19 Feb 2013
Industry leaders from all sectors of the retail fraternity have praised the launch of the National Association of Goldsmiths (N.A.G.) and British Jewellers’ Association’s (BJA) Gold Paper as the first of many steps in analysing and improving the way the UK sources and supplies precious metals. The paper, which was formulated as an informed response to Dispatches “Dirty Gold” programme, hits back at the notion that the jewellery industry is not taking a lead in the ethical sourcing of one of its primary raw materials.
The 39 page report details current practices and policies used by refineries, suppliers, retailers, NGOs and banks to regulate and monitor the movement and provenance of gold within the UK supply chain. Within the report is detailed analysis that reflects how the UK’s current policies, both imposed and self-policed, are taking great strides in ensuring gold can be traced back to a responsible source. However, it also reveals the industry needs to shore up its claims to social and ethical sourcing with transparency, traceability, and advanced communication across the entire supply chain.
The release of the report has been followed by a call to arms from both those involved in the formation of the report and leaders across the jewellery industry, appealing to all levels of the gold supply chain to take the lead a look at these recommendations and see how they can be applied.
Greg Valerio, founder of CRED Jewellery and the Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold initiatives and member of the Ethics Working Committee, said “the guiding principles that constitute any claim regarding ethical behaviour in the jewellery trade are transparency and traceability. Without this any claim is green wash. I recommend the BJA NAG Gold report to any jeweller who is serious about moving in the right ethical direction as its recommendations are good steps towards greater transparency and traceability for our businesses and for our customers.”
Valerio’s sentiments were backed up by Michael Allchin from the Birmingham Assay Office who spoke of the real need for an ethical supply chain in the UK. “The Gold Paper is a welcome new guide from the NAG and BJA’s Ethical Committee” says Allchin.
“It gives us an informative overview of the gold supply chain and the key players, including NGO’s, active in this field. It helpfully summarises the current state of play on the definition and sources of ‘ethical’ jewellery through various different chain of custody programmes.”
Allchin went on to say, “Most importantly it also gives us ten recommendations to put into practice in our own businesses. These ensure we are doing the best we can to source clean gold, and that each of us in our own small way contributes to the wellbeing of poor and disadvantaged communities, and to the conservation of the precious resources of our planet.”
Simon Rainer of the BJA, one of the founding-fathers of the committee was similarly in tune with Valerio and Allchin, saying “Too often our industry is accused of being reactive. The Gold Paper is a positive step forward in communicating that we essentially work in a very responsible manner. However, there are still improvements to be made and I commend the 10 point recommendation summary to all of those wishing to learn more about the responsible sourcing of gold.”
Whilst Allchin, Rainer, and Valerio strongly endorse the implementation of these recommendations, Vivien Johnston, Committee Chair and founder of ethical jewellery brand Fifi Bijoux, takes a distinctly pragmatic view, saying “One of the key discussion points which arose at the launch seminar of The Gold Paper was around the demands jewellers can realistically place on their suppliers for evidence of responsible sourcing. We highlighted the need for better communication between jewellers and those refiners who have already made progress in careful sourcing, which go some way to ensuring their activities don’t damage the environment or human lives.”
Vivien went on to say, “What is very evident is that these conversations need to take place frequently and regularly to improve the industries understanding of the critical issues surrounding gold mining and supply chains overall, in order for it to be more responsive, mindful and able to meet consumer expectations of how we conduct our businesses here in the UK”
Vivien’s cautious, yet optimistic view was one shared with N.A.G. CEO Michael Hoare, who started the Ethics Working Committee in 2010. Hoare stated, “The plethora of initiatives in the gold supply chain can be perplexing for retailers and from the outset it was our intention to come up with some straightforward guidance that cut through the rhetoric. We strongly believe the recommendations in the report will go some way to clearing these muddied waters. These are only the first of many new steps the industry needs to take to get its house in order.”
“However,” says Hoare, “this all depends on jewellers out there taking up the baton of social responsibility and running with it.”
The Gold Paper is free of charge and is now available on request from the N.A.G. and BJA or online on the NAG blog and the BJA website news section.