Though fair trade gold through Oro Verde is already available, this alliance between the Alliance for Responsible Mining and the Fair Trade Labeling Organization International (FLO), strengthens the marketability of the product.
See the press release below my comments, to learn more.
Now, here’s some inside information about the politics behind Fair Trade in the jewelry sector.
The big issue behind the scenes is who will benefit from fair trade in the jewelry sector. Is it going to be the large scale producers, who will form an alliance with fair trade organizations who will then put their fair trade tax on jewelry and make buckets of money? Or will Fair Trade truly benefit the small scale producer, bringing benefit to communities in the developing world that need it most.
On this issue, my contacts tell me that there has, at times, been a split between TransfairUSA, the American branch of the FLO, and some European FLO organizations. The Europeans tend to favor the small scale, where Transfair USA, which derives most of its money from the major corporations, like Wal-Mart and Starbucks, tend to favor large scale interests.
Note that the contact for the press release is from the UK, which in general is years a head of the US market in its popular support of fair trade products, particularly jewelry.
Transfair USA’s diamond study was funded by the Tiffany Foundation. Mike Kowalski, CEO of Tiffany, stated in an interview published on Robert Bates (JCK Magazines Diamond Editor) blog, “…We are far from a consensus on what constitutes a socially responsible gold mine.”
In fact, there was a consensus at that very time. ARM and Oro Verde were already producing fair trade gold, though it was not certified by FLO. Greg Valerio of Cred Jewelers, issued a strong response to Kowalski’s comment.
See the entire exchange here: https://fairjewelry.org/archives/110
Anyone reading this blog who believes that Fair Trade should benefit the poor and struggling communities in the developing world, instead of companies such as Wal-Mart, Starbucks and Tiffany, should pay close attention to these issues.
In the meantime, the extraordinary effort of ARM and the integrity of Fair-Trade UK is something to celebrate.
~ Marc Choyt, Publisher, fairjewelry.org
January 30th, 2009
Fair trade Labeling Organizations International and the Alliance for Responsible Mining Boards decides to work towards agreement of standards for Fair Trade Certification of Gold during 2009
Artisanal and small scale gold mining is an important livelihood for over 10 million people living in more than 70 developing countries. Characterized by high levels of poverty, these activities have long-term environmental and health impacts for populations living in and around them.
Could Fair Trade labeling of Gold help address these conditions, and create market access on terms that will help transform the lives of these miners and their communities? To explore this, the Fair Trade Labeling Organization network has been working with the Alliance for Responsible Mining to look at whether this approach could deliver sustainable improvements for mining communities, and if so, how this might work.
A set of draft standards developed by the Alliance for Responsible Mining are currently being tested in 9 pilot sites in Latin America. These pilot programs, which are being run with enormous commitment by the pioneer miners’ organizations, have demonstrated some real potential in addressing the development challenges. The democratic organization of these miners combined with increased financial returns from access to Fair Trade markets, would enable these mining organizations to improve the environmental and working conditions at their specific mines, and also to develop community projects in education, health and economic diversification. This could lead to more enduring and sustainable development in mining communities.
What needs to happen next?
In December 2008, the Boards of both organizations agreed that work would be continued to take the development of Fair Trade standards for gold forward in 2009, with the focus very clearly on artisanal and small-scale gold miners. We are committed to a partnership approach for this work. The Alliance for Responsible Mining provides the networks and expertise to run a credible program of support and development for artisanal and small scale miners, whilst Fair Trade provides opportunities for promoting market access on terms that will underpin this work through use of the ‘Fair Trade’ Mark of FLO and the ‘Fair Mined’ mark of ARM.
However, we also recognize that a lot of hard work is still required before standards that will enable Fair Trade Certification of Gold to be finalized and agreed upon. In particular, there must be consultation with FLO producer groups to ensure that conflicts between mining organizations and agricultural farmers are avoided. Secondly, further work was requested to ensure credible and robust environmental implementation of the program, and to explore how more organizations with specific environmental expertise might become involved in this. Further work on traceability systems for gold miners and on adapting ARM’s existing Standard Zero to fit with the Fair Trade standards will also be done. This work is being undertaken during 2009, including further stakeholder consultation ensuring we are listening and responding to any concerns raised.
When will decisions be made?
The results of the next phase of work, including the final joint Fair Trade and ARM standards for artisanal and small-scale gold mining will be submitted to the Boards of the Fair Trade Labelling Organization and the Alliance for Responsible Mining in mid-2009. If approved by both boards, this could pave the way for gold products carrying the ‘Fair Trade’ Mark, and ARM’s ‘Fair Mined’ mark, possibly available as early as 2010.
For more information on Fair Trade labeling of gold, contact Jessica Gordon, project manager at the Fair Trade Foundation for the gold initiative. Email: Jessica.gordon@Fair Trade.org.uk.