Gaetano Cavalieri outlines doctrine for CSR at talk in Bangkok.

By Kathryn Lewis

Speaking at a conference last week, Gaetano Cavalieri, the president of the CIBJO, the international jewellery confederation of national trade organisations, urged stakeholders to adopt ethical practices but stressed that such systems should not create unfair business advantages.


"There are entire countries whose economic wellbeing is dependent upon the products we produce and sell," Cavalieri said.

In his address to the International Gem and Jewellery Conference in Bangkok, Cavalieri outlined a doctrine for corporate social responsibility which he hopes stakeholders will adopt. In his view, businesses should be transparent; they should defend the industry from challenges that could threaten its integrity; and they should serve as a catalyst for sustainable economic and social development in nations where they operate.

Cavalieri stressed the importance of developing systems and tools for dealing with social and ethical problems, such as the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. He stressed that the industry had designed a system by which it voluntarily agreed to be subject to strict regulation, in order to resolve a humanitarian crisis for which it was not directly responsible. “There are few, if any examples of this in the history of commerce and business,” he noted.

However, he argued that such systems should not create unfair business advantages.

"In CIBJO we support all such efforts in principal, but with one important condition," he stressed. "No such system should create an unfair business advantage, especially if it is restrictively expensive to implement. What unfair systems do is imply that all those who are financially or logistically unable to adopt them are not responsible corporate citizens, at least in comparison to who have the means to implement them. Systems that defend the chain of distribution should be inclusive, and not restrictive."

In his speech, Cavalieri, touched on the complexities of the trade as he talked about the number of hands involved in creating a piece of fine jewellery. “If only one component in that ring is ethically challenged – let us say, for example, the gems were polished in a factory where the worker’s lungs were damaged as the result of poor ventilation – then the integrity of the entire product is threatened. In other words, if the consumer will not buy the ring because of only one small gemstone, then everybody else who was involved in creating that piece of jewellery will also pay the price.”

Looking ahead to the future Cavalieri made a number of recommendations for industry stakeholders. “When it comes to sustainable development, there is no one, single programme that our industry must undertake, but rather a variety of programmes. Involved should be major and junior mining houses, industry organisations, jewellery and gemstone companies and NGOs that are financially supported by our industry,” he said. “The programmes should range from gem cutting and jewellery craftsmanship training courses in Africa, to tourism projects in areas where the mines are reaching the end of their productive lives, to programmes that support the health and wellbeing of our industry’s employees, especially through the prevention of HIV-AIDS.”