Sears, Kmart Among Latest Companies Swearing Off 'Dirty Gold'

Sears, Kmart Among Latest Companies Swearing Off 'Dirty Gold'

Sears Holdings, the parent company of Sears and Kmart, along with two other jewelry retailers last week signed on to the No Dirty Gold campaign's Golden Rules for responsible sourcing of precious metals.

The addition of Sears Holdings, Ultra Stores and Blue Nile brings the total number of signatories to 60, representing seven of the top 10 jewelry retail firms in the United States, and a cumulative $1.3 billion in annual domestic jewelry sales -- nearly one-quarter of the country's total jewelry sales.

The No Dirty Gold campaign aims to bring to light the human and environmental costs of mining gold, which the group estimates creates 20 tons of mine waste to source enough gold for one ring. The campaign was launched in 2004 and has been working on global retailers ever since to urge their suppliers to incorporate the following "Golden Rules" into operations:

• Respect basic human rights outlined in international conventions and law;
• Obtain the free, prior, and informed consent of affected communities;
• Respect workers' rights and labor standards, including safe working conditions;
• Ensure that operations are not located in areas of armed or militarized conflict;
• Ensure that projects do not force communities off their lands;
• Ensure that projects are not located in protected areas, fragile; ecosystems, or other areas of high conservation or ecological value;
• Refrain from dumping mine wastes into the ocean, rivers, lakes, or streams;
• Ensure that projects do not contaminate water, soil, or air with sulfuric acid drainage or other toxic chemicals;
• Cover all costs of closing down and cleaning up mine sites;
• Fully disclose information about social and environmental effects of projects; and
• Allow independent verification of the above.

"The No Dirty Gold campaign is a great initiative that pushes for sustainability and ethical sourcing on gold," said Michelle Pearlman, Senior Vice President and President of Jewelry at Sears Holdings. "Sears strives to be a green company and we will continue to work to build lifetime relationships with our customers starting from the mines up."

Although the No Dirty Gold campaign has been active since 2004, companies inside and outside the jewelry industry are taking a closer look at their supply chains and responsible sourcing. Earlier this month, Cartier chose a small Italian mining company for sourcing its gold responsibly.

In 2008, Walmart launched a traceable-jewelry line that aimed to let shoppers follow their jewelry from mine to market. And at the BSR Conference last month, a group of supply chain executives explained how they face some of the same challenges as the jewelry industry; the electronics industry in particular saw the launch of a "no blood for gadgets" campaign earlier this year.

For more background on responsibly sourced jewelry, read "Not All that Glitters is Gold: Digging for Ethically Sourced Jewelry" by Marc Choyt, published on GreenBiz.com in April 2008.

The No Dirty Gold campaign is online at NoDirtyGold.org.

Photo CC-licensed by Flickr user Somma.