Certification schemes have limitations that mean jewellery is not always ethically produced © 123RF
Certification schemes have limitations that mean jewellery is not always ethically produced © 123RF

Procurement 'critical' to tackling slavery in jewellery industry

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
11 December 2017

Leading jewellery retailers must go beyond a reliance on accreditation schemes to ensure their supply chains are free of slavery, according to report.

The study, covering eight of the major retailers in the UK, found four had failed to publish a modern slavery statement on their homepage and only three fully met the disclosure requirements of the Modern Slavery Act (MSA).

Report author Colleen Theron, director of consultancy Ardea International, said she had wanted to see stronger penalties in the MSA for non compliance.

“We recognise this is the beginning of the reporting cycle and this is difficult for businesses, but we also want to see change,” she told SM.

“The Act has made people think, ‘We have to do something’, but because it has not got strong penalties and firms haven’t felt the effect of benchmarking and criticism, they have not reported in more depth around risk in the supply chain.”

The eight companies covered by the report are Signet Group, Tiffany & Co, Goldsmiths, Links, F. Hinds, Beaverbrooks, Boodles and Cartier.

Firms were overly reliant on certification schemes such as the Responsible Jewellery Council, which has shortcomings that mean “certification does not always lead to ethically-produced jewellery”, and the Kimberley Process, “which also has its limitations”, said the report. In part this is because the definition of a conflict mineral is limited to rough diamonds, which means the human rights abuses of governments are bypassed.

“We don’t want to condemn them [firms] outright,” said Theron. “Across the board in many conversations I have had, there is a real recognition this is the start of something and what people want to see is transparent disclosure. We do want to see change – transparency and disclosure.”

Theron said procurement was key to positive change. “A lot of things in slavery are driven by procurement,” she said. “Enormous orders in short time scales – that can lead to working very long hours, not being well paid and migrant workers.

“Increasingly the procurement department is quite key in bringing the risk and issues together. I see procurement as critical to really leveraging change because they are the ones who source stuff.”

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