REVEALED: The hidden cost of jewellery sold by 13 major brands

Human Rights Watch has today released a report scrutinizing the hidden cost of jewellery created by 13 major jewellery brands, which collectively generative over $30bn (£21bn) in annual revenue.

In a report titled ‘The Hidden Cost of Jewellery: Human Rights in Supply Chains and the Responsibility of Jewellery Companies’, the Human Rights Watch has analysed the sourcing of gold and diamonds in major jewellery houses such as Boodles, Cartier, Chopard, Harry Winston, Pandora, Signet and Tiffany & Co, which together make up about 10% of global jewellery sales.

The detailed report reveals the practices of the 13 jewellers Human Rights Watch examined differ significantly. While some companies have taken important steps to address human rights risks in the gold and diamond supply chain, others simply rely on the untested assurances of their suppliers.

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Furthermore, most of the companies do not have full traceability for their gold and diamonds, and do not sufficiently assess human rights risks.

“Many jewellers can do more to find out if their gold or diamonds are tainted by child labor or other human rights abuses,” shares Juliane Kippenberg, associate child rights director at Human Rights Watch. “When someone buys a piece of jewellery for their loved one this Valentine’s Day, they should ask their jeweller what they have done to find out about its origin.”

Human Rights Watch found that most of the  jewellers analysed fall short of meeting international responsible sourcing standards.

For the investigation, ten of the companies responded to the request for information: Boodles, Bulgari, Cartier, Chopard, Christ, Harry Winston, Pandora, Signet (parent company of Kay Jewelers, Zales, Ernest Jones, and H. Samuel), Tanishq, and Tiffany, and three did not respond: Kalyan, Rolex, and TBZ.

Tiffany and Co has been ranked ‘strong’ for taking steps towards responsible sourcing

Based on information publicly available or provided by the companies, Human Rights Watch has ranked the 13 companies in its report according to specific responsible sourcing criteria, including efforts to assess and respond to human rights risks, establish traceability, and publicly report about the company’s actions.

Human Rights Watch found that none of the 13 could be ranked as “excellent” but ranked one – Tiffany and Co. – as “strong” for taking significant steps toward responsible sourcing; and four – Bulgari, Cartier, Pandora, and Signet – as “moderate” for taking some important steps toward responsible sourcing.

Four others – Boodles, Chopard, Christ, and Harry Winston – were ranked as “weak” for taking few steps toward responsible sourcing, and Tanishq as “very weak,” due to a lack of any evidence of steps towards responsible sourcing. The three companies that did not respond were not ranked because they do not disclose any information regarding their sourcing policies and practices.

Pandora stands out for disclosing human rights risks identified during its audits

While many jewellery companies fall short of meeting international standards, some have adopted good practices that could be more widely replicated. For example, Tiffany and Co. stands out for its ability to track its gold back to the mine, and for its thorough assessments of human rights impacts. Elsewhere, Cartier purchases the entire output of a ‘model’ gold mine in Honduras, while Swiss jeweller Chopard has worked with small-scale mining cooperatives in Latin America to improve working conditions, and sources from those mines. Pandora in particular stands out for disclosing human rights risks identified during its audits.

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The officialy ranking from Human Rights Watch.

Two of the companies have since pledged to take specific steps to improve their practices. The UK jeweller Boodles has started meeting with its diamond suppliers on their human rights due diligence and initiated its first responsible sourcing audit. The company has pledged to develop a comprehensive code of conduct for its gold and diamond suppliers and to make it public; to report publicly on its human rights due diligence from 2019; and to conduct more rigorous human rights assessments.

Kippenberg concludes: “An increasing number of customers want to be sure the jewellery they buy has not fuelled human rights abuses. Jewellery companies owe it to their customers and to the communities affected by their businesses to source truly responsibly and allow public scrutiny of their actions.”

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