Interview with Asha Pitt
Andrew Bone has officially stepped down from his position as executive director of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) after four years in the role.
Bone has been executive director of the RJC since the spring of 2015. Under his leadership, membership doubled and the foundations were laid down for sustainable growth in the future.
Here, Bone reflects on his time with the RJC and reveals his thoughts on the future of the UK jewellery trade.
Why did you want to work for the Responsible Jewellery Council?
It was an interesting personal and professional challenge that provided me with the opportunity to build on the experience and skills that I had acquired working in the diamond industry.
How did your experience at De Beers prepare you for a career in industry regulation?
I had the privilege to represent De Beers during the development of the Kimberley Process (KP) from its inception in May 2000. That process clearly illustrated the benefits of taking a proactive, inclusive and transparent approach for a business. That is the approach that the RJC takes, and my experience meant I was able to speak to its value first hand.
What would say have been your greatest achievements as executive director of the RJC?
I think others are best placed to answer this. I’m pleased that during my time we have doubled our membership. It shows that business is increasingly recognising the value of a clear certification process. I have tried to make the steps required to meet our standards as clear as possible so that the RJC can help an increasing number of jewellery companies of all sizes meet the rising ethical standards demanded by peers, consumers, financial institutions and civil society.
Has working at the RJC changed the way that you view and purchase jewellery?
Working at the RJC has certainly opened my eyes to the challenges, opportunities and changes going on within the jewellery sector. Of course, that also influences how I see jewellery as a consumer and strengthened my understanding of the value of RJC certification.
What changes have you specifically seen within the RJC since joining the organisation?
Since 2015 we have seen membership grow to more than 1,100 members. This reflects a broader realisation within the business community that demonstrating responsible practices is no longer just ‘nice to have’. Within the jewellery industry, RJC membership means access to a clear certification process, simple guidance and a community of confidence. We have also expanded our network of partnerships and brought more organisations into this community; most recently BV Schmuck & Uhren became the first German trade association to join the RJC, acting as a conduit to its members and the German jewellery industry.
What changes have you witnessed since joining the jewellery industry? And, how do you see it evolving in the next five years?
The major change is increasing consumer demand for businesses to operate responsibly and ethically. Companies are expected to be open to scrutiny, show awareness of and act on social issues that their customers care about. Standards and certification bodies are becoming increasingly important in helping the industry to constantly improve practices against the rapidly changing business landscape.
What are the biggest challenges UK businesses face in terms of ethical jewellery manufacturing/ supply?
Everyone must continually meet high ethical standards and demonstrate that fact back to their supply chain. The challenge of demonstrating responsibility is most obvious for small, independent businesses, which make up approximately 60% of the RJC’s membership. They do not always have the resources available to them that larger companies benefit from. The RJC is conscious of this and endeavours to ensure that small businesses can easily manage RJC certification by offering training and resources; that means these smaller businesses can still get the recognition they deserve for their ethical standards.
Where do you see the RJC heading as an organisation?
RJC certification is a gateway to growth for businesses. It demonstrates a company’s commitment to ethical behaviour and provides a calling card that industry peers, consumers, financial institutions and wider society recognise and trust. The RJC works to make it easier for certified members to build relationships and to do business. The RJC standards are internationally recognised as robust and are open to comprehensive and transparent review on a regular basis to ensure that they continue to advance the cause of responsibility in the industry. We constantly monitor significant trends in the jewellery industry to ensure we remain the benchmark for key standards. This will always be the organisation’s focus.
Which opportunities do you think the jewellery industry should be embracing?
There is a wealth of evidence indicating that consumer desire for ethical goods and services continues to increase. In the UK alone, the ethical retail sector has grown by more than £40 billion since 2008; so, the opportunity is clear.
Has your role at the RJC affected the way that you view other supply chains, outside of the jewellery industry? Do you, for example, tend to look for Fairtrade when shopping other sectors?
Like many consumers there are responsible and ethical considerations that I bear in mind when making a purchase.
What advice would you give to a UK jewellery business that has considered RJC accreditation but has doubts that they would actually qualify?
The Responsible Jewellery Council can support jewellery companies of all sizes. We have the resources, training and guidance to make it easy for everyone to benefit from RJC membership, regardless of the resources at their disposal.