By Cecilia L. Gardner, Esq.
Editor’s Note: In March 2016, the first Jewelry Industry Summit took place in New York City. Described as an “open forum on sustainability and responsible sourcing in the jewelry industry,” the event was spearheaded by Cecilia Gardner, the then president/CEO of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, and it brought together leaders from all sectors of the industry—manufacturing, supply, and retail alike. Their goal: to create initiatives that would help to promote responsible and sustainable practices across the industry, ultimately bolstering consumer confidence. Here, Gardner recounts the origins of the Summit and lays out where it’s been—and, even more important, where it’s going.
In 2015, several industry leaders were invited to Washington, D.C., by the U.S. Department of State to discuss sustainable, responsible practices in sourcing precious metals and gemstones. Following that meeting, these leaders continued the conversation among themselves. This “coalition of the willing” determined that the best way to promote responsible sourcing was to create an industry-wide event on sustainable practices. This event would have no barriers to entry—it would be a public forum where positive initiatives could be developed to maintain and improve the communities where our products are produced, traded, and sold.
A planning committee was formed, representing every sector of the supply chain. Those committee members quickly researched and published a compendium of reports and standards related to the supply chain in both our industry and others. They also set a goal for the event:
“To create awareness of the challenges [we must] overcome, to enable the community to develop strategies, initiatives, and tools to address these challenges, and to create a future for the jewelry industry that is sustainable.”
The Jewelry Industry Summit was born.
The hope was that through the annual summit, along with the year-round work of dedicated volunteers, we would facilitate meaningful, achievable, solution-driven activities that advanced sustainability and responsible sourcing in the jewelry industry. The first summit took place in March 2016 in New York City, with a group of 150 industry members. They developed a collective mission and vision (in summary):
to procure our products in a manner that protects, sustains, respects, and benefits the environment and the communities where our products are found;
to take affirmative steps toward ensuring legal
compliance and legitimate business practices; and
to commit to already existing international standards including the U.N. Guiding Principles on human rights and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for multinational enterprises.
A few initiatives were also identified: to launch a communication platform to track our group’s progress and enhance community; to develop educational tools aimed at consumers and sales associates; and to conduct relevant consumer research. The summit members also identified two practical projects requiring immediate action: a fight to end the danger of silicosis for gem cutters in India, and a pilot program at a Brazilian gem mine that would establish a replicable system for responsible mining. Last, the members approved projects to improve traceability, standards harmonization, and supply chain due diligence. A “steward team” of volunteers was established to coordinate efforts and to maintain the momentum created at the summit—as well as begin planning the next summit.
That second summit, hosted by the American Gem Trade Association, took place January 2017 in Tucson. Members from every sector of the industry and from 14 countries attended, with progress reported on several of the 2016 initiatives. These included the publication of the consumer research survey, which showed that nearly two-thirds of respondents care more about both environmental and social responsibility now than they did five years ago, and that more than 75 percent would pay extra for responsibly sourced jewelry. The summit participants also shared the completed sustainability framework for the Brazilian mine (along with a plan to raise funds to ensure this framework can be implemented). And they saw a demonstration of jewelryindustrysummit.com and the new #responsiblejewelrystories hashtag, with everyone to submit their stories. (The other initiatives continue as works in progress.)
The summit also saw the introduction of several new projects:
• The design and development of an “ethical toolkit,” a website or app that would help jewelers understand sustainability issues and standards, as well as list available suppliers that are verified to meet those standards.
• The development of a “Jewelry Development Index,” which was described as an international ranking system of positive and negative impacts of economic, ethical, and environmental factors regarding the gem and jewelry trade by country.
• The development of a guide to understanding sustainability, including a common set of definitions for sustainable business practices and responsible sourcing in the jewelry industry.
To help ensure these initiatives can become a reality, the steward team is currently reviewing the “infrastructure” of the group—the volunteer and leadership network—to see how it can be strengthened. If we can marshal the passion exhibited by so many volunteers through a more formalized system of oversight and management, there’s no telling what we can do.
And there is more to do: Sustainability is a work in progress, just like life! We may never achieve perfection, but it’s not all or nothing: It’s about embracing the imperfections in the quest for improvement, and taking actions that incrementally sustain and improve the supply chain and the lives of all that participate in it. After all, this is our business, and everyone in it is our partner. There is more than one way to do good, and those of us involved in the Jewelry Industry Summit and its initiatives plan to make it possible for all to participate in that quest.
To learn more about the Jewelry Industry Summit and its initiatives, go to jewelryindustrysummit.com. To volunteer, contact Barbara Wheat, email@example.com.