CIBJO Congress kicks off with debate on CSR challenges and opportunities


The emphasis placed by CIBJO on Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainability in the greater jewellery and gemstone industry was underlined by the fact that the very first session of the 2017 Congress in Bangkok focused firmly on the issue. The session was sponsored by ABN AMRO.

Explaining CIBJO’s approach to CSR, the organisation’s President, Dr. Gaetano Cavalieri, said that it rests on three principles. The first is defensive, with CIBJO strongly supporting measures that enhance the integrity of the gemstone and jewellery chain of supply, ensuring that the legitimate trade does not include products that are tainted by conflict, human rights violations, money laundering, terrorist financing, health and safety infractions, child labour and other work-related violations, and environmental mismanagement.

The second principle is social activism, with CIBJO promoting measures that ensure that the industry acts as a progressive force for sustainable social, economic and environmental opportunity, for all of its participants and stakeholders, and especially for those residing in underdeveloped areas where raw materials are sourced and processing takes place.

Thirdly, Dr. Cavalieri said, the approach much be inclusive, with CIBJO insisting that no programmes designed to support CSR and sustainability in the jewellery and gemstone industry become an artificial barrier of entry into the business, because of undue capital and human resources requirements. “Operating in an acceptably responsible and sustainable must be a reasonable and achievable objective for all committed participants in the jewellery and gemstone industries, irrespective of size or turnover,” he stated.

“Our commitment to being a progressive force for sustainable social and economic opportunity goes to the very heart of why we are in business. There never is a single answer to the question ‘Why do you do what you do?’ But there is more as well. As members of humanity, we owe it our children and the future generations that we leave the world a better place. We are fortunate to work in a business that has, within itself, the ability to impact positively, and not only negatively, on the lives of people and communities in some of the world’s underprivileged areas. To do so effectively is the higher calling of our jewellery community.”
Turning to the coloured gemstone sector, Dr. Cavalieri said it derives up to 80 percent of its raw supply from artisanal and small-scale miners. “Unless we devise practical means of enabling artisanal miners in the coloured gemstone sector to legitimately access our chain of distribution, it will be impossible to meet our commitment to equal opportunity between and within nations,” he said, referring to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Dr. Cavalieri proposed working towards creating a Kimberly Process Certification Scheme-type structure for rough coloured gemstones, which will enable the industry to demonstrate the integrity of its chain of distribution through a combination of government monitoring, and self-administered due diligence. “I am not naïve. I realise the conditions in the diamond industry are vastly different to those in coloured gemstone. In diamonds, just a handful of large companies control well over 90 percent of world supply, in coloured gemstones some 80 percent of supply comes via literally thousands of small and artisanal miners.

“But if we as an industry take the lead, and work on an individual basis with governments that are eager to legitimize their artisanal coloured gemstone sectors, then we can grow organically the group of nations working within a KP-type structure. At the same time, we can provide a legal and non-discriminatory path to the market for artisanal coloured gemstone, who otherwise may find themselves locked out.”

Addressing the session, Erik Jens, CEO of ABN AMRO, said the industry faced several challenges, and one was that it is polarised through having many groups and organisations. “Do we really share all our best practices in diamonds or coloured gemstones. I call for a combining of groups to work together and develop a system that is good for the coloured stone business, as we also have to persuade consumers that we are doing good. Look at Botswana, for example. It has succeeded because of the good that diamonds do. Diamonds also have a good impact in India with its widespread diamond manufacturing and trading infrastructure. We don’t tell these stories to consumers about the good we do. It’s all about story-telling. Coloured stones have a great story to tell but we are not telling the consumer this and it’s time that we did.”

Mr Jens also said that innovation could play a role. Technology can help raise the integrity of the pipeline, he explained, with digital systems Blockchain helping to provide financing opportunities. “That’s because you know where the goods are and they cannot disappear,” he said.

Sakhila Mirza, Executive Board Director and General Counsel of the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA), described of her organisation’s work in ensuring CSR goals are met. “We are the world authority for precious metals. One of our prime objectives is to build integrity, quality assurance and transparency. You should not compromise integrity and the way you do business, and we must also be concerned with the planet, and issues such as human rights abuse, anti-money laundering and terrorism financing,” she stated.

She explained that companies that work with the LBMA implement a CSR programme, based on the OECD’s due diligence guidance. “You should know who you are doing business with, identify risks and a strategy to deal with them, have a third-party audit to ensure that you have a good programme in place. You need to show that what you are saying is what you are delivering. And it’s also important to talk about the good steps that you are doing. The world needs to hear about the positives, not just the negatives.”

The LBMA has developed a Global Precious Metals Code relating to market conduct and best practices. “We would encourage companies from every business to act according to it. We produced it, but anyone can use it since these are general practices,” she said.

Anne-Marie Fleury, Standards and Impacts Director at the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), spoke about the importance of the industry being involved in the formulation of new regulations and legislation. “When it is made without industry participation, then it can be detrimental all around, so we must play a role in defining proposed changes and having an impact on legislation,” she said.

Corrado Facco, Managing Director of the Italian Exhibition Group, which partners with CIBJO in the promotion of Corporate Social Responsibility, proposed a sustainability charter to be signed by the jewellery industry participants interested in meeting the challenges of the changing market.

“We also need a communications and training system that is open and affordable to all, with companies involved in everything from manufacturing to retail. We also need to empower the World Jewellery Confederation Education Foundation (WJCEF), through a huge programme of e-learning courses,” he stated.

“This should be an easy to learn and affordable system, creating a set of tools that can be easily applied and implemented by all players enabling them to carry out due diligence, ideally with the cooperation of existing standards and evaluation authorities, such as the RJC,” Mr. Facco said, noting that the primary target would be medium and smaller-size firms, who under current circumstances may be reluctant to conduct financial burdensome supply chain due diligence.

The trade exhibition industry, to which he belongs, also has an important role to play, Mr. Facco said, creating an alliance to raise awareness, improve capacities and build for sustainability, through its access to the many thousands of companies who exhibit and visit the trade fairs.

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