Last night’s Dispatches programme on gold on Channel 4 was a prime example of an outsider misunderstanding an industry.
Deirdre Bounds may know something about ethical travel, but she knows nothing about the jewellery industry. Within the first 10 minutes of the programme she asserted that the diamond issue had already been sorted. Anyone who has been in this industry five minutes (which as a relative newbie is probably true of myself) knows that the gemstone supply chain is even more convoluted than the gold one.
Then she spends the next half hour showing children down a mine and saying the supply chain needs to be sorted out.
Only after 45 minutes does she acknowledge that the jewellery industry may already know that not all gold comes from well-run safety conscious mines, which is why people such Greg Valerio and Oro Verde have been campaigning for fairtrade, fair mined gold. This campaign saw its first victory on February 14 when the first gold bars from the first certified mine (La Victoria SA Mining Enterprise in Peru, in case you’re interested Deirdre) were made available to companies that Ms Bounds referred to as “small independent retailers”. Such as Stephen Webster?
Bounds made “sorting out the supply chain” sound like something that could be done in an afternoon if only people put their minds to it and, throughout the programme, made it looks as though the industry was deliberately misleading the consumer.
No one is saying there shouldn’t be more information out there about where companies get their gold from, but the truth is, a lot of them don’t know. Ignorance isn’t an excuse and we do need to do something about some forms of artisanal mining but, as anyone who has been following the story of fair-trade fair-mined gold knows, it takes time.
The industry is well aware that there is an issue with the supply of gold, but it is making a decision, by working with Fairtrade, to do things properly but making sure that those who use ethical gold know its provenance.
We’re getting there and it would have been better if Deirdre Bounds had looked at the positive steps the industry is making rather than shouting nonsense from the top of a double-decker bus.