Committee to push supply chain transparency plan

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Jewellery Ethics Committee UK to support government initiative.

The British Government has announced that Business Minister Jenny Willott will work with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and be supported by The Jewellery Ethics Committee UK (JEC-UK) to produce a number of recommendations for UK retailers to address human rights abuses in their supply chains.

Over the past five years, the JEC-UK has been working with companies such as Fairtrade International to ensure UK retailers are aware of the issues within their own supply chains, and to provide practical advice on how to resolve these issues.

Comprised of the three main trade associations representing retailers, manufactures and gem and diamond professionals in the UK: the National Association of Goldsmiths (NAG), the British Jewellers’ Association (BJA) and the Gemmological Association of Great Britain (Gem-A), the JEC-UK has worked with jewellers, manufacturers and producers in and around the UK to provide 10 recommendations to improve transparency in the gold supply chain.

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As they are now working on a similar Diamond Paper for publication in 2014, news of the Business Minister’s announcement and the BRC’s subsequent report has been widely welcomed by all parties involved in the initiative.

BJA chief executive officer Simon Rainer said “I am extremely pleased that BRC and HMG have chosen to highlight the issues prevalent in retail supply chains. I am even more pleased that the BJA, NAG and Gem-A recognised these issues several years ago and have been working earnestly, with all stakeholders, to create and effect change for the betterment of the UK jewellery industry"

Chairman of JEC-UK Vivien Johnston commented: “We’ve been developing a series of steps for each sector of the industry to apply to their supply chains. Ultimately, we see the need for a credible assurance system for small businesses to demonstrate their ethical behaviour. We also want to make consumers aware of the commitments companies have undertaken to eradicate human rights abuses, so they are in the position to make an informed choice about the ethical provenance of the jewellery they purchase”.

Later this year the BRC will work with its members and key stakeholders to produce a publication highlighting good practise and recommendations for companies on ethical accreditation and auditing.

This will work alongside existing programmes, including The World Gold Council’s Conflict Free standard for mines, and The Kimberly Process for diamonds, which were both designed to eradicate the financing of conflict through rough diamond sales, and prevent human rights abuses, including slave labour, child labour and issues surrounding poverty.

The introduction of some initiatives, such as Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold in 2011 have transformed the way in which the industry can access gold from small scale miners, while ensuring a fair pricing structure and funding for community development.

To date, two mining communities in Peru have benefited from local gold mines becoming Fairtrade certified, with premiums being used to improve health care and education. Two more are on track for certification in Bolivia and Peru later this year whilst policy work continues with small scale miners on child labour and mercury eradication in other sites in South America. Nine pilot sites have been identified in East Africa, impacting over 3000 miners and their communities.

Greg Valerio of Fairtrade International explains: “Fairtrade Gold offers the UK jewellery trade a verifiable and trusted way of improving ethical performance. It is the country’s only consumer certification stamp for gold and gives the consumer a guarantee that what they are buying can be traced to a certified Fairtrade mining group. It is truly the best gold story in the world”.

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