Top jewellery brands Tanishq, TBZ, Kalyan under human rights scanner

Human Right Watch, a London-based NGO active in the field, has rated Indian jewellery brands like Tanishq, TBZ and Kalyan Jewellers as being ‘very weak’ in sourcing gold and diamonds from places that ‘are not tainted with human rights abuses'.

Thirteen global brands having a 10 per cent share in global jewellery business were selected on the basis of their domestic and international visibility. Tanishq, a Tata group company under the Titan responded to the NGO, while two other Indian jewellery players didn’t, and were therefore not ranked. However, the NGO advised them to trace the origins of the gold and diamonds used in their businesses, and ensure that they are not tainted with human rights abuses. "Tell your customers what you are doing to address human rights in your supply chain,” Human Right Watch told them.

Human Right Watch, a global NGO established in 1978, tracks human rights conditions in some 90 countries. In a report titled, ‘The Hidden Cost of Jewelry: Human Rights in Supply Chains and the Responsibility of Jewelry Companies’ the NGO ranked 13 jewellery and watch companies globally on how they source gold and diamonds.

The NGO said in the report, “Sometimes children have been injured and even killed doing hazardous work in small-scale gold or diamond mines. Communities have faced ill-health and environmental harm because mines have polluted waterways with toxic chemicals. And civilians have suffered enormously as abusive armed groups have enriched themselves through mining.”

Juliane Kippenberg, associate child rights director at Human Rights Watch and co-author of the report, told Business Standard, “Many jewellers can do more to find out if their gold or diamonds are tainted by child labour or other human rights abuses.” She said that companies buying gold and diamonds should put in more efforts and disclose transparently on their sourcing to ensure that their suppliers have protected human rights when the gold and diamonds supplied were mined.

The idea behind this exercise is to make all stakeholders from mines to markets aware and ensure human rights are protected while sourcing.

How 13 top global jewellery firms fared on human rights
Rating Companies Remarks
Strong Tiffany & Co, US Has taken significant steps toward responsible sourcing
Moderate   Bvlgari (Italy)

Cartier (France)

Pandora (Denmark)

Signat Jewellers (US, UK)
Has taken some important steps toward responsible sourcing
Weak Boodles (UK)

Chopard (Switzerland)

Christ (Germany)

Harry Winston (US)
Has taken some steps toward responsible sourcing
Very Weak Tanishq (India) No evidence of steps toward responsible sourcing
No Ranking

 
Kalyan Jewellers (India

TBZ (India)

Rolex (Switzerland)
Provided no information regarding responsible sourcing

When contacted, C K Venkataraman, CEO, Jewellery Division, Titan Company Limited said his organisation is a signatory to the Tata Code of Conduct about the right ways of doing business. He explained how Titan strives to source its gold, diamonds and jewellery in the right, ethical way.

“Titan is not in agreement with many dimensions of the framework used by the NGO. On aspects of chain of custody, assessment of human rights risks, response to human rights risks and third-party verification, it is Titan’s view that the framework assigns undue oversight responsibility to the buyer of gold and diamonds. Most of the suppliers of gold and diamonds are reputed global banks and corporations much larger than Titan Company and it would be unfair and impractical to expect Titan to exercise such oversight on their processes and policies and would in fact tantamount to a transfer of accountability. As such Titan is not in agreement with the NGO’s assessment about the Company’s brand Tanishq,” said Venkataraman.

However, the NGO talked about public reporting of policies and suppliers. Venkataraman responded saying, “Titan is currently in touch with its legal experts to determine the manner in which all this information, including details about its suppliers, are to be made public on a regular basis.”

Kalyan Jewellers and TBZ didn’t respond to the email seeking their views.

However, Juliane said, “Titan made the efforts to speak to us and we see that as a positive sign. The other two companies didn’t respond to our questions. TBZ did attempt, but very late, while the report was being finalized. They haven't contact us since.”

The report by the NGO says that for diamonds, there is the Kimberley Process and certification by the Responsible Jewellery Council. However, according to Juliane, "They do not by themselves provide sufficient assurance that diamonds or gold have been mined without contributing to abuse. The Kimberley Process is focused narrowly on diamonds linked to rebel forces, applies only to rough diamonds, and places no direct responsibility on companies. For Gold OECD has responsible sourcing guidelines."

For gold sourcing, the NGO focused on whether or not companies chose to disclose enough information to ensure precious metal and stones were sourced from suppliers who have taken adequate safeguards to protect human rights. For this, seven questions, including whether they (jewellery companies) know the origin from where the stones and metals were mined, whether the mines were audited from this perspective, whether due diligence from the human rights points of view was done, whether these companies disclose names of suppliers, and whether they have a policy for responsible sourcing and human rights protection.

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