CIBJO Consumer Confidence Commission Meets; JA Moves Forward on Corporate Responsibility Initiative


September 21, 2004

CIBJO Consumer Confidence Commission Meets; JA Moves Forward on Corporate Responsibility Initiative

The industry-wide Consumer Confidence Commission, established by CIBJO, The World Jewellery Confederation, held its first formal session in London on Friday, Sept. 10. It laid the groundwork for what it hopes will become a code of ethical business practices for the international diamond, colored gemstone, precious metals and jewelry sectors.

The meeting, which was held at Arundel House in the business centre of London, brought together leaders from across the spectrum of the industry, from Europe, North America, Africa, the Middle East and Australia.

"Consumer confidence in the jewelry and gemstone business is not simply a desirable state of affairs, it is an imperative need," says CIBJO President Gaetano Cavalieri. "We deal in people's dreams, desires and feelings of self-image, all of which are symbolized and enhanced by the products we sell. Our clients will not tolerate a situation in which any of those elements are compromised by jewelry and gemstones with tarnished reputations. Our clients' trust is the very foundation of our business."

Paying tribute to the efforts of both individual companies and representative organizations in producing codes of conduct for their clients and members, Cavalieri said that it was still important that a general code be formulate for the entire industry. "Because we are an international community, and because the products that we sell almost always represent a combined effort of many individuals living in a host of different countries, we are at any one time subject to a number of ethical threats – any of which could harm the integrity of our business. We need to formulate a general code of conduct for the greater jewelry and gemstone business, which will inoculate it against current and future ethical challenges."

Meanwhile, Jewelers of America is pressing ahead with its corporate responsibility initiative. Steps recently approved by the organization's board of directors include the development of self-assessment and training tools and policy and procedure reviews for JA member jewelers, the implementation of the JA Supplier Code of Conduct, and collaboration with leading international corporate and institutional bodies.

"A credible and effective commitment to corporate responsibility throughout the supply chain is essential to maintaining consumer confidence in the industry and in its products," says JA President and CEO Matthew A. Runci. "Because retailers – most often the public's sole contact with the jewelry industry – have face-to-face accountability to consumers, and because the U.S. market is dominant, we believe it is appropriate that JA play a lead role in the effort to foster international collaboration through CIBJO, The World Jewellery Confederation." Runci is vice-president of CIBJO's new Consumer Confidence Commission.

To help its own members meet their responsibilities, JA is currently in the process of designing an internal monitoring service as a member benefit. Elements of this service under active consideration include a diagnostic self-assessment tool, mystery shoppers, training for sales professionals and store management, and policy and procedure reviews. JA members who subscribe to this service will earn a special designation, which they can use in their advertising, promotions, and communications with consumers.

These actions are the latest developments in an undertaking to which JA has strongly committed itself. JA' s corporate responsibility initiative began to take shape more than three years ago, when JA retained the services of the specialist sustainability team of PricewaterhouseCoopers to help identify and evaluate risks associated with issues beyond conflict diamonds confronting the jewelry industry.

The consulting firm examined the social, ethical, and environmental risks linked with processes throughout the industry's supply chain and what JA and the industry could do to manage these risks. PricewaterhouseCoopers' work is ongoing. The most recently revised risk assessment prioritized issues involving human rights, gemstone mining and manufacturing practices, and the environmental impact of mineral sourcing practices.

In 2002, with consultation with PricewaterhouseCoopers, JA revised its mission statement to express JA's commitment to social, ethical, and environmental principles. The JA Board of Directors also adopted a comprehensive Statement of Principles for JA and its member jewelers that same year. This framework served to confirm JA's expectations of its members in regards to corporate responsibility.

The JA Supplier Code of Conduct, adopted by the JA Board of Directors earlier this year, was designed to help members uphold and maintain the JA Statement of Principles. The goal is for JA members to encourage their suppliers to adopt the ethical business practices described in the Code of Conduct in order to bring about positive change throughout the jewelry supply chain. Together, the Statement of Principles and the Code of Conduct endeavor to make sure that both retailers and their suppliers work together toward a shared goal of corporate responsibility.

The JA Board of Directors recently approved steps to begin to put the JA Supplier Code of Conduct into practice. In the coming weeks, JA will send its members information on their role on communicating their expectations for responsible corporate practices to their suppliers.

Several working committees of JA member jewelers, first assembled in 2001, remain active today and continue to review the findings of PricewaterhouseCoopers and recommend courses of action for JA. Drawing from the firm's conclusions, the committees' proposals, and the decisions of the JA Board of Directors, JA's next efforts will focus first on conflict diamonds, but with other corporate responsibility issues, as defined in JA's Statement of Principles and Supplier Code of Conduct, to follow. These issues include human rights, labor rights, the environment, compliance with anti-money laundering regulations, business integrity and accountability, and equitable economic development.

These steps are all in addition to the JA Code of Ethics and Rules for Professional Business Conduct, which JA introduced to its membership in 1999. The objective of that document was to establish guiding principles and ethical best practices for the JA membership. Each year, JA members agree to continue adhering to the Code of Ethics as part of their annual membership renewals.

Also, as issues surfaced in recent years, JA kept its members informed and released position statements on conflict diamonds, labor practices, and responsible minerals sourcing. JA has continued to emphasize to its members the importance of staying up to date on these and other issues involving corporate responsibility.

"Jewelers of America has a strong sense that we must do everything possible to make sure all member jewelers fully understand their responsibilities and discharge them effectively," says Runci.

In addition to working closely with its members and other segments of the trade, JA has established an ongoing direct dialogue with the non-governmental organizations and advocacy groups that have articulated concerns over the jewelry industry's practices. Although JA has expressed that its members and the industry take social, ethical, and environmental issues seriously, JA expects that these organizations will continue to monitor the industry and challenge industry practices.

"It is reasonable to believe that the actions of advocates could increase consumer awareness of industry practices," says Runci. "That is why, in addition to the obvious ethical reasons, addressing these issues and upholding corporate responsibility makes good business sense. We in the industry owe it to the consumer public to maintain our professionalism and our principles."

Additional information on JA's corporate responsibility initiative, including the full text of the JA Code of Ethics, JA Statement of Principles, and the JA Supplier Code of Conduct, is available online at www.jewelers.org.



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