Gem & Jewelry Business Earnestly Adapts for Sustainable Development
As the world is inclined to face different crises regarding society, environment and morality, which will inflict economy and people’s living in general, there has been demand for more transparency and social and environmental responsibility in business operation. Business corporates in different industries including gem and jewelry have to readjust to meet the demand of consumers by operating with ethics and being responsible to society and environment. The alteration will build brands and companies’ good images in consumers’ mind. This will eventually lead to a well-balanced progress for economy, society and environment, which can be called a sustainable development.
Gem and Jewelry Industry’s Challenges and Sustainable Development
Formerly, traders in gem and jewelry industry reluctantly accepted trade practices of being transparent and responsible to society and environment because gem and jewelry industry has long and rather complicated supply chain. The sustainable development of gem and jewelry products were extremely challenging due to upstream raw materials such as most of the metals and gemstones were excavated out of areas with problems concerning poverty, underdevelopment or war. The raw materials had to be passed through many hands before reaching traders and consumers in the markets. Thus, it was difficult to trace the origins of the materials. However, as modern-day consumers started demanding fair trade and sustainable development, it became the factor reforming the global gem and jewelry business and trade condition. The change could be called a “disruption” for the industry, causing traders/operators to adapt for more sustainable business development.
A colored stone mine in Madagascar: https://www.iied.org/improving-governance-madagascars-artisanal-small-scale-mining-sector-ground
Organizations Related to Sustainable Development
At present, many influential organizations in gem and jewelry industry try to promote and elevate gem and jewelry trading and manufacturing process throughout the supply chain to become transparent, equitable and environmentally friendly. These organizations include Ethical Metalsmith, Fair Jewelry Action, Fairtrade, Fairmined, CIBJO and Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC). They offer knowledge to build awareness, provide information of raw materials and jewelry producers with sustainable development, and set up standards for guidelines toward sustainable development.
- Ethical Metalsmith (EM) is an organization located in the USA. Its key missions are to inspire jewelry entrepreneurs to practice responsibly to society and environment by offering education and training for university students in order to produce jewelry entrepreneurs who are responsible to society and environment; to conjoin entrepreneurs’ information to share guidelines reducing impacts to society and environment; and promote reuse of used metals. Reuse is a way to supply metals for jewelry production with the least effects from modern mining.
- Fair Jewelry Action (FJA) is a network of human rights and environmental fairness in jewelry sector. It encourages jewelry business to engage in trade with ethics and fairness, traceability and transparency in jewelry supply chain, and plays the key role in campaigning for the rights of indigenous people, communities and small miners affected directly or indirectly by unjust circumstances related to gem mining.
- Fairtrade and Fairmined are organizations setting up a standards and certifying gold mines. The organizations inspect working conditions inside mines, reduce risks of human right violation, and lessen social and environmental impacts. Mines with certified standards from the organizations are listed on their websites.
- CIBJO or The World Jewellery Confederation is the only gem and jewelry organization in the world serving as the adviser to the United Nations Economic and Social Council. With the position, CIBJO’s duty is being an international central agency in promoting cooperation, setting up standards, and solving problems in gem and jewelry industry. The organization gives priority to responsibility to society, sustainable development and transparency in gem and jewelry production process throughout the supply chain. Its efforts have been made through various projects such as offering trainings and encouraging related sectors in the industry to follow the Due Diligence Guidance for Conflict-Free Supply Chains of The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
- Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), an international non-profit organization, is the leader in forming gem and jewelry production standards to ensure responsibility to society and environment throughout the supply chain (from mines to retails). The RJC issues a standard certification for members to established internationally recognized standards. The certified members are required to be inspected by a third-party auditor to confirm of accuracy and conformation with the RJC Code of Practices. The code comprises 4 aspects: business ethics, human rights and social implementations, environmental implementations, and management systems. Currently, over 1,100 entrepreneurs, from gemstone mines to jewelry retails across the world, have joined the RJC to incorporate the code with their corporate practices.
While other agencies only offer guidelines without a standard certification system, the RJC provides the code with third-party audit similar to that of ISO system hence its standard certificate is credible. In addition, the council was founded by 14 major jewelry brands of the world. Suppliers of the brands must be an RJC’s member. Their membership has drawn companies around the world into joining the council in order to have a chance to be a supplier for the leading jewelry brands which are RJC’s members. The membership also escalate their success in reaching younger generations as the RJC’S principles meeting their demand in buying products and services from companies doing business with ethics and being responsible to social and environmental impacts.
The RJC accepts traders, manufacturers and organizations/associations for its members. The Gem and Jewelry Institute of Thailand (Public Organization) or GIT is an RJC’s member. Mr. Thanong Leelawattanasuk, GIT’s Technical Deputy Director, said, “GIT was advised by CIBJO to join the RJC. As the country’s central agency, we will keep up with developments or trends in the industry and convey the information to Thai gem and jewelry entrepreneurs. GIT has arranged a seminar and invited representatives from the RJC to explain the standards’ importance to Thai entrepreneurs. The seminar inspired them to become more aware and active about forming standards in business operation with social and environmental responsibility. At present, GIT is in the process of asking for permission to translate the RJC Code of Practices into Thai for Thai entrepreneurs’ better understanding. The institute agrees that Thai gem and jewelry companies should join the RJC as the membership will help promote the image of being the world’s gem and jewelry trading hub. GIT is ready to support entrepreneurs in every aspect. In the future, we will send our officers for the standard’s training with the RJC and later their knowledge will be passed on to Thai gem and jewelry entrepreneurs.”
