Is it too little too late?
Late Friday, the Responsible Jewellery Council issued a statement that Alrosa “suspended its membership” with the organization. This came days after an exodus of some of the world’s largest luxury jewelry and watch companies–including Pandora, Richemont, Kering, Watches of Switzerland and smaller firms such as British jewelry brand, Monica Vinader.
This also followed the resignation of RJC executive director, Iris Van der Veken, reportedly over the slow response to removing Alrosa. The Russian diamond mining giant is already banned from doing business in the United States.
While nations, companies and other organizations were quick to ban business with Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine, RJC, whose stated goal is to “promote standards that underpin people’s trust in the worldwide jewelry and watch supply chain,” was moving much too slowly for some of its members.
“Today we have withdrawn from our membership with the Responsible Jewellery Council following the RJC’s failure to cease relationships with Russia,” Monica Vinader said Friday. The jewelry design brand promotes its pieces as sustainably sourced and produced. “We cannot be a part of an organization that does not share our same high standards and values, and are stepping away until further action has been taken to realign their standards with a clear strategy for the future.”
The statement is similar to those issued by the larger companies since Wednesday when Pandora publicly announced it has left RJC due to its slow response to suspending the memberships of Russian companies.
Alrosa did resign as vice chair of the organization on March 3 but it remained a certified member until Friday.
The statement issued by RJC with its ambiguous phrasing that Alrosa has apparently voluntarily suspended itself may raise more questions.
“Russia-based diamond miner ALROSA has suspended its membership with the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) with immediate effect, noting the current unprecedented realities. The RJC Board of directors also today voted to accept the ALROSA suspension. The RJC has followed due process, respecting governance and the fiduciary duties within the powers of the Board,” the statement reads.
“Like so many, we are deeply saddened by the current geopolitical crisis,” David Bouffard, RJC chair, added in the statement. “These have been challenging times and the Board of the RJC has been pursuing a thorough review of the situation and, as it is committed to do with each of its more than 1,500 members, ensuring due process was followed. The Board of the RJC understands and respects ALROSA’s decision to suspend its membership and thanks them for their commitment over the last five years.”
Bouffard, as with the first statement he issued Wednesday, says RJC was doing its due diligence, going through a detailed process before making a decision.
“Beginning on March 3, the board immediately began a comprehensive, third-party legal review to ensure it had the appropriate authority, within its constitutional documents, to take action,” the statement reads. “The law firm selected–having concluded its own standard conflict of interest assessment–commenced their review of RJC’s governance, the Board’s authorities, training modules and many other documents and processes.”
The statement also suggests that sanctions enacted against Russia, particularly in relation to diamonds, by the United Kingdom, the United States and many other countries may have complicated its internal review.
“Additional government actions, including sanctions announced by the United States in February and March, and the United Kingdom on March 24, caused additional complexity and increased the time necessary to complete the review. The legal review, as promised, was provided to the RJC Board of directors mid-week this week. Taking any action prior to the delivery of the legal opinion would have exposed the RJC to significant legal risk.”
Bouffard added, “We take governance seriously and want to ensure that any action we take is fully supported by law.”