Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Tiffany & Co., Target and over 100 of the world’s leading jewelers and retailers have committed to more responsible metals sourcing by agreeing to abide by Earthworks' No Dirty Gold (NDG) campaign’s Golden Rules.
As part of the initiative, the companies will study their metals supply chains, revise their supplier sourcing criteria to include the Golden Rules, increase recycled gold content and seek more responsibly produced metals.
“Dirty gold just isn’t romantic,” said Payal Sampat of the No Dirty Gold campaign. “Retailers don’t want consumers to associate gold jewelry with polluted rivers and child labor, and they are joining us in calling on the mining industry to clean up its act.”
The Golden Rules are based on broadly accepted international human rights laws and basic principles of sustainable development, including respect for workers’ rights and protection of ecologically sensitive areas.
“We believe that socially and environmentally responsible jewelry should be widely available to consumers,” said Brilliant Earth co-founder Beth Gerstein. “We want to reduce the need for dirty mining of precious metals. That’s why we signed the No Dirty Gold campaign’s Golden Rules. And that’s why we use only recycled and ethically produced metals.”
In the United States, Valentine’s Day is one of the largest jewelry purchasing holidays of the year — nearly 20 percent of Valentine’s gift givers will buy jewelry, spending more than $4 billion, NDG says. Which is a lovely gesture, except that gold mining is one of the most polluting industries on earth; according to NDG, producing a single gold ring creates at least 20 tons of mine waste.
Jewelers are in a unique position to influence mining industry behavior because jewelry accounts for the majority of gold demand in the US and a plurality of gold demand around the world.
EPA data show that metal mining is the largest toxic polluter in the US, and has been linked to human rights abuses, perpetual water pollution, destroyed wildlands and long-term health impacts.
Gold is one of the four primary “conflict minerals,” which also includes tin, tungsten and tantalum. The category also includes copper, neodymium, dysprosium, coltan (a dense, black mineral from which tantalum is extracted) and terbium. A significant concentration exists in the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) near the Rwanda border that has seen years of violence, largely financed by demand for these rare minerals.
Last month at the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich challenged the entire electronics industry to join Intel in becoming “conflict-free.” Separately, the Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative, of which Intel is a member, has validated conflict-free smelters or refiners of all four conflict minerals for the first time in the initiative’s five-year history, and last month called for more businesses to join over 120 companies from seven different industries to already become conflict-free.