Countries belonging to the Kimberley Process, the international system designed to stop the trade in conflict diamonds, have been deliberating for more than a month over whether to allow Zimbabwe to export diamonds from valuable diamond fields in the Marange region of eastern Zimbabwe. The issue, in the broadest terms, was whether the international community would take a firm stand against human rights abuses, corruption, and diamond smuggling by the Zimbabwean government, or whether those things wouldn’t count for much in the end. Last Thursday, the world received a disappointing answer.
Supermodel Naomi Campbell has been subpoenaed to testify at the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who is accused of using blood diamonds to help finance a brutal, decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone that ended in 2002. Campbell, who has said publicly that she “does not want to be involved in the case,” has been reluctant to testify so far.
To advance Brilliant Earth’s social mission, we work closely with non-profit organizations in diamond-rich developing countries. Although we have always greatly admired the people who staff and lead these organizations, we recently were reminded that their work can be dangerous—and that at any time, they can be called upon to exhibit extraordinary courage.
So far, in dealing with Zimbabwe’s shocking human rights violations, the approach of the Kimberley Process (KP) has been threefold: minimize Zimbabwe’s actions, slap the Zimbabwean government ever so lightly on the wrists, and then hope for the best. Now it appears that this wishful approach has backfired—and that the jewelry industry, running for cover, is becoming increasingly anxious about its association with the KP.
The results are in and Brilliant Earth has aced the test. A new report by the No Dirty Gold Campaign, a campaign against dirty gold mining by Earthworks International, gives us an “A” for our measures to source gold in an ethical, eco-friendly way. Brilliant Earth’s jewelry is crafted using recycled precious metals. In addition, we are now beginning to offer jewelry made of certified fair trade gold from the Chocó region of Colombia.
Jewelry producers have escaped an international measure that would have limited their ability to make jewelry out of red and pink corals. Environmentalists had been seeking to protect the corals, a building block of the ocean ecosystem, under a treaty known as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). Unfortunately, at a recent meeting in Doha, Qatar of the 175 countries belonging to CITES, a measure to protect the corals did not receive the necessary votes – meaning that jewelers and their customers now have a special responsibility to take a stand against …
A hugely important milestone has been reached in the effort to create a supply of fair trade certified gold. Thanks to a promising new initiative announced recently, thousands of artisanal gold miners in developing countries will soon be able to sell their gold under a new, fair trade labeling system, a partnership between the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) and Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International (FLO). Additionally, more consumers will soon be able to choose fair trade gold, just like they can now choose to buy fair trade coffee, tea, olive oil, or avocados.
As a South African monitor arrives in Zimbabwe to assess the human rights situation, a decisive moment looms for the Kimberley Process (KP), the international diamond certification scheme whose supposed purpose is to combat the problem of conflict diamonds. The options for the KP are becoming starker: either bow down to Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s corrupt President, or finally insist that Zimbabwe’s diamonds be mined in a transparent, ethical way.
Gold mining companies have a terrible track record when it comes to the environment. But among the major industry players, Newmont Mining Co. has refused to be typecast. In 2007, the Denver-based company became the first gold mining company to be listed on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, a financial index of companies with an unusual commitment to environmental protection. In 2008, Wal-Mart chose Newmont to be its supplier of eco-friendly gold. Newmont’s own web site proclaims: “Our commitment to sustainability is fundamental to who we are and how we do business.”
If the plot of the box office hit Avatar seems familiar, that’s because it is. Film critics have drawn a host of comparisons between Avatar and other movies. Like Dances with Wolves, Avatar is the story of an American soldier who, after learning the ways of a native culture, decides to defend that culture rather than help destroy it. Like Pocohantas, it is a love story about a couple caught between two warring peoples. And like The Matrix, Avatar imagines the use of mind control to steer a second body that is capable of daring and fantastic physical feats.