An Editorial Perspective on the Interview between Greg Valerio and Michael Rae, from Marc Choyt, Publisher of fairjewelry.org
When considering ethical sourcing, there is one issue from which we can measure intent: it is all about traceability, traceability, traceability.
Michael Rae, CEO of RJC, admitted in the interview that RJC will not certify the supply chain of its members. Dirty gold from Peru can find its way into an RJC member’s wedding ring. Though RJC will certify individual members, their effort fails on the most essential issue, their publicly stated raison d’être.
You cannot legitimately claim to be an organization composed of members who are dedicated to, “Reinforcing confidence in the diamond and gold supply chain” without every member of that organization knowing the details of their sourcing.
It is not just Peru that is of concern, but any gold that cannot be traced to a specific location; and misery diamonds labeled as “conflict free” under the weak Kimberley Certification Process as recently documented by Ian Smillie; and the manufacturing conditions in Chinese jewelry factories; as well as a host of other ugly niche issues related to jewelry sourcing and production.
Everyone wants the RJC to be effective, but their approach to ethical sourcing seems to be to create a quasi-cartel. It serves mainly the “big boys club”, who are large enough to lock up their own supply chain. Inevitably, in the smoky back rooms, RJC members will be shoe-horned in to purchasing from other members.
Rea admits that RJC borrowed some elements from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) as a means to create a legitimate platform, but his efforts at mimicry fall very short. Unlike the RJC, the FSC is not just composed of large forestry companies, but rather is grounded in a broad multi-sector stakeholder system, as well as public consultation.
If RJC is to be taken seriously as a standards setting initiative outside of their own self serving house of mirrors, this “non-profit” group needs to adopt these basic steps:
Until these changes are made, those who are seeking real change can use RJC’s Ancien Régime’s limitations as a “Blue Ocean” marketing opportunity. That an RJC member can sell dirty gold or diamonds of misery and still claim to be reinforcing confidence in the supply chain illustrates that the organization’s agenda is not about reform.
We can all be thankful for Rae’s candidness and Valerio’s sharp questions which let us definitively say that, “The emperor has no clothes.”