Corporate Social Responsibility Was the Star of the 2018 CIBJO Conference

Bogota, Colombia. Nov. 16, 2018. A friend of mine likened his participation in last year’s Congress organized by the World Jewellery Federation, or CIBJO, as hobnobbing with “the jewelry illuminati.” That’s because the annual meeting of the 92-year-old organization that calls itself the United Nations of jewelry is chock full of meaty topics and top industry minds. And having attended the 2018 event in Bogota, Colombia, from Oct. 15–17, with more meetings happening two days prior, I can confidently concur that the experience was indeed dramatic.

I attended on behalf of the Cultured Pearl Association of America (CPAA), which I serve as part-time executive director. The CPAA was joining to secure voting rights and hopefully to help guide legislation that affects the way the industry in the U.S. and abroad conducts business.


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Wearing my journalist hat, I also attended myriad other meetings for other sectors in jewelry, such as coral and diamonds. It was a long week of three rounds of meetings for each commission—pearls, coral, gemstones, diamonds, gemology, precious metals, and responsible sourcing. There were also panel discussions and an impressive speaker on blockchain who masterfully broke it down for attendees. I won’t lie, though, it was tough at times to remain alert through hundreds of minutes of the minutia and nuances of each sector and its terminology. I love sinking my teeth into complex topics, but this week was challenging.

The executives in attendance also lent weight to the already serious subject matters at hand. A sampling of esteemed attendees includes Stephane Fischler, president of the World Diamond Council; Edward Johnson, director of business development for the Responsible Jewellery Council; and Tyler Gillard, head of the Responsible Mineral Supply Chain Project for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD).

During the congress, attendees get granular discussing jewelry nomenclature (including the lack of universal standards for color terms like Pigeon’s Blood red), disclosure, and the rules and regulations of organizations like the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, whose policies affect the jewelry world. And while each attendee had specific areas of concern, everyone attends for the same purpose: to ensure the global jewelry industry presents itself truthfully and ethically for the benefit of collectors. The most notable topline concern and topic of conversation, however, was corporate social responsibility or CSR. It affects every player, big and small, and has evolved into much more than a way to sell with a philanthropic hook; it’s now part of the DNA of successful businesses like Chopard, which announced earlier this year that it would use only 100 percent ethical gold in its jewelry.


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CIBJO exists to educate sectors to comply with unified standards and guidelines that will benefit the global jewelry market. CIBJO wants members to mitigate risk in supply chains (such as purchasing gems from areas of the world with bribe cultures) while best serving every facet of its participants. But the industry also needs to acknowledge that not all supply chains are capable of compliance—at least not immediately. Acts committed in “good faith” are meaningful, especially when the worldwide market benefits.

“Adopt new techniques to show that you have managed your risk,” urged Gillard. “Due diligence is about making efforts.”

Erick Jens, an independent financial consultant and the vice president of CIBJO Responsible Sourcing Commission, noted the importance of CSR for standard business practices that ultimately translate to strong reputations and financial wellbeing.

“Too few know what CSR means outside of this room and are still not engaged,” he said, urging audience members to become familiar with the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.

Meanwhile, RJC’s Edward Johnson said he had been getting strong requests from retailers for more information for due diligence guidelines and the adoption of responsible practices, despite their price tags. “There is a cost to be doing business responsibly, and it’s necessary to build it into the process,” he said.

Reinforcing Johnson’s proclamation was a video presentation from Signet’s vice president of corporate affairs, David Bouffard, who serves as the chairman of the Responsible Jewellery Council. “Signet has 260 suppliers who are members, and that represents 95 percent of our suppliers,” he said. “The CIBJO responsible sourcing policy is a clear explanation for retailers to undertake due diligence with their own supply chains.”

Still, there’s another responsibility: sharing good jewelry-specific news. Added Jens, “Diamonds are way more than a love story—they do good, look at Botswana, are we telling the consumer? This is how we make sure the next generation is buying gemstones.”

