Q&A: Transparency is a corporate necessity in jewellery trade, says RJC
The Responsible Jewellery Council’s newly-appointed business development director, Edward Johnson, talks to David Brough about encouraging consumer confidence and the long-term importance of genuine commitment to ethical and responsible business practices.
Q: The Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) will host a talk at CARAT+ in May as part of the CARAT+ Conference 2018. What themes will you be addressing?
Edward Johnson: RJC has been invited to present an update on our activities. We will provide this for RJC members in Antwerp, and any prospective members who are keen to learn about the benefits of adopting responsible business practices and joining our ‘community of confidence’.
RJC is leading the way in giving the gem and jewellery industry the structure to address sustainability issues and focus on the three pillars of a good CSR strategy: People, Planet and Profit.
Q: What are the risks to the global trade of not adhering to the standards recommended by the RJC?
EJ: RJC’s Code of Practices (COP) and Chain of Custody (CoC) standards are the industry’s recognised standard for supply chain integrity and sustainable business practices. By implementing RJC standards, businesses are better placed to promote trust and accountability in the industry as a whole.
We work closely with our members and the industry to constantly improve our systems and the way we work. We recently introduced the revised version of our CoC standard and are currently undertaking a review to update and improve our COP standard to ensure we address industry and legislation issues to help our members stay ahead.
Businesses who choose not to support this global initiative may find it difficult to compete in a world with an ever-increasing demand for transparency and accountability around their social and environmental performance. Businesses without robust indication and proof of commitment to ethical and responsible business practices may also find it very challenging to encourage consumer confidence in future.
Q: How big a problem are the issues of non-disclosed lab grown diamonds and over grading of diamonds by certifying labs?
EJ: These are both ethical and commercial issues. Ethics and integrity have been the backbone of the industry for generations. For RJC members, following industry accepted practices that require disclosure and use of accepted nomenclature, such as those set out in our Code of Practices, is a crucial way to differentiate themselves, and allows consumers to retain confidence in the jewellery industry.
Q: What are the main new initiatives that the RJC is driving forward?
EJ: As part of our continued commitment to improve our standards to meet and help members overcome risks and challenges, we are currently reviewing the RJC Code of Practices (COP) standard. The review of the COP will involve a number of consultative webinars, workshops and public comment periods throughout 2018. This is the second review of the COP, which was last updated in 2013.
The COP already includes requirements for observing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and carrying out due diligence processes. These requirements are being reviewed to align with the EU Conflict Mineral Regulation. The revised COP’s material scope will also be expanded to include coloured stones and silver.
In December 2017, we introduced the 2017 revised Chain of Custody (CoC) standard which applies to businesses operating in the gold and platinum group metals sector. This follows a review initiated in August 2016, involving three rounds of public consultation, input from over 150 industry and non-industry stakeholders, and contributions through webinars, workshops and meetings.
The changes bring the CoC into alignment with the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas for gold and platinum group metals.
Q: Is the RJC's membership growing?
EJ: Yes. Over the last three years, RJC membership has increased by an average of 26% year-on-year. With consumers, investors and employees increasingly interested in a business’s social and environmental performance, transparency is becoming a corporate necessity in the jewellery industry today.
Q: Why do you feel that CARAT+ is an important event for the international trade?
EJ: In a calendar of increasingly large mega-sized trade shows, it was refreshing last year to attend the first edition of CARAT+, a more boutique specialist show set in the heart of the European diamond industry, Antwerp.
Focusing on the Antwerp diamond sector, CARAT+ 2017 set the bar for luxurious and accessible events highlighting the diamond sector, held at a convenient time in the heart of Europe.
Words by David Brough
Discover more about the Responsible Jewellery Council.
CARAT+ is The World’s Premier Diamond Event, covering the full spectrum of the diamond and diamond jewellery trades. The show specialises in four sectors: loose diamonds, branded diamond jewellery, non-branded diamond jewellery and services for the diamond jewellery industry.
Taking place in Hall 1 and Hall 4 of the Antwerp Expo on 6, 7 and 8 May, entry to the show is restricted exclusively to industry professionals, including diamond and jewellery wholesalers and manufacturers from around the world, and jewellery retailers from across Europe and the wider world.