Press Release: Groups Challenge Signet to Clean Up Its Supply Chain

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Press Release: This Valentine’s Day, IndustriALL Global Union, London Mining Network, Earthworks and LabourStart are challenging the world’s biggest jewelry retailer Signet Jewelers Ltd. to demand that its major diamond and gold supplier, multinational mining company Rio Tinto, clean up its mining practices so that they respect worker rights, indigenous peoples and the environment.

With global sales of  $6 billion annually, Signet’s 1,400 Kay and Jared jewelry shops are in every U.S. state, 1,600 Zales stores are throughout the U.S. and Canada, and 500 H. Samuel and Ernest Jones shops are visible on U.K. high streets. The National Retail Federation anticipates that one-in-10 U.S.  shoppers will gift jewelry to their loved ones on Valentine’s Day this year, fueling jewelry sales of nearly $5 billion.

The coalition is calling on Signet to abide both by its own Responsible Sourcing Policy and its 2006 public endorsement of the No Dirty Gold campaign’s Golden Rules for more responsible mining. Signet’s Responsible Sourcing Policy declares the company “committed to the responsible sourcing of our products and the respect of human rights, and we expect the same from our suppliers around the world.” Endorsement of the Golden Rules, endorsed by over 100 jewelry retailers around the world, commits signers to pressure their suppliers to come into compliance with the rules — which are drawn from broadly accepted international human rights laws and basic principles of sustainable development.

But Rio Tinto is a notorious violator of labor rights, communities and the environment.  Rio Tinto’s campaign to undermine workers’ fundamental organizing and bargaining rights has recently been documented in the report Rio Tinto and Direct Engagement.  The company’s abuse of human rights, communities and the environment has recently been profiled in the report “Unsustainable: The ugly truth about Rio Tinto.”

Although the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) has certified Rio Tinto, unfortunately the RJC is highly flawed.  It is neither independent – it is governed by industry, excluding labor, civil society and impacted communities — nor is it transparent as it is impossible for the public to determine whether an RJC-certified company complies with certification requirements, let alone international human rights and environmental standards.

IndustriALL Global Union’s general secretary, Jyrki Raina, said, “Until Rio Tinto drastically changes its ways, the company will sully the reputations of all its major business partners. Signet is no exception. Signet says that its involvement in non-independent business-run social auditing programs is a sufficient response to our concerns. This is insulting to all those affected by Rio Tinto’s anti-social conduct, not least Signet customers.”

Earthworks’ No Dirty Gold campaign director, Payal Sampat, said, “Nobody wants their symbol of love made with gold or diamonds that harmed ecosystems or communities. Signet can’t provide a meaningful guarantee that its jewelry isn’t made with dirty gold or gems. It’s high time that the world’s largest jeweler cleaned up its supply chain.”

Richard Solly, the coordinator of London Mining Network, said, “Rio Tinto has a long history of violating indigenous peoples’ land rights, dividing communities, polluting land and water and attacking unions. There are continuing real concerns about the human and environmental impacts of its copper and gold mining operations at Oyu Tolgoi in Mongolia, and at Grasberg in Papua, where its violations of indigenous peoples’ rights and environmental destruction led the Norwegian Government’s state pensions fund to disinvest.”

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