By David Brough
The Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) has celebrated its 15th anniversary, noting rising membership as companies increasingly adopt a sustainable agenda, and pledging strong action in the next decade towards improving the livelihoods of millions of workers and their families.
The London-based RJC has grown steadily since its establishment in 2005 and now comprises more than 1,300 members from 71 countries, ranging from multinationals such as De Beers Group and Alrosa, to brands like Cartier, Tiffany, Pomellato and Bulgari, and to small-scale jewellery and gemstone suppliers.
In a webinar organised by RJC on December 15, 2020, industry and policy leaders from around the world, including United Nations GLOBAL COMPACT (UNGC) CEO and Executive Director Sanda Ojiambo, Tyler Gillard of the OECD, Pamela Fierst-Walsh of the U.S. State Department, Juliane Kippenberg of Human Rights Watch, Bruce Cleaver, CEO of De Beers Group, Gaetano Cavalieri of CIBJO-World Jewellery Confederation, and Edward Asscher of the World Diamond Council (WDC), spoke about how companies were driving forward sustainable practices and responsible supply chain management, and engaging in partnerships and collaborations, to advance towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The discussions were led by Iris Van der Veken, Executive Director of the RJC, and RJC Chairman David Bouffard.
“15 years have passed since that historic moment in London when 14 organisations came around the table to establish a standards organisation for the whole jewellery and watch industry,” Bouffard said.
“Now with over 1,300 members, we are forging confidently ahead on our journey of continuous improvement toward building an even stronger responsible supply chain that promotes greater trust in the global jewellery and watch industry.”
The SDGs are a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all by 2030.
“We are committed to action to supporting the achievement of the SDGs,” Cleaver said in a recorded address to the virtual meeting. De Beers Group was a founder-member of RJC.
Iris Van der Veken, RJC Executive Director, spoke of the “power of positive partnerships” in the coming decade of action of the RJC to “build back better” and raise standards across the gemstones, jewellery and watches industries.
Edward Asscher, President of the World Diamond Council (WDC), said the jewellery consumer is pursuing the sustainability agenda.
“The consumer wants to know that all the diamonds and jewellery that they buy, are responsibly sourced,” he said.
While great strides had been made over the past 15 years, much more needed to be done to embrace responsible business practices, with a focus on due diligence and human rights, throughout the supply chain, industry leaders said. The RJC Code of Practice is fit for purpose to allow members to do that, Van der Veken said.
More education was needed to help retailers understand the importance of responsible supply chains, said Michael Lerche, head of the Plumb Club of jewellery suppliers in the United States.
“It is all of our responsibility to increase awareness about the importance of responsibility,” he said.
Accelerated strategic partnerships in the industry would be critical to help the RJC achieve its goals over the next decade of action, Van der Veken said.
“The element of collaboration is critical to advance the sustainability agenda,” she said.
The RJC staged a second webinar focused on Decent Labour (SDG 8), and the impact of Covid-19 on the labour market, featuring speakers from the ILO and UNGC, noting that the gemstone and jewellery sector was particularly hard hit because so many of the companies were small and medium sized family-owned businesses.
Delegates spoke of risks that in the global labour market the loss of working hours due to the crisis, could increase the potential incidence of child labour and forced labour.
The RJC plans further webinars next year, focused on the SDGs as part of its mission for strong action towards achieving better livelihoods in the sector, including those involved in artisanal and small-scale mining, which drives most coloured gemstones production.