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For Valentine’s Day, Traceable, Transparent Jewelry Supply Chains

Jewelry, Watch Companies Should Strengthen Supply Chain Safeguards

Golden roses are for sale at a jewelry store in Shaoxing city, east China's Zhejiang province, February 14, 2019.  © 2019 Imaginechina via AP Images

(New York) – Jewelry and watch companies should improve efforts to ensure that human rights are respected in their global supply chains, Human Rights Watch said today ahead of Valentine’s Day on February 14, 2021.

Human Rights Watch issued “20 Questions Company Officials Should Ask to Guide Action,” which jewelers and other industry experts can use as a starting point to understand a jewelry company’s sourcing practices and respect for human rights. The questions deal with a company’s transparency, traceability, and steps to identify and respond to human rights risks in their global supply chain, including at mines of origin. A recent Human Rights Watch report and ranking of jewelry companies’ sourcing practices found that even though major brands have made some progress, most jewelry companies are still falling short on key processes that are integral to a robust human rights risk assessment and response.

“Jewelry companies around the world should ensure that the jewelry they sell is sourced from mines where human rights are respected,” said Juliane Kippenberg, associate children’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. “This Valentine’s Day, consumers buying jewelry for loved ones should send companies a strong message – what symbolizes love and joy should not be made in abusive conditions.”

Labor rights violations, violence, and other abuses have remained a serious problem in gold and diamond mining. Human Rights Watch has documented horrific violence against miners and residents in Venezuela and Zimbabwe, and found hazardous child labor in small-scale mining in Ghana, the Philippines, Mali, and Tanzania. The Covid-19 pandemic, as well as restrictions on movement and blocked trade routes, has created additional human rights risks.

Child labor in mining has increased due to families’ poverty and school closures, for example in Zimbabwe, Guinea, and the Central African Republic. Some mines have become hotspots for the spread of Covid-19. And as governments have been less able to inspect mines and enforce regulations, unlawful mining has expanded in some areas.

Jewelry and watch companies have a responsibility to conduct human rights and environmental due diligence to ensure that they do not cause or contribute to rights abuses in their supply chains, in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. “Due diligence” refers to a company’s process to identify, prevent, address, and remediate human rights and environmental impacts in their supply chains.

Jewelry and watch companies’ sourcing practices at times fall short, Human Rights Watch said. Most of the 15 companies that Human Rights Watch assessed and ranked in its November 2020 report could not identify the mines of origin for their gold or diamonds, nor did they assess and address human rights risks at these mines. Most companies also did not report in detail on their due diligence efforts. Certification standards used in the jewelry industry are often insufficiently rigorous and lack transparency.

But Human Rights Watch also found some encouraging news: 11 of the 15 companies assessed had taken some steps to improve their human rights due diligence since 2018. And since the publication of the report, Human Rights Watch has received additional information from several jewelry companies profiled in the report on specific responsible sourcing measures.

For example, the Indian jeweler
Tanishq has started to address working conditions among its direct suppliers – manufacturers – and committed to bring them up to a higher standard by 2022. The US jeweler Signet has pledged to make its diamond suppliers public on a regular basis. And the Japanese jeweler Mikimoto also responded to Human Rights Watch for the first time and shared details about its practices, though it has not disclosed any information publicly.

The Human Rights Watch “20 Questions” are not comprehensive, but are designed as a simple first step that can help jewelry and watch companies of any size – and others, including investors – understand a company’s sourcing practices and identify concrete ways to improve. Human Rights Watch used these questions as a basis for examining the human rights policies and practices of some of the world’s largest and best-known jewelry and watch companies in its 2018 and 2020 reports.

“This Valentine’s Day, we are calling upon all jewelry companies to make sure their supply chains are free of human rights abuse,” Kippenberg said.

“Is our jewelry company sourcing responsibly?”

20 Questions Company Officials Should Ask to Guide Action

Companies have a responsibility to ensure that they are not committing or contributing to abuses in their supply chains, by identifying, preventing, addressing, and remediating human rights and environmental impacts. This process is called human rights and environmental “due diligence” and has been spelled out in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and in a sector-specific norm for the mineral supply chain.

Jewelry and watch companies should conduct such human rights and environmental due diligence throughout their whole supply chain. The questionnaire below can serve as a simple first step for jewelry companies themselves and others, including investors, to understand a company’s sourcing practice.


1. Does the company have a supply chain policy that sets out human rights requirements for the company and its suppliers?

2. Is the company’s supply chain policy based on and does it reflect international human rights standards, including UN human rights conventions and declarations, and International Labour Organization conventions?

3. Is the company’s supply chain policy publicly available?


4. Does the company have full traceability along the whole supply chain for all or part of the gold, diamonds, and other minerals used in its jewelry, from mine to retail?

5. How large is the proportion of traceable material by volume of business?


6. Does the company assess all human rights risks throughout the full supply chain, and how does it do so? For example, does it conduct regular risk assessments, including mine visits, by human rights experts?

7. Does it require suppliers to provide written evidence of human rights assessments conducted, risks identified, and mitigation measures taken?


8. Does the company respond to all human rights risks throughout the full supply chain, and how does it do so? For example, does it have a risk management plan, a strategy and timeframe for mitigating risks through specific steps, goals for mitigation, and criteria for continuing, and responsibly suspending or ending engagement with suppliers that don’t meet its standards?


9. Has the company undergone a third-party audit by qualified human rights and environmental experts to assess its human rights and environmental due diligence?

10. Did the audit include site visits and interviews with affected stakeholders throughout the supply chain?

11. Does the company require its suppliers to undergo third-party audits to assess their human rights and environmental due diligence? What is the scope of these audits and does the company acknowledge any limitations of such third-party audits?

12. Does the company supplement its third-party audit with worker- or community-driven monitoring methods? What are these?

13. Does the company have an accessible, reliable, and effective grievance mechanism that is designed through a participatory process, involving relevant stakeholders, and does it require its suppliers to have one?


14. Does the company publish sufficient and easily accessible information on its human rights and environmental due diligence efforts on its website?

15. Does the company’s annual report regularly include information on its human rights and environmental due diligence efforts?

16. Does the company publish information on risks identified, non-co-audit summaries, non-compliances found, and measures taken to address risks or remediated impacts?


17. Does the company publish the names, addresses, and other relevant information of its direct suppliers and update it regularly?

18. Does the company publish information regarding its mines of origin and update it regularly?


19. If the company sources material from artisanal and small-scale mines, what oversight mechanisms does the company have to determine these are upholding their rights responsibilities?

20. Does the company support initiatives to improve human rights and environmental conditions in artisanal and small-scale mines?

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