Conflict gold, LGBT equality, Myanmar jade mine drug dependency and Boreal Forest sourcing campaign
Responsible gold campaign launched
In its new report “Going for Gold,” the Enough Project highlights several jewellery retailers’ leading efforts to address conflict gold from the Congo through robust supply chain controls and local initiatives.
In the US alone, the gold jewellery business is worth more than $5bn annually. With such power, the industry has also played a central role in funding armed conflict in the Congo and Great Lakes region.
The Enough Project surveyed the 14 largest North American jewellery retailers’ policies on combating conflict gold. Tiffany was recognised for its role as founding member of the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance, a multi-stakeholder group that is developing draft standards on responsible mining practices. Signet Jewelers was commended for its leadership in multi-stakeholder dialogues in support of responsible sourcing practices. Cartier, JC Penney, and Target were also recognised.
Human Rights Campaign LGBT Index
In its 13th edition, the Human Rights Campaign LGBT Corporate Equality Index (CEI) this year reported a record 366 businesses that received a 100% rating, and the distinction of “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality”.
HRW invites three types of companies to participate: Fortune magazine’s 1,000 largest publicly traded businesses, American Lawyer magazine’s top 200 revenue-grossing law firms, and US private sector employers with at least 500 full-time employees.
For the Index’s new edition, 781 companies were rated. Two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies now offer explicit gender identity non-discrimination protections, and one-third offer transgender-inclusive health care coverage. Still, HRC says there is room for improvement, calling out America’s “lagging” federal non-discrimination protections and the difficulties that transgender people in particular still face to get hired.
Drug addiction in Myanmar jade mines
Several organisations are shining a light on the flourishing narcotics trade in Myanmar’s jade mines of Hpakant, in northern Kachin State.
Drug use permeates every level of the region’s jade mining industry, with a soaring number of self-employed yemase stone foragers dependent on heroin – readily found in local drug camps. In a recent report, Burma Campaign UK says these workers live a “hand-to-mouth existence, toiling day and night among steep mountains of rubble”. Moreover, the authorities have little incentive to interfere, as they stand more to profit from the drug trade than to thwart it.
For the first time, Myanmar recently hosted an EITI International Board meeting and conference on its Natural Resource Governance. Global Witness says jade should play a central role in the EITI discussions. “Setting up an accountable, corruption-free jade business would be the biggest possible win for the reform process,” says Mike Davis, senior advisor at Global Witness. “It would dramatically increase the revenues available for development in Kachin State and the country as a whole.”
Greenpeace targets Best Buy
A new report by Greenpeace links the electronics retailer Best Buy to the degradation of Canada’s treasured Boreal Forest.
According to the report findings, Best Buy sources roughly 45,000 tonnes of paper annually from logging company Resolute Forest Products, which Greenpeace says plays a major role in the destruction of Canada’s Boreal Forest, jeopardising endangered species’ habitat and that of indigenous communities.
The advocacy organisation has called on Best Buy to commit to a robust sustainable sourcing policy that traces all products to the forest of origin, protects local species and communities, and actively engages suppliers and all stakeholders, among other assurances.
“There are forest products companies in Canada successfully pursuing sustainable, equitable and economically viable forestry,” the report states. “Greenpeace urges Best Buy and other corporations to identify these suppliers and pursue enhanced business relationships.”