For subscribers to the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) newsletter, barely a week goes by without the announcement that another new company has joined the ranks of the organisation, or that existing members have obtained RJC certification. Established in 2005 by a mere thirteen companies and associations, the Responsible Jewellery Council’s mission is to regulate gold and diamond supplies by promoting ethical practices that respect human rights and the environment across the entire chain, from mine to retail. It took five years for the RJC to draft its own code of practices which was then green-lighted by the United Nations. Published in 2009, it was the basis for the accreditation of neutral and independent auditors which would then analyse and approve processes within each candidate organisation. Once an organisation has been accepted as a member, it has two years to align its practices and obtain certification.
The leading names commit
From small beginnings, the Responsible Jewellery Council has grown. As Catherine Sproule, Chief Operations Officer of the RJC, explained at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), it now boasts some 430 members, 240 of which have obtained certification. Together they generate annual sales in the region of €35 billion. “The number of organisations to have joined the RJC can seem relatively small compared with the industry as a whole,” comments Charles Chaussepied, Corporate Affairs Director at Piaget who co-chairs the RJC Standards Committee. “However, what matters most is that all the major diamond companies, such as De Beers, and virtually all the leading names in luxury, except Swatch and Rolex, have joined us. This is an excellent result. Hence we are now focusing our efforts on the suppliers of these major companies which are gradually joining the RJC too.” Note that the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, which organises the SIHH, counts among the supporters of the RJC.
"We can't change the world single-handedly"
Companies derive multiple benefits from RJC certification, beginning with an enhanced reputation on their markets, notes Catherine Sproule. “This is first and foremost about a meeting of minds. We can’t change the world single-handedly,” emphasises Alan Grieve, Director of Corporate Affairs at Richemont. Ten years ago we rose to an important challenge, and Richemont and its Maisons clearly took this challenge most seriously indeed. The industry couldn’t stand by and do nothing to stem dubious practices within the gold and diamond supply chain, which soon came to public attention. The first step was to acknowledge the extent of implications so as to gradually extend the scope of companies that were willing to commit. One could contend that watchmaking is based almost entirely in Switzerland and concerns Swiss companies, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Time measurement has become a global activity and requires a global response which the RJC can pride itself on bringing. It is now up to us to convince even small companies in the sector that certification isn’t just about time and money, but also a question of conscience and certainly one of the best marketing tools.” The hunt for dirty gold and conflict diamonds has taken on a new dimension.