Select Retailers Pledge to Back Away from 'Dirty Gold'

February 14, 2006

Select Retailers Pledge to Back Away from 'Dirty Gold'

Zale Corp., Sterling and Kay Jewelersą Signet Group, Tiffany & Co. Helzberg Diamonds, Fortunoff, Cartier, Piaget and Van Cleef & Arpels are U.S. retailers lauded by the No Dirty Gold campaign, just in time for Valentine's Day. The campaign's leaders say they are encouraged by the in-principle pledges by these jewelers to ensure that gold is mined and produced in more socially responsible and environmentally conscious ways.

No Dirty Gold placed a full-page ad in the New York Times Feb. 13, lauding the jewelers as leaders. The ad, which sported the headline "There's nothing romantic about a toxic gold mine," appeared one day before Valentine's Day, traditionally the second strongest holiday for jewelry sales in the U.S. following Christmas. "Because jewelry retailers buy the majority of gold produced worldwide, they have the power to help clean up the mining industry," explained Payal Sampat, codirector of the No Dirty Gold campaign and international campaign director for Earthworks. "We applaud the leadership of these companies. It's an important first step."

The ad also lists jewelers the campaign consider "laggards" for not committing to the pledge, including: Rolex, J C. Penney, Wal-Mart, Fred Meyer Jewelers, Whitehall Jewelers, Jostens, QVC and Sears/Kmart. No Dirty Gold claims 80% of the gold produced worldwide is used in the jewelry-making process. It says the manufacture of one gold ring creates some 20 tons of waste. The campaign also highlights a statistic that of the annual $45 billion U.S. sales of jewelry, gold accounts for over a third of the sales.

The jewelers pledge to demand that gold mining companies they do business with engage in a series of vastly improved mining practices, including an adoption of human rights, environmental and social justice principles. This would include respect for basic human rights, and free, prior and informed consent, especially in indigenous communities where gold is often mined. The campaigns leaders also say that aggressive steps must be taken to protect land, rivers, streams and oceans from environmentally corrupt practices by gold miners.

by Robert Weldon, G.G.

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