Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business
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Reform that would be worth its weight in gold

January 2015

As the Three Wise Men didn’t arrive until 6th January, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to keep a quasi festive theme in this issue, the first edition of 2015 (particularly as I am having to pen it mid-December).

While frankincense and myrrh aren’t high on many people’s wishlists, gold jewellery is a perennial favourite. So I was pleased to see that many US jewellery companies and retailers have started to take significant steps to eliminate ‘conflict gold’ from their supply chains (especially so as they are the largest end-user of gold, making up around 45% of worldwide gold demand).

According to a new report from the Enough Project, some of the big players – including Signet Jewelers (parent company of Zales), Tiffany & Co and JC Penney – are putting policies in place and initiatives on the ground. And the group has recently promoted these responsible businesses with an advertising campaign cleverly tagged “Look who’s getting engaged.”

Legislation has largely aimed to tackle the trade in conflict minerals by concentrating on the most problematic minerals – tin, tantalum and tungsten (the 3Ts), rather than gold. Indeed, major supply chain reforms by electronics companies, coupled with the Dodd-Frank Act’s section on conflict minerals and the beginnings of a minerals certification process in the Great Lakes region of Africa, have led to a marked improvement in the security situation at 3T mines in Congo.

However, the Enough Project research points out that while two thirds of the eastern Congo’s 3T mines are now conflict-free, “gold remains a major financial lifeline for armed actors”, ie brutal rebel groups commandeer mines and use the profits to fuel their murderous campaigns. It seems that as international attention has been focused on the other three minerals, gold has risen as a source of income.

Enough Project says the sector is woefully under-represented in key multi-stakeholder initiatives on the issue – in particular the Private Alliance on Responsible Minerals Trade (PPA), the OECD Due Diligence Forum, and the Multi-Stakeholder Group of the Responsible Sourcing Network. Maybe 2015 will prove to be the year that picture changes?

Continuing the jewellery theme, the world’s largest pure grown diamond was unveiled at the tail end of last year, timed to coincide no doubt with the festive shopping frenzy. What grabbed my attention was the fact that Pure Grown Diamonds have the exact same chemical composition, physical properties and optical features as earth-mined diamonds, according to the International Gemological Institute, but are, of course, ‘conflict-free’.

“Pure Grown Diamonds is the new affordable option for shoppers seeking value; for consumers concerned about the environmental impact of mining; for people troubled with the history of human rights violations in the mining industry and the deadly armed conflicts ignited by greed,” says Lisa Bissell, ceo and president at Pure Grown Diamonds. I’d never heard of them before but they sound like a mighty fine ethical purchase. As I mentioned, I’m writing this pre-Santa’s visit, so I do hope he’s paying attention...

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