56 STATE OF THE MAJORS 2017 One of the few players that has the ability to track production from mine to market is Gemfields. For the colored gemstone miner, transparency comes not only from telling the consumer where the stone was mined and disclosing treatments, but also in taking steps to get assurances throughout the supply chain, including vetting customers who want to buy its rough through auction. This is followed up by auditing its customers’ factories to be sure that when the rough stones have been cut and polished, they are manufactured in good conditions where there is no child labor or sub-standard access to health and safety. It’s this kind of relationship building that can lead to long-term change, Lombe says, but because of the artis- anal nature of the sector, “a lot of people rarely have the chance to do that.” Eric Braunwart and his business, Columbia Gem House, have found a way. His company works to establish on-the-ground agreements, with either miners or brokers, and create trusted relationships so that they are clear on their values, what kind of information they want doc- umented, including photos, about the sources from which they are getting their stones. By building these kinds of relationships, he can not only tell custom- ers exactly the conditions in the areas where his stones are mined but what else they are doing to help improve livelihoods where needed. Braunwart believes deeply in the need to go beyond just asking questions, but to also include working closely with the sources and suppliers. He says he feels that the industry needs to identify weak areas and how they can improve them, follow through on those goals, and then continue to monitor. And he believes such a way of doing business can be replicated by companies across all levels of the supply chain. For retailers, for ex- ample, this would mean working as a team with everyone they’re then buying from to make sure they’ve got all pertinent information as well. “People tend to say that ‘fair trade’ is do no harm. But I think fair trade really means do some good, and that’s where [the movement] needs to go.” This is especially true given the younger generation’s penchant for hard proof that the product they are buying was sourced responsibly. This goes not only for younger shoppers, but for the mindful younger members of the jewelry industry as well, Braunwart says. This new generation doesn’t just want paperwork that shows you asked some questions to your suppliers, but wants to see pictures or hear how businesses are personally involved. “The big question in my mind is—when the discussion reaches a proverbial fork in the road, which direction will we head in? The ‘fig leaf’ improvement or real improvement on the ground?” The Jewelry Industry Summit seems to be attempting the latter from a slightly different perspective. Rather than setting broad-based standards, it brings together people who are engaging in specific projects that improve the supply chain for colored stones, Gardner says, and educates people to engage in steps to make their own supply chain more responsible and more transparent. One colored-stone specific project called the Bahia Initiative, started by Brian Cook of Nature’s Geometry, supports the devel- opment of a sustainable and environmentally friendly mining site in Brazil, where the gemstones are extracted in an ethical way. The initiative works with the surrounding community, training women on basic gemstone cutting skills, teaching sustainable methods of growing food, and supporting an elementary school. The AGTA is working on a silicosis abatement project, in which it is initiating certain techniques during cutting, bringing in monitoring and clean-up equipment, and developing educational tools. It will test the project for a year in Gujarat and Jaipur, India. (Silicosis is a debilitating and often-fatal disease that comes as a result of workers inhaling airborne silica dust.) Additional projects shared at the Jewelry Industry Summit include an index to give countries grades on their efforts to improve and maintain the supply chain for gems, and a toolkit for companies to use to incorporate responsible practices into business and start a conversation with their suppliers, Gardner says. One of the summit’s strengths is bringing these projects to the fore, not only so that other companies and organizations can get inspiration from them, but also so that messaging about the efforts can get out in front of consumers. The latter is one area that could be improved on the retail level, Hucker says. “We’re all working in our own arenas, and oftentimes cooperating with each other to say, ‘we can’t make the industry perfect, but we need to keep working to make it better.’ I think that is the kind of thing retail jewelers who are on the front line need to share with their customers.” Retailers have a great opportunity to share the industry’s responsi- ble sourcing efforts with consumers and to provide confidence in the way businesses in the industry are working. The messaging needs to be out there, and it needs to be clear. But something that companies shouldn’t forget is to focus on their own corporate social responsibility, Hucker says. If stores’ owners are taking the time to make sure they can speak to the products they’re selling, but then not making sure the store is giving back in its local community, diversifying hiring, and following sound environmental protocols, then they’re losing out on an oppor- tunity to take that all the way, he argues. “Our customers want to feel good about the product and the people we’re doing business with. And that has to do with what a company does to be socially responsible,” he says. “If you want to have a responsible supply chain, you have to start being responsible yourself.” “One has to wonder whether being able to trace really addresses the responsibility or the transparency of the supply chain. What you want to do is make sure that everyone along the supply chain is committed to best practices principles, to transparency, to legitimacy, and to ethical conduct. Efforts to create traceability should not be in place of efforts to engage people in improving the supply chain.” —Cecilia Gardner, founder of the Jewelry Industry Summit