jewellery is a positive example of the business case for dedicated ethical jewellery, and that a fully transparent supply chain is not only possible, but sought after by customers. Cred are the only jeweller declaring the content & provenance of their precious metals with a label.

For large scale mining, the World Gold Council produced a Conflict Free standard for mines, whilst other measures to prevent the sale of gold from financing conflict have been created for refiners and smelters of gold, covering gold which is used to produce jewellery and electronics.

For diamonds, The Kimberly Process was designed to eradicate the financing of conflict through rough diamond sales. But conflict is only one part of the problem for jewellers. Human rights abuses such as slave labour, child labour and issues associated with poverty are still prevalent in some sectors of the industry. Some of the most vulnerable people in the supply chain work in the small mines of developing countries and in the workshops which polish diamonds and gems or manufacture jewellery.

The introduction of some initiatives, such as Fairtrade Gold, have truly transformed the way in which the industry can access gold from small scale miners, who benefit from a fair pricing structure guaranteed at minimum of 95% of LBMA fix price, with an additional premium on every gram of gold sold. The premium is then invested by the miners into community development.

The BRC & HMG recommendations will aim to develop transparency in supply chains with the aim of stamping out human rights abuses. For jewellers in particular this will enable retailers to answer their customers questions as to the source of the jewellery. An independent accreditation will give credibility to the work retailers have done to develop ethical practice and transparency. All this will allow consumers to make an informed choice about the provenance of their purchases.