Have you already done your Christmas shopping? Were you perhaps thinking of giving a ring or necklace as a gift? Jewelry remains a popular Christmas present and sales during the holiday season make up a significant part of jewelry industry revenue.
Few people think of human rights when buying a piece of jewelry at Christmas. If they do, then they remember that there are now certificates and controls, so mining profits do not go to warlords. And yet— human rights violations are commonplace in some gold and diamond mines.
Children have been injured toiling in small gold and diamond mines. Water sources in mine areas may be polluted with toxic chemicals from mines. And civilians suffer massively when armed groups enrich themselves by mining diamonds or gold.
Many jewelers say they have high ethical standards in their supply chains. But what exactly are these standards, and how are they put into practice? To find out, last year we carried out a Human Rights Watch investigation into the human rights due diligence of 13 leading jewelry companies and watchmakers.
Also, Christ, one of the largest German jewelers, was there and disappointed by its lack of transparency and its insufficient examination of human rights risks. The website simply did not have any information on the corporate responsibility in this area.
It is encouraging that Christ has recently taken an important step toward greater transparency, making public its requirements for suppliers. These are now part of a new website titled "Our Responsibility" and include, for example, the prohibition of child and forced labor as well as numerous employment and environmental standards.
Transparency is needed. By providing public statements and reports, companies show that they are accountable and accept responsibility. This is what international standards and the German government’s action plan on business and human rights demand.
Only when companies publicly report on their efforts can their words be measured by their actions— by consumers, supply chain workers, or an interested public. Therefore, some of the companies we scrutinized, such as Pandora and Tiffany, already produce a detailed annual report on their efforts to protect human rights in supply chains.
Christ has also taken the first important step towards transparency. This allows consumers to judge and ask questions themselves. An annual sustainability report would be a good next step— also, to explain why Christ has now introduced a second, additional "Code of Conduct," and where Christ’s gold and diamonds come from.
Jewelry production uses about half of the world’s gold and more than half of the world's diamonds. The mining of these minerals is only legitimate if it does not lead to human rights violations and environmental degradation. Anyone who buys jewelry this Christmas, at any jewelry shop, should remind jewelers of their responsibility and encourage them to become more transparent.