60 Minutes, Conflict Gold from the DRC, and Jewelers Of America Panic Letter
“Jewellers should be putting pressure on their Trade Associations to make sure they are being represented in these debates.” — Sonya Maldar of the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD)
~ Opinion by Marc Choyt, publisher
The latest public relations crisis in the jewelry world is an upcoming segment on 60 Minutes on “conflict gold”, funding wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The images, according to Jewelers of America (JA), are “harrowing”
JA wrote a letter to its members and other jewelers warning that 60 Minutes will, “attempt to call the integrity of the entire gold jewelry supply chain into question.” JA’s urgent alert has talking points for jewelers to quell their customer’s concerns.
60 Minutes apparently was concerned about being able to pin down Matt Runci, head of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) and Jewelers of America (JA), who was interviewed in the segment. No one is more experienced in dealing with this type of bad publicity toward the jewelry industry than Runci. As a front person for the jewelry sector for the past several years, he is extremely smooth with the press.
In preparing for the interview, 60 Minutes consulted with at least one activist in the ethical jewelry community (who wishes to remain unnamed). They wanted strategies in how to interview Runci.
In the end, according to my sources, the advice was simple enough. 60 Minutes only needed to ask a simple question, “Can you, Mr. Jewelry Sector, guarantee that the gold in your stores does not come from exploitative sources?”
The answer is, “NO.”
According to an interview with Michael Rae, CEO of the RJC published on this blog this past June, the RJC (and JA) will continue to accept dirty gold, with it’s ties to environmental atrocities and human rights abuses into the supply chain of their members. The RJC takes this approach while claiming on their website to, “…be reinforcing confidence in the diamond and gold supply chain…”
Unfortunately, supply chain double-speak is entirely consistent. From the support of the discredited Kimberley Certification Process, to the Burmese ruby boycott (which is ineffective and penalizes the artisan mining community), to their current certification efforts, the RJC, it is plain to see, is protecting their membership’s current business models.
These are, after all, are the same people and companies who profited from the killing of nearly four million Africans during the blood diamond crisis, for which not one person in the RJC or the entire jewelry sector has ever been held accountable.
This callousness in regard to the lives of Africans and the artisan mining sector, world wide, extends to many jewelers who believe that anyone who gets in the way of their Christmas season isn’t worth the dirt they live on. These jewelers are, once again, “the victims.” Read their comments from this National Jeweler article on the 60 Minutes story.
“I wear Nike shoes, and some 5 year old makes them. I also drive a car that runs on gas, supplied by terrorist. Why dont they do a story on the oil industry?”
“…just remember…something like 85% of all the gold ever mined has been recycled back into use…over and over and over. Relatively green if you ask me!”
“…It is plausible that misguided attempts to regulate these markets actually serve to increase the levels of human suffering in the affected regions.”
“Nobody could believe the main stream media much longer with all the crap they ARE reporting. there not credible at all they are just jerks! Just hang in, and dont even watch it. if they get low enough ratings maybe they will gooff the air. until Obamma bails them out.” — “to big to fail”
“What is the fuss, some of Nancy Pelosi’s fortune is a Napa Valley vineyard worth $25 million that she owns with her husband. Hires only nonunion workers and illegal’s to harvest. Think about it, are we going to stop consuming wine? Let us get on with the real business at hand.”
It is true that the DRC “conflict gold” is a minute part of the supply chain. But there are environmental and human rights associated with gold mining issues all over the world. The jewelry sector is widely contaminated with dirty gold.
If 60 Minutes is able to make even a small percentage of jewelry consumers outraged enough to raise the issue with jewelers like the ones who commented above, the sector will change. These guys care first and foremost about making money.
For ethical jewelers, the 60 Minutes program as a marketing opportunity, allowing us to differentiate our companies from the multitudes.
In my next post, I’ll write my own letter to jewelers telling them how to handle this 60 Minutes crisis, which is also a crisis in moral leadership by JA and RJC.