As the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) continues to come under siege for its handling of the Alrosa situation in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine – among other issues – industry experts and commentators have called for it to be restructured instead of dismantled.
As the dissection continues, one area worthy of reflection is the RJC’s membership directory and the information contained within.
Or perhaps, it would be better to say lack of information contained within?
The RJC website provides a handy ‘Find A Member’ search tool. It’s an attempt at offering a membership directory. Each member’s listing displays company name, date joined, head office location, certification status (date or to be achieved by) and a company URL, which allows users to ‘click out’ directly to the member’s own website.
At the time of publication the RJC website records 1,455 members, of which 1,018 were listed as certified, 208 were ‘custody of chain’ certified and 437 had not achieved certification status.
The directory is a whopping 182 pages (it only lists six members per page) and it also lists members by country, all standard practice on an industry website in 2022.
However, of the 1,455 listings more than 30 per cent (400+) do not display a website link. You might assume that that’s because the member did not provide a website to be listed, but that would appear to be unusual.
That aside, the more important thing is that Jeweller’s extensive research has been unable to find any website for more than 200 RJC members.
To be more specific, on 11 January 2020 the RJC boasted 1,406 members on its directory pages. The count of members that did not include a website link was 459, however, when Jeweller searched for the website for these companies we could only find 260, which means there were around 200 members for which Jeweller could not locate a website.
This is not a new occurrence.
In March 2021 – nearly 12 months earlier – when Jeweller first began scrutinising the workings of the RJC, it recorded 1198 members.
Of those, around 400 did not list a company website and of the 400 Jeweller could not locate a website corresponding with the RJC member name for around 120 companies.
The ‘Find A Member’ service is headed: “Find a sustainability partner” and goes on to state: “The RJC Member Register is a publicly searchable list of all current members of the RJC. All members are accountable to the RJC Code of Practices. To achieve ‘certified’ status, members must complete an independent third-party audit to prove their conformance to the Code of Practices”.
There is no suggestion these companies do not exist or are ‘fake’. We simply report that we have been unable to find a website address that correlates with the RJC member.
In some cases a Google search displays listings of the company’s existence, such as government records, credit reports and, in a some cases, Facebook pages and Linkedin profiles, but no actual website, however, it remains that the websites of at least 200 RJC member’s cannot, or are not, easily discovered.
That’s about 15 per cent of members who cannot easily be contacted by a simple Google search which makes it somewhat unusual, especially given the RJC website does not list a member’s phone number or email address.
More interestingly, in an open letter to business leaders in the jewellery industry dated 14 February 2022, former executive director Iris Van der Veken wrote that the RJC has “over 1,550 member companies” and yet one month earlier it had only 1,406.
Could the number have increased by 144 in the ensuing month? Well, as of today there are only 1,455 members – still 95 fewer than two months earlier, when Van der Veken said it was 1,550.
And while the RJC has experienced a number of high-profile members quitting the organisation in recent weeks over the handling of the Alrosa membership, it won’t explain the near 100-member discrepancy.
Perhaps the answer is that the RJC did not have “more than 1,550 members” at the time Van der Veken was calling for greater transparency and accountability within the jewellery industry. She quit her position on 31 March, over what is believed to be dissatisfaction over the RJC’s handling of Alrosa’s membership following the invasion of Ukraine.
That aside, this still does not explain how websites for 15 per cent of its membership cannot be found.
The most recent financial report posted on the RJC website is for calendar year 2020 and it records more than £2,250,000 ($US2,929,600) in revenue. The financial report listed 11 staff, down from 13 in 2019 when it achieved revenueof £2,212,000 ($US2,880,100).
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