A Talk with Iris Van der Veken

A talk with Iris Van der Veken, Executive Director of the Responsible Jewellery Council, who is one of the panelists of the Cibjo seminar, today at Tiziano Room (hall 7.1)

Since coming into office, what are your top priorities for RJC? Partnerships and collaboration to build positive impact. I believe this is a great momentum for the RJC. The RJC was founded in 2005 by 14 members, with a clear vision, a responsible world-wide supply chain that promotes trust in the global jewellery and watch industry. Today, we have over 1,200 members reflecting the value chain from mining to retail. As we are moving into 2020, just 10 years away from the 2030 agenda - the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) - we have a great opportunity to accelerate efforts on the ground. Trust is the ultimate currency. It is all about consumer confidence. Product integrity is paramount. A company today needs to build a solid framework on sustainability.

What are the main projects/initiatives that you are currently working on? Members first strategy is our focus. In April this year we launched our new Code of Practices (COP) that includes coloured gemstones and silver. This is a big milestone. The new COP also reflects the evolving regulatory policy and is aligned with the OECD Due Diligence and the UN Guiding Principles of Business and Human Rights. It also helps any company to support the 17 SDGs. Now it is all about rollout and implementation. We are developing different “toolkits” to guide our members to integrate the COP into their business. Our recent partnership (first of its kind) with the United Nations Global Compact reflects this vision. We believe knowledge sharing and education are key.

What future projects are in the pipeline? Many projects are in the pipeline with one priority - to serve our members better. The 2030 agenda - SDG perspective is a mission critical focus. We will be setting up an SDG Taskforce and I look forward to sharing more details in the new year. Other key strategic projects will focus on the coloured gemstones business. This is an amazing industry with many opportunities and challenges as some 85% of the mining is artisanal. 

What are the RJC membership targets? RJC membership has been growing and now exceeds 1,200. Around 60 percent of our members around the world are small and medium sized enterprises. Our members come from the world’s leading retailers, suppliers, manufacturers and wholesalers of jewellery – Italy, France, United States, China, India, Switzerland, for example. We want to continue to grow in different market segments. Every company needs to build sustainability into their strategy irrespective of consumer demand. 

 What would you like your legacy to be?
I would like my legacy to encompass a strong contribution to the achievement of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, and notably towards SDG 5 Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment - a topic close to my heart. When women are empowered, communities thrive. We should not forget that women control 70-80% of all consumer spending through a combination of buying power and influence. It is imperative that every organisation looks at their impact through a gender lens. It is a moral obligation to drive this agenda forward.

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