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Report

Human Rights Watch report finds jewelry companies’ sourcing improves, but falls short of international standards as COVID-19 increases risks

The 84-page report, “Sparkling Jewels, Opaque Supply Chains: Jewelry Companies, Changing Sourcing Practices, and Covid-19,” scrutinizes and gives rankings to 15 jewelry and watch brands in their efforts to prevent and address human rights abuses and environmental harm in their gold and diamond supply chains. Human Rights Watch reviewed the companies’ actions since Human Rights Watch first reported on these issues in 2018. While a majority of the jewelry companies examined have taken some steps to improve their practices, most still fall short of meeting international standards...

Human Rights Watch also assessed the impact of Covid-19 on mining and jewelry sectors. Mining workers, their families, and communities have been stripped of income where mining has stalled due to lockdowns. Where industrial mining has continued, mine workers work close together in closed spaces and sometimes live together in hostels, putting them at greater risk. In some small-scale mining areas, child labor has risen, and illegal mining and trading have increased...

The 15 companies assessed collectively generate more than US$40 billion in annual revenue, about 15 percent of global jewelry sales. Nine companies responded in writing to letters requesting information regarding their sourcing policies and practices: Boodles, Bulgari, Cartier, Chopard, Chow Tai Fook, Pandora, Signet, Tanishq, and Tiffany & Co. Six companies did not reply to several requests: Christ, Harry Winston, Kalyan, Mikimoto, Rolex, and TBZ. Human Rights Watch based its assessment on the information received or publicly available...

Most companies also do not report in detail on their due diligence efforts...

Human Rights Watch also assessed several broader industry or multi-stakeholder initiatives, including by the Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC) and the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance. In addition, several initiatives are underway to use technology – such as blockchain and laser technology – to ensure full traceability of diamonds and other minerals.

However, most existing certification initiatives still lack rigor and transparency. Many still do not require full traceability, transparency, or robust on-the-ground human rights assessments from their members. Third-party audits of jewelry supply chains are often conducted remotely, and results are not publicly available.

“Despite the progress, most jewelry companies can do much more to address human rights in their supply chains and share that information with the public,” Kippenberg said. “Voluntary standards can encourage jewelry companies to adopt better practices, but ultimately only mandatory legal requirements will ensure that all jewelry companies take human rights seriously.”