The Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC) is the foremost standard-setting and certification organization for the jewelry industry. But what do those standards actually mean? In this article, you’ll find a brief summary of some of the key points of the RJC’s guidelines on responsible jewelry practices. The full list of standards can be found here.
RJC Certification: Business Ethics
The RJC certification is focused on encouraging responsible business practices at every step of the jewelry supply chain. Businesses who join the RJC commit to being subject to third-party audits to ensure compliance with RJC standards.
Bribery and Facilitation Payments
The line between bribes and facilitation payments can be hard to draw in practice, but the RJC Code of Practices requires that members do not accept bribes, facilitate the reporting of attempted bribery, and make clear that employees will not suffer for voicing concerns about potential bribery.
To avoid involvement in money laundering, RJC members must maintain audited financial accounts according to local law, or comply with Financial Action Task Force (FATF) standards where local law doesn’t apply.
The Kimberley Process is a global initiative between governments, international diamond industry leaders, and civilian members that attempts to reduce the sale of conflict diamonds — rough diamonds mined and sold by rebel movements to finance wars.
The RJC requires that members not buy or sell conflict diamonds or assist others in doing so. Members must apply the KP system for importing and exporting diamonds, and enforce systems so that all invoices for rough diamonds contain the World Diamond Council Warranty Statement.
Jewelry is a discretionary purchase — customers spending money on a high-value luxury item have the right to know that the item they’re buying is held to the highest quality standards. The RJC Code of Practices requires full transparency of jewelry product information so that consumers can make informed decisions.
RJC Certification: Human Rights and Social Issues
Human rights are covered by a wide variety of laws at the global and national levels, through treaties, general principles, and codified legislation. The RJC Code of Practices models its human rights standards on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, and applicable laws.
Current estimates indicate that there are more than 200 million child laborers between the ages of 5 and 17 globally, where child labor is defined as work that interferes with a child’s opportunity to get an education. Hours and type of work, working conditions, and the legal framework of individual countries are also taken into consideration.
RJC Members are required to have systems in place to prevent the employment of children. If child labor is already in place, members must begin a phased remediation process, ensure that work does not interfere with education, comply with local law and ILO conventions, and make sure that children are not engaged in “hazardous work.”
Forced labor is also widespread, and can include laborers who are paid a wage in situations where workers are threatened with severe deprivation of wages or food, physical violence, or restriction of movement. RJC Members are not permitted to use forced labor in any capacity, must retain original copies of employee personal documentation, and may not require any form of deposit, recruitment fee, or equipment advance from an employee.
Discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, or national origin results in unequal opportunity and treatment in the workplace. The Code prohibits any form of discrimination in RJC-certified workplaces. Any individual who is “fit to work” — defined as someone who can carry out their job duties competently without threatening the safety of themselves or others — must be given equal opportunities.
Health And Safety Standards
Health and safety standards vary widely between countries, industries, and social groups — often it’s women, children, and migrant workers who suffer the most as a result of unsafe workplace practices.
RJC Members are required to provide safe and healthy working conditions for all employees, including knowledge of applicable local law, compliance with health and safety regulations, a process by which employees can discuss safety issues, and appropriate fire safety practices.
RJC Certification: Environmental Management
Environmentally conscious business practices aren’t just good for the planet, they’re good for the bottom line. Environmental protection initiatives can include benefits like reduced material costs, increased worker commitment, and reduced operating costs.
RJC Members are encouraged to minimize damaging environmental practices with management and operating procedures.
The jewelry supply chain can result in the production or use of many hazardous materials, defined as materials that are flammable, oxidising, corrosive, toxic, radioactive, or explosive and pose threats to public health or the environment. In the jewelry industry specifically, hazards include mining overburden, gold refining, electroplating residues, electronics, batteries, refrigerants, and many industrial chemicals and cleaning agents.
RJC Members must not use internationally banned hazardous substances and must restrict the use of hazardous materials wherever possible, subject to third-party auditing. In addition, RJC Members that use cyanide in the recovery of gold must comply with international cyanide management code.
Waste and Emissions
In the jewelry industry, waste can come from general operations, air and water emissions, and some types of hazardous substances used in the extraction and refinement processes. Tailings are another major concern — responsibly dealing with tailings and waste rock is a major component of many mining operations and one of the mining industries’ biggest challenges.
RJC Members are required to dispose of all waste substances responsibly and in accordance with applicable laws, take concrete steps to reduce waste production, and seek to decrease emissions to air, water, and land.
In all, the RJC guidelines contain several dozen guidelines and compliance standards that all RJC Members are required to follow in order to ensure that their jewelry businesses are safe, responsibly conducted, and environmentally conscious. At acredo, we value responsible business practices highly, so we’re proud to announce that our main vendor for the acredo USA line of premium engagement rings is also a certified member of the RJC.