The RJC, Responsible Jewelery Council, active for more than 15 years now, has created real momentum in the ethical transformation of the jewelry sector. The subject is now known to everyone, the conditions of extraction of precious metals, diamonds and fine stones, are unacceptable from a societal point of view. Forced labor, modern slavery by unscrupulous governments, destruction of the environment... the sector's shortcomings are numerous. Since the founding of the RJC in 2005 and the release of the film Blood Diamond a year later, things have evolved considerably. What path remains to be taken to “clean up” the profession? Is the RJC the right lever and can it initiate the fundamental movement necessary for this transformation?
A non-profit organization, the RJC aims to promote responsible practices by implementing corporate policies that respect ethical, social and environmental issues. Extremely well structured, the actor delivers certification that covers the entire chain, from extraction to manufacturing, and ensures that the certified actors and their partners act with respect for human and environmental rights. Today, the RJC has more than 300 certified companies in the sector and more than 700 suppliers involved. A real step forward from a CSR point of view if we consider that before the 2000s there was simply nothing.
The creation of this certification came early in the responsible consumption revolution. Driven by this dynamic, more and more major houses have played the ethics card. The central point of their transformation today lies in the origin of gold. Concerning the origin of diamonds the situation is more “opaque”. For fine stones, everything remains to be done. The reasons for this “persistent opacity” are multiple. A sprawling number of intermediaries, difficulty in obtaining volume from labeled producers and suppliers, economic interests, the causes are legion.
New generations demand transparency. Those who today represent a small share of consumers, millennials and the public involved in CSR issues, will be the majority in the short and medium term. Brands therefore no longer have a choice and are forced to engage in this virtuous transformation. Their real challenge lies in the conditions of this transformation. The larger a company is, the more it suffers from its inertia. This is the logic of the liner. To make a turn, you need to plan in advance. Parallel to this point arises the subject of corporate culture. We cannot improvise in the CSR transformation. It is a know-how, a skill which currently remains little present among decision-makers and executives in the world of jewelry.
It is important to note that several non-governmental organizations have taken an interest in companies labeled by the RJC. Their objective, to identify if these certifications could be a facade image. This is particularly what the Human Right Watch association raised in November 2020 with its report Sparkling Jewels, Opaque Supply Chains [i] . This study raises two questions: what is the real probity of key players in the sector? And from another perspective, are these companies well equipped to engage in a CSR transformation of their activity?
The object is not to distribute good and bad points. What matters today is based on three determining elements for the ethical transformation of the sector. Firstly, it is important to ensure that the conditions for extracting raw materials are clearly known to the general public. It is no longer possible to “look the other way”. Jewelry players must therefore follow through with their CSR initiatives by naming unacceptable practices in order to force the ethical transformation of the profession.
Secondly, it is necessary for concrete actions to be carried out by brands for the benefit of the most vulnerable populations involved in the production and transformation of resources. Concrete actions mean the implementation of tangible and identifiable actions and aid programs.
Finally, it is up to the players in the new generation of 100% ethical brands to unite around common action. This is so that they are coordinated and therefore stronger to promote the acceleration of this CSR transformation. These minorities are active and have a training capacity which is to this day their most precious asset.