Progress on ethical gold is tarnished by laggardsMarch 2010
US jewellery retailers are making progress on the ethical-sourcing of gold – but a number of laggards still remain.
A new report on the gold retailing sector from the Washington DC-based environmental pressure group Earthworks says major jewellers are increasingly finding alternatives to irresponsibly mined metals, and are generally working well with suppliers to ensure greater understanding of the ethical issues behind gold extraction.
In particular 60 retailers are now incorporating a set of 'Golden Rules' into their operations. The rules, which were drawn up by Oxfam America and Earthworks several years ago, commit signatories to protecting certain areas from mining, and require them to increase awareness of the principles of responsible mining among their suppliers.
However, large retailers have yet to make a concerted effort to use recycled gold, which would reduce the need for more mining, and few have yet integrated the requirements of the Golden Rules into their sourcing policy.
The study says that since demand for jewellery accounts for about 90 per cent of global mine production of gold, jewellers 'play a particularly important role in helping shift mining onto a more responsible track.'
Earthworks says that despite the generally encouraging picture, it is worried by the performance of some large companies, as well as others that refused even to respond to its requests for information.
Target and T.J. Maxx have yet to support the Golden Rules, with the former refusing to complete the report's survey. Target has 1750 stores in the US, while T.J. Maxx runs 874.
Other large firms, such as JCPenney, have not conducted a supply audit, while a number of companies, including Cartier and Signet, are not participating in third-party certification systems, such as the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance.
Jewellers covered by the study were graded from A to F on 15 criteria, including tracing their supply chain, incorporating the Golden Rules into their policies and contracts, and their support for third party certification initiatives.
Only eight of the 19 large firms scored C or above, compared to 19 out of 21 small- or medium-sized companies. Most big companies rated D, while Tiffany was the best-scoring large jeweller, meriting a B.
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