Yesterday I attended the Fair Luxury conference at the Birmingham Assay Office and I had a fantastic time.
Not only were the talks great and delivered by interesting figures, but the conversations taking place during the coffee breaks between people in our industry who are passionate about making it the best it can be were really inspiring.
I left the conference feeling pumped and energised and wondering – what’s my role in all this? How can Professional Jeweller help this industry thrive to be ethical?
I must admit though that by the time I got back to London, I was in post conference blues. The doubts started trickling in. Can we really make our jewellery industry more ethical and transparent? How long is this going to take? Are we all aiming for the same levels of ethics? Where do we start?
I woke up this morning and decided to put those doubts to bed. It’s no secret that making the jewellery industry’s entire supply chains more ethical is going to be a long and tiring task. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, and it certainly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all play our part.
So I wanted to share with you two pieces of advice I found helpful.
First of all, key note speaker Juliane Kippenberg from Human Rights Watch admitted that change won’t happen overnight. No one expects everyone to transform their businesses in the next 24 hours, but she said it’s important to make a plan. To have goals.
She said these plans might take years, for instance a fine jewellery company might for the first two years focus on sourcing gold from a credited mine, and then after that focus another few years on the ethics surrounding diamonds and gemstones.
The important thing is to be aiming to be the best, no matter how long it takes.
Secondly she said that one of the best things every company can do is to be transparent about their supply chain. That way businesses can be accountable to each other and consumers can be confident that wherever you’re sourcing from, they can trace it and make their own decisions.
It will also make every jeweller think more about the chain, rather than just taking everything at face value. As Kippenberg put it: “Companies have a responsibility to protect human rights in their supply chain, not just their company.”
For me these points come down to this – for many in the UK jewellery industry, the first steps involve working from the inside out. Yes, we need groups of people working on improving mines, writing policies and making universal standards, but for many a good starting place will be looking at your own company and working from there.
This is something Responsible Jewellery Council executive director Andrew Bone called the pub test. He asked: “Can your employees go down the pub and defend their decision to work for you?”
I will leave you with that question to ponder…