For sure, this whole process will not happen overnight, but industry leaders now demand real effort and transparency. Adds Gillard, “There’s no more hiding in dark corners.”

Jennifer Heebner LLC

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Live From Baselworld: Why Chopard’s Baselworld Commitment to Using 100% Ethical Gold Matters

Basel, Switzerland, March 23, 2018. At a morning press conference yesterday at the Baselworld fair, luxury house Chopard announced big news: as of July 2018, it would use 100 percent ethically sourced gold from one of two traceable routes—artisanal gold from Fairmined and Fairtrade mines and those participating in the Swiss Better Gold Association and metal from Responsible Jewellery Council-certified refineries.

The news is significant because it could inspire other brands to follow suit and reinforce the message that lives—every life, not just ones in First World countries—and the environment (and not just the places where your kids play) matter. After all, precious resources like gold often come from remote areas of the world where regulations are lax. Myriad independent jewelry designers (think Alexandra Hart, among others) have long championed exactingly responsible steps like this, and other brands like Tiffany & Co. have certainly played a role in early sustainability efforts such as the No Dirty Gold campaign. However, Chopard’s stunningly ambitious announcement yesterday propels it to the head of the jewelry pack of leaders in jewelry sustainability.

What brands do matters because of their reach; Chopard can afford to set a precedent like this and announce it to the world. It can also maintain a stable of high-profile paid ambassadors like actress Julianne Moore, actor and director and husband-and-wife team Colin and Livia Firth, model Arizona Muse, and Chinese personality Roy Wang—who were all present at the press conference—to help drive home the significance of its endeavors.

Chopard officials and celebrity ambassadors were present in Baselworld this week for the brand's big announcement: All of its gold will be sustainable by July 2018.

Chopard officials and celebrity ambassadors were present in Baselworld this week for the brand’s big announcement: All of Chopard’s gold will be sustainable by July 2018. Photo: Chopard

Company principals Caroline and Karl-Friedrich Scheufele talked at the conference about how this ambitious plan came to fruition. When the brand marked its 150th anniversary in 2010, it engaged in a jewelry project with the World Wildlife Fund, whose officials coached Chopard about improving its sustainability practices. “We realized that we were not perfectly in line with sustainability, so the WWF suggested we join the RJC,” recollected Karl-Friedrich to the crowd about the brand’s decision to join in 2012. “Then we realized we could do more about gold, so we embarked on the journey to responsible mining in 2013.”

This is when Chopard introduced Fairmined gold in a Green Carpet collection of tony styles often worn by stars. “It seemed very complicated in the beginning, and we had to convince everyone in our production to get out of our comfort zone,” explained Caroline.

Once the announcement was made, the distinguished guests who were also on stage weighed in. Julianne Moore was the first to speak.

“As an actress on the red carpet, I have access to lots of beautiful clothes and jewelry—there’s nothing I can’t borrow,” she told the packed audience of journalists. “So, to choose something that has been ethically sourced is a huge luxury. Chopard has just now made their product so much more attractive than anyone else’s because I don’t want to wear anything that has possibly harmed someone or where women in the supply chain weren’t treated fairly.”

An afternoon panel discussion about the importance of jewelers committing to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) further touched on the significance of Chopard’s decision. According to panelists, the Swiss brand’s actions put respect for human rights at the heart of how business is done and makes it clear that sustainability is a human rights issue, not just an environmental one.

And as if this pledge to using 100 percent ethical gold weren’t impressive enough, Chopard aims to measure its impact on the ground in an additional commitment to SDGs. An effortless way for others to help make these efforts a success? In stores, ask for Fairmined gold, inquire about ethically sourced gems and metals, and request to see pieces that are helping to write this new narrative of sustainability for jewelry.

Caroline Scheufele of Chopard with actress and brand ambassador Julianne Moore at a press conference at the Baselworld fair in Basel, Switzerland yesterday.

Caroline Scheufele of Chopard with actress and brand ambassador Julianne Moore at a press conference at the Baselworld fair in Basel, Switzerland yesterday. Photo: Chopard


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