OpEd | 5 critical challenges facing the global gold supply-chain during COVID-19 and implications for its economic recovery

The Gold Jewellery Industry in the Pandemic: Now & Future

Gold jewellery accounts for nearly 60% of global gold demand. As part of LBMA’s Virtual Summit Series, gold industry experts and influencers reviewed the impact of COVID-19 on the gold jewellery supply chain, how the industry will be affected in the future, and how it can deal with the growing pressure to support artisanal gold mining.

“What is the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Gold industry?” This was the question posed to a panel of industry experts by Philip Olden, host and moderator of the webinar for the LBMA, and the LBMA during the LBMA Responsible Sourcing & Technology Virtual Summit 2020.

"Jewellery retail in general, is one of the worst affected of consumer goods categories."

Philip Olden, host and moderator of the webinar for the LBMA Tweet

RJC Executive Director Iris van der Veken, led the discussion highlighting three critical learnings from this period. Mark Hanna from the Richline Group, shared an alternative perspective including a comparison between the past three global economic recessions. Rounding out the discussion Neil Harby from the LBMA, reaffirmed industry’s commitment to standards and innovation in responsible global supply chains.

Here are 5 of the critical challenges facing the global gold supply-chain during COVID-19 and implications for its economic recovery.

1. Business cannot do this alone

We are facing unprecedented circumstances, and there is a lot of uncertainty. Companies are trying to stay afloat – looking after their people, upholding their standards and trying to pay their suppliers. Governments around the world will need to step in to provide support over both the short and long term.

"We need immediate action from governments, NGOs and industry to protect the most vulnerable, like artisinal scale mining."

Iris Van der Veken, Responsible Jewellery Council Tweet
2. Changing consumer expectations

Even before the outbreak of covid-19, we saw consumers looking for responsibly made products, and demanding a shift from ‘do no harm’ to ‘do good.’ As we start to emerge from the pandemic, it is becoming even more clear that responsible, sustainable business practices provide the only path to building and maintaining business resilience. At the RJC, we are actively supporting our members in their efforts to meet these changing expectations.

"What can you, as an organisation, do beyond compliance and in collaboration with others, becuase supply chains are global and interconnected."

Iris Van der Veken, Responsible Jewellery Council Tweet
3. 'Business as usual' is not an option.

We believe that everyone in the jewellery and watch supply chain has to move beyond compliance. No company is an island, so the RJC is focused on forging partnerships that support the continuous, positive transformation of supply chains. In the first instance, responding to the pandemic, we have changed our audit measures to help RJC members uphold their responsible practices, and we will work hard to continue to transform and evolve to help maintain standards over the medium and long term and will have to take bold economic decisions to bring confidence back to the consumer.

"If we don't have a consumer, there is no market."

Iris Van der Veken, Responsible Jewellery Council Tweet
4. 'V' is for vaccine

Mark Hanna from the Richline Group, made the point that it has become clear to us and consumers that we aren’t going to go back to exactly how things were before. In the last recession, we did see a V shaped recovery – the gold demand and US jewellery market emerged with a dramatic increase in consumer expenditure. This time, things look like they will be different; “V needs to be for vaccine in this recovery,” said Mark. We have had numerous recessions, some worse than others for our industry but if we look at the growth over the past 60 years, it has been onward and upward. The health crisis does make things different this time, but I think we will manage to recover well once again. We have to work together to understand the next generation of our industry.

"V needs to be for vaccine in this recovery."

5. This is not an excuse to drop standards.

Neil Harby, from the LBMA clearly outlined the implications for the development of conflict mineral regulation in the EU – and reiterated the need for the industry to remain focused on setting and maintaining the highest standards despite the current crisis. He highlighted the need for innovation, finding new ways to ensure standards are upheld, including virtual audits.

"This is not an excuse to drop standards."

A renewed commitment to responsible jewellery

All speakers reinforced the need to include artisanal miners in our supply chains, covered by our standards. We believe in the credibility of standards like Fairmined, and have aligned our standards and certification with their requirements. The jewellery industry is one of beauty and emotions so being able to demonstrate that the people working in the production of jewellery are treated well and fairly is absolutely critical.

At the RJC, we are committed to our vision of a responsible world-wide supply chain that promotes trust in the global jewellery and watch industry. Our 1,250+ members are helping to transform supply chains to be more responsible and sustainable – and we will continue to work to catalyze partnerships, underpin trust in the global jewellery and watch industry and secure a future that can be treasured for generations to come. Working with the LBMA to harmonise our standards is one example of our approach to partnerships to transform the jewellery supply chain.

LBMA Responsible Sourcing Summit 2020