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CEO of RJC Steps Down Due to Alrosa’s Continued Membership

Meanwhile, Pandora left the group citing its “failure to suspend Russian companies’ memberships and responsible business certifications,” and Richemont withdrew as well.

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The CEO of the Responsible Jewellery Council has stepped down from the role.

Iris Van der Veken, who had held the position since 2019, was unhappy that the organization had allowed Alrosa to continue its membership amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Rapaport News reported. The news outlet cited three unidentified “sources close to the matter.”

Meanwhile, Pandora and Richemont ended their memberships in the group. They also cited dissatisfaction that RJC had not severed ties to Russian interests.

‘Insufficient’ Decisions

Alrosa previously stepped down from the position of vice chair of the RJC, a sustainability standards body. The Russian diamond mining company temporarily left RJC’s board of directors as of March 3, according to a press release.

But Van der Veken, as well as some others within the RJC, felt that wasn’t enough.

Brad Brooks-Rubin, strategic adviser and North America engagement lead at RJC, expressed his views in a LinkedIn post three weeks ago. He wrote, in part, that “the decisions (or, more specifically, the lack thereof) from the RJC regarding this company and overall crisis so far are insufficient to address the ongoing issues and their implications for the Code of Practices and other standards.”

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Brooks-Rubin stated: “The crisis in Ukraine has certainly highlighted insufficient action by the international community and the industry in response to myriad past crises affecting other parts of the world, but we cannot let those shortcomings undermine action now. We need to learn from past omissions/mistakes and ensure we are being honest, working to improve, and acting responsibly, even when it is hard to say/do so.”

He posted again on Wednesday, stating: “It did not need to come to this at RJC , and I hope this can be reversed, along with the numerous company resignations.” He said Van der Veken’s resignation should be rejected.

He added: “Businesses, communities, jobs, and lives are on the line around the world, alongside the tragedy and horror unfolding in Ukraine — none of that is to be taken lightly, and I acknowledge any part I’ve played in oversimplifying this. Leaders of the RJC and industry as a whole need to come together — and immediately — to be honest and open enough to say we’ve made mistakes in the last 35 days, and we are going to work to correct course, make the best decisions we can given whatever information and perspectives we can gather, and continue to revisit and revise as often as needed and possible.”

RJC members commit to and are independently audited against the RJC Code of Practices, an international standard on responsible business practices for diamonds, gold and platinum group metals.

RJC is conducting an “arm’s length, independent, third-party legal assessment” related to Alrosa’s membership status, said RJC Chairman David Bouffard.

The review will be “concluded imminently,” he said in a statement distributed to several media outlets.

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“The RJC appreciates that the pace of this process may be frustrating, but this is an unprecedented situation, which is constantly changing and requires that the time be taken, to ensure that due process is followed as exhaustively as possible,” Bouffard said.

Pandora, Richemont Leave RJC

On Wednesday, Pandora announced that it is ending its 12-year membership in RJC.

The decision “follows RJC’s failure to suspend Russian companies’ memberships and responsible business certifications and urge its members to suspend business with Russia,” according to a press release from the company.

“We are shocked and saddened by the unprovoked attack on Ukraine, and our thoughts go to the people of Ukraine, who are victims of this senseless act of military aggression,” Pandora CEO Alexander Lacik said. “The war requires all businesses to act with the utmost responsibility regarding any interactions or business dealings with Russia and Belarus. Pandora cannot in good faith be a member of an association that does not share our values.”

Pandora noted that on Feb. 24, it suspended all business with Russia and Belarus. The company “has also instructed all its suppliers and business partners that no raw materials, products or services supplied to Pandora can come directly or indirectly from Russia or Belarus.”

Reuters reported that luxury conglomerate Richemont, parent company of Cartier, also withdrew from RJC on Wednesday.

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“It is not part of our Richemont values to be part of an organization in which some members are supporting conflicts and wars,” said Cyrille Vigneron, CEO of Cartier.

James Ritchie is the online content editor for SmartWork Media.

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