Study Cases of RJC Members
Nowadays, small to large gem and jewelry manufacturers/traders from many countries around the world have been determined to adapt their businesses to embrace sustainable business development by joining organizations, particularly international organizations like the RJC. The following are some companies which have joined the RJC.
BULGARI S.p.A is the owner of BVLGARI, the world’s leading jewelry brand from Italy. It was founded in 1884. Currently, the brand is the luxury jewelry brand with outlets in shopping centers across the world. The company received its membership certification from the RJC in 2011. BULGARI believes that consumers have been increasingly sensitive about ethical trade, respect to human rights and environmental impact prevention. These days, customers will remember brands with social and environmental responsibility and business transparency. Thus, the company joined the RJC to help form an implementation plan with the council. The plan contains procedural practices and a handbook explaining detailed self-assessment to achieve the goal of being an ethically operated company with social and environmental responsibility.
Being aware of sustainable development, Asian entrepreneurs in Thailand, Vietnam, India, Japan and Hong Kong also joined the council. The RJC’s Asian members include the following companies.
Julie Sandlau Vietnam is a fine jewelry manufacturer based in Vietnam. The company is determined to produce high quality products for customers who wish to buy goods from a business with sustainable development. Joining the RJC in 2017, the company received the RJC’s certificate, which is effective from November 14, 2019 – November 14, 2020. Apart from being a member of the RJC, it has also made a commitment with United Nations Global Compact to support human rights and labor rights, prevent environmental impacts and oppose corruptions.
Lallubhai & Brothers is a diamond trade company in India. The company was founded in 1989. It is determined to engage in diamond trade with transparency and reduce social and environmental impacts by following the Kimberly Process’ guidelines. In 2018, the company became a member of the RJC and started complying with the RJC Code of Practice. It has an explicit policy regarding not selling products involving money laundering or terrorism funding, reporting irregular financial reports to related agencies, avoiding conflict diamond trade by revealing information of diamonds sold, promoting human rights and child rights by not employing children or forcing them to work, giving equal opportunity for employees, ensuring a safe working environment for employees, and preventing environmental impacts.
In Thailand, there are around 60 RJC members such as Pranda Jewelry, the leader in jewelry production, distribution and retail. The company’s standard has been certified and its entire process has been assessed according to RJC’s requirements in relation to raw material selection from verifiable sources, ethical business operation and social and environmental responsibility. Pranda Jewelry received the standard system certificate from the RJC in February 2018. The certificate is effective for 3 year (February 23, 2018-February 23, 2021).
An example of SME companies which are RJC members is Intramanee Co., Ltd. The company, manufacturing and selling gemstone-mounted jewelry products, became an RJC member in November 2019. Its policy includes operating business with ethics; conforming with fair competition rules; holding onto ethics and following the rules of law; and placing importance on and being aware of responsibility to environment, safety and responsibility to society and community by specifying a policy on occupational health, and constant and effective management for safety and environment.
Ms. Wirinthira Mongkolpradit, the Assistant Manager of Intramanee Co., Ltd. said, “Our dominant customers are Europeans and Americans who have increasingly been demanding products from companies with responsibility to society and environment, so our company needs to be an RJC member. The RJC certificate will help raise our standard and credibility and may eventually boost the sales in Europe and the USA.”
MEO Jewelry Co., Ltd., the silver and gold jewelry manufacturer and exporter, joined the RJC in February 2020. The company’s core culture is practicing mindfulness and building carefulness, creativity as well as employee and community’s well-being. It emphasizes on being responsible to society and environment through various projects benefitting employees, local communities and environment, for example, its support for meditation for youths at Phanitaram Temple, the Taichi seminar and training for its factory’s employees, and appropriate recycling for all products of its factory.
Ms. Pannawan Phueakphong, the Personnel Manager, said, “We were informed by our partners in the USA, our key market, that they would buy products from companies with an RJC’s certificate in order to gain confidence that the companies’ products are responsible to society and environment. If we want to keep our customer base in the market, we have to be an RJC’s member. We strongly believe that being a member of RJC will boost our sales. On the contrary, if we do not join the RJC, our sales in the USA may drop and there could possibly be no order in the future.”
The booming trend urging for responsibility to society and environment as well as fair trade among younger generations, particularly in the USA and Europe, has been increasingly dictating their decision in buying gem and jewelry products. Therefore, gem and jewelry producers/wholesalers and retailers should promptly convert to meet the changes in customers’ demand and interest. They should obtain raw materials according to trade ethics, operate business with transparency, contribute to social and community development, help preserve environment, and productively communicate with consumers to promote the companies’ reputation of having social and environmental consciousness. This adjustment will lead to persistent success of gem and jewelry business.