London-based NGO Human Rights Watch recently conducted an exercise to assess and evaluate the supply chains of jewelry brands for human rights, consisting of 13 jewelry brands with 10% share of global jewelry market and were selected based on their local and international visibility. In a report titled “The Hidden Cost of Jewelry: Human Rights in Supply Chains and the Responsibility of Jewelry Companies”, the NGO ranked these 13 global jewelry and watch companies on how they source their gold and diamonds. The results revealed that many of these brands performed poorly for human rights protection.
Brands such as Chopard, Harry Winston performed “Weak”, while India based Tanishq surprisingly was ranked as “Very Weak”. While Tanishq cooperated and responded to the NGO and got advised to trace the origins of their gold and diamonds and ensure that they are not tainted with human rights abuses, 2 Indian brands – Kalyan Jewelers and TBZ did not respond and hence were not ranked. Rolex also fell in this category and was not ranked. Some brands like Bvlgari, Cartier, Pandora and Signet Jewellers were ranked “Moderate”.
The concept behind this assessment was to make brands and other stakeholders in the pipeline aware about human rights protection while sourcing. While Kimberley Process (KP) and Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC) certification have been established for diamonds, they come with major gaps and are not sufficient. KP’s definition of conflict diamonds is also narrow and focuses on rough stones linked to rebel forces. Besides, the truth of the matter being conflict diamonds still continue to flood the diamond pipeline. In a market scenario, where millennial buyers are concerned about ethical choices, not knowing the origin of the stones and metals is an impediment for the jewelry industry.
Associate Child Rights Director of Human Rights Watch and also the co-author of the said report – Juliane Kippenberg said to Business Standard, a news daily,
“Many jewelers can do more to find out if their gold or diamonds are tainted by child labour or other human rights abuses. She also said that companies buying gold and diamonds should put in more efforts and disclose transparency on their sourcing to ensure that their suppliers have protected human rights when the gold and diamonds supplied were mined.”
The report mentioned the already known ill-effects of diamond and gold mining including children being subjected to injuries and death while doing hazardous work in small-scale mines, communities facing health issues and environmental harm resulting from waterways getting polluted from toxic chemicals and common people suffering at the hands of armed rebels, among others.
The NGO emphasized on transparency in the supply chain and public reporting of policies and suppliers. To deal with the issue of human rights protection is it imperative that jewelry and diamond companies trace the origin of their stones and metals, ensure that mines were audited and due diligence conducted from human rights perspective, disclose names of suppliers and ensure that suppliers have policies for responsible sourcing and protection of human rights. To ensure that ethical, conflict-free and better diamonds exist, clearly better efforts are required by jewelry and diamond companies.