Francois Loriot Discusses Corporate Social Responsibility Program for CIBJO

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RAPAPORT…  Press Release: The past two decades have seen an increase in the availability of corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs as the marketplace becomes more conscious of how manufactured goods impact  the environment and society. Sensitive factors in the jewelry industry include the mining conditions of precious metals and gemstones, the responsible processing and production of minerals, and the disclosure of accurate information in the sale of finished jewelry. Furthermore, consumers not only want to be more informed about the items they purchase, but also about the origin of these products and the ethical conditions under which they were sourced and manufactured.

In 2008 CIBJO officially partnered with the UN to establish industry-wide CSR educational and training programs. A UN-appointed team of CSR/ Millennium Development Goals (MDG) experts was assigned to work with CIBJO to design, develop and formulate management systems for these programs. In late 2008, as a result of this group’s recommendations, CIBJO created the World Jewellery Confederation Education Foundation (WJCEF).

Dr. Francois Loriot was appointed chairman of the WJCEF academic board. Loriot holds a master’s degree and a PhD in international law, and was previously the principal legal advisor to the UN, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), the World Food Organization (WFO) and UN Volunteers (UNV), and advisor to the secretary-general on reforms to the UN’s internal justice, ethics and accountability systems. He is currently vice president of the International Association of MDG Trainers (AIFOMD).  AIFOMD is a Swiss-based organization that specializes in developing programs to advance the MDG. 

In the following interview, Loriot outlines the CSR/MDG training program that has been developed for the jewelry industry. He will provide a detailed overview of the program on the first day of the 2009 CIBJO Congress on May 3 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Why do you believe it is essential for jewelers to participate in this CSR course?

Loriot: From a practical point of view, we are all familiar with the result of the conflict diamonds crisis. Public opinion clearly carries huge clout and it is therefore a key factor when planning future business practices. Trends also indicate that CSR strategies and the involvement in humanitarian issues contribute to the overall success of companies.

The purpose of the training will be to assist every sector of the industry to understand, establish and deliver a clear CSR program. Course materials will deal with both the economic benefits and ethical requirements of CSR. We believe it is important that we provide practical tools to manage these programs on a long-term basis.

How do you define CSR in the modern business environment?

Loriot:  Social responsibility is no longer seen as the domain of large corporations. Today it extends to all members in the production chain. It refers not only to how corporations must behave in order to avoid doing the wrong thing, but also how they should act to make a positive contribution to society and the environment.

How do you counter statements that CSR strategies place a burden on profitability, and consequently are detrimental to business?

Loriot: Corporate social responsibility is not simply a benevolent undertaking. Increasingly it is becoming clear that sustainable development in the greater society is an effective long-term growth strategy for business, and business is more likely to succeed when the economy is healthy and operates under recognized ethical standards.

In addition, changes in consumer perceptions have also resulted in a series of new opportunities. Consumers tend to support those companies that are seen to be responsible and contributing a value added to society. This can be achieved through ethical business practices, providing industry training or developing disadvantaged communities [that] are the source of precious metals and gemstones. 

The natural spinoff is that these projects and their development can be incorporated into corporate communication strategies. CSR projects can be used as a tool to educate and inform consumers of ethical business practices. This in turn creates customer trust and loyalty, as well as a solid corporate image.

How did your team go about the task of developing a CSR training program for the jewelry industry?

Loriot:  In the first phase, we used basic assessment questions for the various sectors of the diamond, gemstone and jewelry industries. Clearly, jewelers and manufacturers have different issues and requirements compared to those of mining companies. Thereafter, we selected the relevant training models from different CSR programs designed for each sector of the industry. The final phase will involve both classroom and online training. Several seminars will target key CSR issues. Participants will also have home study and assignments to complete. Training support will be provided throughout the process, both online and during residential sessions.

How will a CSR course for the jewelry industry be structured?

Loriot: In order to make CSR truly a tangible asset, the training courses integrate theory and practice. We will teach why CSR goes way beyond charity and philanthropy, in order to attain sustainability, a word that you keep hearing repeatedly. 

Important questions will be addressed, such as: What does it mean to make ethical choices? How does one make sure that a business model respects the rights of others? How does one engage the support of employees? How is the impact of the CSR policy measured? 

We are also offering different formats, depending on the participants’ availability and flexibility. In all cases, basic courses will require classroom lectures and contact with trainers. This will be complemented by online training. 

The first part of the course will consist of several modules incorporating both theoretical and practical training. Participants will receive certification on completion of the assignments and training.

We also have a second level of CSR/MDG training for those members who would like to further their studies and develop tools to have their firms benefit from CSR/MDG strategies. This is still in the planning phase, and will begin in 2010. The UN International Training body (UNITAR) will be involved to consider the accreditation of these CSR/MDG training modules, in order to adapt and offer them worldwide to other interested groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society organisations.

Do you have a basic course outline?

Loriot:  The CSR/MDG training curriculum is as follows:

• Experience CSR – a Web-based simulation played by the participant
• Beyond Philanthropy – community investment and stakeholder engagement 
• Understanding Sustainability – the universe story; greening our business/respecting the planet
• Making Ethical Choices – frameworks for ethical decision-making; codes of conduct; relevant legislation
• Human Rights and Humanitarian Issues (MDG/GCP)
• Engaging Employees – discussion of values, wellness in the workplace, recruitment and retention, diversity, health and safety, etc.
• Measuring CSR – discussion of various standards and metrics currently available and/or being developed. Discussion will be led by CSR faculty and alumni.
• Communicating CSR – discussion of reporting, both internal and external (Team)
• CSR/MDG as competitive tools: practical applications for your business environment

How does the current economic crisis impact CSR?

Loriot: Contrary to what one may expect, CSR offers a unique opportunity for the jewelry industry in a market that is experiencing a downturn. Research has proven that consumers are willing to pay more for, as an example, environmentally friendly or fair-trade products, even in times of economic recession. That, no doubt, creates opportunity and a competitive advantage for those industries and companies that have integrated CSR into their business models.

CIBJO is the international jewellery confederation of national trade organizations. CIBJO’s purpose is to encourage harmonization, promote international cooperation in the jewellery industry and to consider issues which concern the trade worldwide. CIBJO’s chief mission is to protect consumer confidence in the industry. Click here to go to the CIBJO website for more information.

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