The Fairmined gold masterminds raising awareness and driving use.
Gemma Cartwright and Victoria Waugh are the two leading ladies pushing the use – and awareness – of Fairtrade Fairmined gold among the UK jewellery industry, through the Fairtrade Foundation. Their journey has taken them from mines to working with more than 50 UK jewellers. They were named Trailblazers in the Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2012, in association with Pursuit and The Company of Master Jewellers.
Professional Jeweller: Fairtrade Fairmined gold has won a great deal of interest in the UK. What has been your highlights working and promoting the metal this past year?
Victoria Waugh: I was really pleased by the jewellery sector’s positive response to Fairtrade and the willingness to change despite challenging times. My highlight was hearing the difference Fairtrade has already made to the lives of the people at the Sotrami mining community in Peru. In just one year of selling their gold on Fairtrade terms they have helped rebuild the primary school, bought toys for the boys and girls and computers for the senior school. Funds allocated to health have been invested in dentistry: something which the people did not have access to before. With the support of local authorities they are also helping to improve waste management, electricity and water supplies with the intention of improving the well-being and health of the town’s inhabitants. Knowing that I have helped to make this happen makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Gemma Cartwright: My highlight is visiting my first African mine as we work to extend the Fairtrade and Fairmined Standards into Africa. Also, hearing an Afro-Colombian miner, on his first visit to his ancestors’ home, speaking about his passion for connecting artisanal and small-scale miners (ASM) across the world and meeting the many inspiring people working to bring change to their communities.
PJ: Have you hit any challenges along the way with the promotion of Fairtrade Fairmined gold?
VW: Working innovatively with new supply chains and ASM brings daily challenges; we have to remain passionate, focussed and positive that we will reach the end goal on this long journey. The support we receive from the jewellers we work with is paramount to this: they are passionate about improving the way they do business and supporting us to improve the system. We also have an amazing team of people working with us at the Foundation and it is their expertise and hard work that achieves our goals.
PJ: How has Fairtrade gold evolved in the jewellery market over the past year?
GC: We launched in 2011 with 20 pioneering jewellers and are now working with over 50 businesses, large and small. Product is now on sale internationally in the Netherlands, across Scandinavia, and very soon in other European nations, Asia and North America. However, despite this positive reaction from the industry we still have work to do to raise consumer awareness of the issues of gold mining, and we’ll be focusing on this over the coming months.
PJ: How did you both get into the job?
GC: I studied development and travelled to many developing countries where I volunteered. On starting at the Foundation I heard about a new project on gold – the chance to create something new, work with those with less of a voice and make positive change really appealed to me so I asked to get involved. Today it’s almost my full time role.
VW: I worked in the clothing sector for many years, visiting factories across China and India. My experiences there led me to question how we did business and I began volunteering for the Ethical Fashion Forum: an organisation working to improve sustainability in the fashion industry. My work with them introduced me to the Fairtrade Foundation, where I now work to engage businesses on the impact of their buying decisions on people and planet, and to support them to source Fairtrade cotton clothing and gold jewellery.
PJ: How would you describe your approach to work?
GC & VW: Passionate, committed, fun, tenacious, holistic and focused. We work with such a wide variety of stakeholders, from individual miners, to huge refineries, small designer makers to luxury jewellery brands. We have to be adaptable and able to look at the situation from numerous different angles. This is all part of the challenge- and the fun.
PJ: At the end of a long week, how do you get away from it all?
GC: Spending time with friends, swimming and running as well as other voluntary work in my local community. My major passion though is travelling overseas, exploring new places and meeting new people – my most extreme destination was Antarctica. My secret is trashy TV, like Eastenders.
VW: I like to escape London outside of work and head back to my family in the North. My partner and I have a motorbike which is great for zipping into the countryside to do some walking when the sun is shining. When at home you’ll find me writing, working on my next stained glass project or curled up watching a movie.
PJ: What are your plans for Fairtrade in the jewellery industry over the next year?
GC & VW: Our long term goal is to make Fairtrade and Fairmined gold the default purchase choice for consumers and to see it widely available across the high street both in the UK and abroad. Next year we will be working to support many more jewellers to source gold on Fairtrade terms, and will be developing a marketing strategy to raise awareness with consumers. This work will happen in parallel with work to bring more Latin American and African mining communities into the system. We can only bring these groups in to the system if there is demand from the jewellery sector- therefore our message to the sector is choose Fairtrade and Fairmined gold.