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HRW says supply chains of top jewelers lack full traceability for diamonds, gold

13 february 2018
Human Rights Watch (HRW), which studied the supply chains of 13 leading jewellery brands that collectively represent about 10 percent of global jewelry sales, said the majority of the companies do not have full traceability for their diamonds and gold.
It also said in its voluminous report, “The Hidden Cost of Jewelry: Human Rights in Supply Chains and the Responsibility of Jewelry Companies,” that the companies do not sufficiently assess human rights risks as well.
Of the companies researched, Boodles, Bulgari, Cartier, Chopard, Christ, Harry Winston, Pandora, Signet Jewelers, Tanishq, and Tiffany & Co. responded to its request for information while Kalyan, Rolex, and TBZ ignored its inquiries.
However, the three were studied through information publicly available.
“All jewelry companies need to put in place strong human rights safeguards — otherwise, they risk contributing to human rights abuses,” reads part of the recommendations made in the report.
It also said that there was need to establish chain of custody over gold and diamonds by documenting business transactions along the full supply chain back to the mine of origin, including by requiring suppliers to share detailed evidence of the supply chain.
HRW said none of the 13 could be ranked as “excellent,” although Tiffany & Co. received a “strong” rating for its ground-breaking efforts toward responsible sourcing.
Bulgari, Cartier, Pandora, and Signet were ranked as “moderate” for “taking some important steps toward responsible sourcing”.
Boodles, Chopard, Christ, and Harry Winston were ranked as “weak” for “taking few steps toward responsible sourcing” while Tanishq was ranked as “very weak,” due to “a lack of any evidence of steps towards responsible sourcing”.
The three companies that didn’t respond were not ranked.
“Our research also found that many companies are over-reliant on the Responsible Jewellery Council for their human rights due diligence,” it said.
“The RJC has positioned itself as a leader for responsible business in the jewelry industry, but has flawed governance, standards, and certification systems.
“Despite its shortcomings, many jewelry companies use RJC certification to present their gold and diamonds as ‘responsible.’ This is not enough.”
Meanwhile, the report revealed the abusive conditions under which precious minerals and metals are sometimes mined.
These included work sites where children had been allegedly injured and killed doing dangerous work.
“Many jewelers can do more to find out if their gold or diamonds are tainted by child labour or other human rights abuses,” said HRW associate child rights director, Juliane Kippenberg.
“When someone buys a piece of jewellery for their loved one this Valentine’s Day, they should ask their jeweler what they have done to find out about its origin.”

Mathew Nyaungwa, Editor in Chief of the African Bureau, Rough&Polished

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