Earlier this month Solidaridad, a worldwide group of development organizations unveiled the Netherlands’ first-ever fair-trade and fair-mined gold jewelry. The UK pioneered the “Fairtrade & Fairmined” (FT&FM) label last year and the Netherlands is the second European market to offer this certification.
The label guarantees that the 100 million people who rely on the sector for a living have fair, safe, and environmentally friendly working conditions. The label also covers the 20 million small-scale and artisanal miners worldwide.
Solidaridad, founded the first fair-trade label for coffee in 1988 and has since worked with miners, traders, jewelers, and fair-trade organizations to develop a framework for responsible gold mining. The organization has been working with miners in Latin America and training them to improve their environmental and social practices since 2006. They have also started similar support programs for miners in Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, and all this gives them more access to the European market.
According to Ecouterre, ten Dutch jewellers presented their first collection with the FT&M stamp. They are also working with the Responsible Jewellery Council to make fair-trade gold the standard and not the exception. According to their director, Nico Roozen:
“The label is an important step towards making the whole sector sustainable. Toxic mercury is widely used in small-scale gold mining and workers are working in unsafe mine shafts, receive too low a price for their gold, and the environment is affected unnecessarily. We are absolutely on the right track with the FT&FM label, but worldwide there are still too many cases of poor working conditions.”
According to the World Gold Council, a whopping $137.5 billion was spent on gold jewellery in 2010 alone. The label is a joint collaboration of Fairtrade International and the Alliance for Responsible Mining to rectify the poor label conditions of the workers in various countries where gold is mined. The standards cover issues such as working conditions, technology, health and safety, women miners and child labour, management of chemicals, and responsibility to the environment and the local community.
Recently there has been more awareness of mining activities. Sierra Leone even launched a database to encourage transparency. Studies have been done on how stakeholder engagement boosts fair-trade in the mining sector. Apart from this, the world’s major jewelers are beginning to recognize the importance of fair labour practices in the industry and are paying due attention to their supply chain. Even electronic companies have started focusing on conflict minerals. All this, in combination with the FT&M label is bound to bring about a change in the way we view this precious metal.
Image Credit: Mauro Cateb, Wikimedia Commons