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One Retailer Who’s Traveled the World Challenges the Rest to Work and Buy Sustainably

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WE ARE ALL CONNECTED in some way to the responsibility we have together for this fragile planet.

I have been to almost every part of the world where mining or jewelry production takes place, and I can tell you: we have a long way to go.”

All of the time — in every aspect of our business — the common good should be in our thoughts. Most of the resources we use to create the beauty and art of our industry have come from somewhere else. We utilize the beauty from within the Earth to create objects to adorn and to delight. We have done this from prehistoric times to the present.

It is time for us to care.

I have been to almost every part of the world where mining or jewelry production takes place, and I can tell you: we have a long way to go.

Responsibility begins with our access to information. The laptop, the home computer, the modern cell phone, even the library if you are a luddite; all of these “devices” are so readily at hand. If we choose to ignore or hide from the information that is available to every one of us, then so much becomes our fault.

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Change will not happen overnight, but change can begin with us — the designers, the retailers, the wholesalers. It takes only slightly more effort to source responsibly and with an awareness of the common good. Whatever cost this may be to you is surely offset by the client response to your genuine actions — not a green-washing, but genuine effort and responsibility. The common good is just that, common, meaning it is in your best interest.

So how do we take the information we gather and process it? How do we know we are doing the correct and ethical thing? That is up to you. Keep asking questions. Where does my metal come from? If I subcontract labor, am I doing it where I can verify working conditions? Where were these gemstones mined? Who cut these gemstones? Where did the profit flow before it was in my hand? Should I just trust somebody when they use the words “sustainable” or “green”?

At a minimum, we should only be using reclaimed gold and fair-mined gold that is trackable to the source. As retailers, we should know exactly who and where our jewelry is being made. If it is being made offshore, then we should know the working conditions of the factory and how much people are getting paid. 

The responsibility is yours and the responsibility that you bear is for the common good.

Shawn Higgins is a partner in D & H Jewelers in San Francisco.


This article originally appeared in the February 2018 edition of INSTORE.

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