Interview: Retailers for Responsible Mining
September 5, 2013
Earthworks' No Dirty Gold campaign is encouraged by growing consumer awareness of the importance of responsibly mined gold. We also appreciate the many retailers who are steadily building a market for ethical jewelry.
Earthworks asks retailers, from large department stores to small businesses, to sign the No Dirty Gold pledge, and source their gold products exclusively from mines who uphold the Golden Rules for responsible mining. We are heartened to see that 93 retailers have made a commitment to improved standards in gold.
This is a first in a series of blog post-interview with NDG retailers, about why they signed on to the Golden Rules and how they implement their values of sustainability in their business. Here we interview Brian Leber, one of the first signatories.
How did you get started in the jewelry business?
My family has been in the jewelry business for close to 100 years, so I grew up in and around the industry. As such, it's been a part of my life in one form or another since I was very young. A belief in upholding principles and a need to do what is right has always been the foundation for Leber Jeweler Inc. This traces back to my grandfather, who founded the company in 1921. I've tried to maintain that tradition as best I can. When I first started working full-time for the family business in the early 1990s, I began my path at the workbench under my father's tutelage, which gave me the actual hands-on experience in the craft of jewelry making. It triggered my natural curiosity to question not only where did the materials we use come from, but how were they procured and if it was done responsibly.
What motivated you to sign the Golden Rules?
When my wife and I took over the company in 1999, Leber Jeweler Inc evolved into a business reflective of who we were as individuals, both as designers with fine arts backgrounds as well as human rights and environmental advocates. Simply put, we wanted our jewelry to be a paradigm for what jewelry can and should be; well designed, meticulously crafted, and socially responsible. As a result, the Earthwise Jewelry collection was born as the first line of fine jewelry to use 100% reclaimed gold, conflict-free Canadian diamonds, and fairly traded colored gemstones. At the root of what we do is our Social Responsibility Standards, which outline our criteria for the jewelry we craft and design in Chicago as well as for our business operations. A few years later, when Earthworks introduced the No Dirty Gold campaign and their Golden Rules, it was a natural fit with what we were already doing, so we were pleased to offer our support and are proud to be among the first signators.
How do you implement the Golden Rules in your day to day business?
As one of the first and oldest jewelry companies wholly committed to social responsibility, it is simply in our DNA. One shouldn't need to consult a set of rules to know right from wrong. I would say, the Golden Rules are best reflected in our longstanding commitment to not only offer fine jewelry that meets and often exceeds the ideals put forth in the standards, but also through our direct advocacy in Washington DC and internationally on issues related to the social and environmental issues that relate to the sourcing of gold, along with a broad number of other topics relating to the jewelry industry.
What would you say to other retailers who might be interested in joining our campaign?
Our industry has an opportunity to take positive steps that can help shift the tide in the right direction. As jewelers, we bear a collective responsibility to our clients and those whose land and labor provides the materials we use in the products we sell, in addition to a responsibility we all share to the earth itself. The No Dirty Gold campaign's Golden Rules provide a very good baseline for companies taking the first steps into responsible sourcing who may not have a strong enough working knowledge of these critical issues to establish standards on their own. In addition, even for companies that may have chosen to establish their own company guidelines, the Golden Rules offers a set of common rules we can all agree are both reasonable and necessary. By joining with Earthworks in their efforts, you are showing your company is willing to be part of the solution.