What are the Environment and Social Impacts of Jewellery?
Even the simplest of gold bands involves processes that can span continents, making traceability one of the toughest challenges the jewellery industry is facing in its effort to become more sustainable and environmentally concious.
The environmental damage caused by mining precious metals is well documented. Mining practices include stripping the surface soil and using chemicals can cause soil erosion, loss of biodiversity and contamination of soil and both ground and surface water. The use of mercury and cyanide in gold extraction is harmful to plant and animal life. This happens even when fairly stringent environmental regulations are followed, as they are in Australia.
The health impact of gem production and processing on laborers is also significant.
Once the issues have been identified, the impediments to resolving those issues must be recognized. Each colored stone type comes with its own unique set of circumstances, and a commitment to sustainable practices calls for patience, steady financial resources, and an understanding of the local community’s culture.
With consumer interests developing alongside an environment of heightened scrutiny over responsible practices, both new and established gem suppliers are examining their relationships to the mining, cutting, and production sectors. Some industry leaders have long been concerned with corporate social responsibility, yet a combination of public awareness and the desire to self-govern the industry rather than be subjected to top-down legislation has been the greatest motivation to change.
So being acquainted with the basics of the general environmental and sustainability factors, and understanding that they are complex and nothing is clear-cut is important for consumers.