Responsible Manufacturing In the Jewelry Industry

married manTina Wojtkielo Snyder’s article on responsible manufacturing (“Doing the Right Thing,” Sept. ’09) is a refreshing perspective on the realities of bringing product to market in a culture that oversimplifies some very important issues.

Buzzwords like Green, Recycled, and Made in America can represent the very essence of their definitions, or they can fuel the spin behind the marketing Ponzi schemes that seem to be so prevalent in our society.

Picture the elderly woman hurting for money, selling her gold jewelry to the stranger behind a table set up at a hotel. He pays her half of what it is worth. That gold can end up at a refiner who can claim it as recycled or green.

Unfortunately, the motivation and result here might not be the shade of green you had in mind.

Kudos to Johnson Matthey’s concept of responsible manufacturing. Pretending that we can maintain the world’s precious metal requirements with all recycled metal is misleading.

Product that is produced from recycled material just shifts the freshly mined material to another product or another industry. In effect, pretending that we are green without considering our overall demands for consumption would be taking our eyes off the ball.

Mining will continue, and it is critical to the people and economies of those places with the resources. I’ve been to South Africa. I’ve gone down in an Anglo Platinum mine and witnessed how critically important the mines are to the people there. South Africa’s natural resources create jobs, help feed the hungry, and supply some of the money that is necessary for health care.

South Africans need to be able to benefit from their natural resources and they need to be able to use them in a way that neutrally impacts the environment. By holding Anglo Platinum to a high standard, JM is taking the more realistic approach of social and environmental responsibility.

I advocate leaving a greener earth for my children, for our future. I realize that all stages of production and environmental (including human) impact need to be considered to get it right. Like lab grown diamonds, responsible manufacturing as defined by JM, offers a holistic, long-term solution.

If we truly embrace being green, the job ahead will be a multi-generational project. In the long term, responsible manufacturing hurts no one, helps many, and must drive the process we need to manage the world’s natural resources in a respectful way.