Properly precious metals, the US penal problem and tackling Asian pollution through philanthropy

Ethical metals for small jewellers

The Fairtrade Foundation has launched an initiative to encourage and facilitate smaller jewellers and artisans to use ethically sourced precious metals in their craft.
The Goldsmiths Registration Scheme, the most significant development in ethical sourcing in the UK since the launch of Fairtrade Gold in 2011, offers a unique way for small jewellers, goldsmiths and silversmiths to use ethically sourced materials. It allows them to sign up for free and buy certified Fairtrade metals in a semi-finished form, such as sheet, wire or tube-casting grain.

“Small jewellers are a creative part of the market who make personalised pieces. They need to differentiate themselves from cheap, high street chains,” says Alan Frampton, director at independent ethical jewellers Cred Jewellery. “They have been the drivers in changing the supply chain to have known source materials.”
Reena Agarwal, commercial account manager for Fairtrade Gold, says the vast majority of the jewellery trade rests in the hands of small jewellers. “Collectively small jewellers have the power to transform the national market through this scheme, so we are encouraging goldsmiths to register and help Fairtrade to transform the lives of marginalised artisanal and small-scale miners through the power of their creativity,” says Agarwal.

Frampton agrees, saying he believes it will become the default position for small jewellers in the next couple of years.

In the long run, the Fairtrade Association hopes small jewellers and goldsmiths around the world will eventually become full licence holders, allowing them to stamp their jewellery with the Fairtrade stamp. In the interim, the small jewellers and goldsmiths scheme is a great way for jewellers in the UK to use Fairtrade certified metals, and directly benefits the artisanal and small-scale miners and their communities.

Chinese philanthropy steps up

In a move set to raise the bar for corporate philanthropy in Asia, the founders of Asia’s largest online retailer,, have set up two personal philanthropic trusts. Together the trusts will receive share options amounting to nearly 2% of the company’s equity. Founders Joe Tsai and Jack Ma have not put a value on the funds, but with analysts valuing the company at as much as $150bn, it puts the combined value of the funds at about $3bn.

The $3bn figure represents a massive jump from the $1bn donated to charity by China’s 100 biggest philanthropists in 2013.

The funds will go towards tackling China’s environmental and social woes, namely rampant pollution caused by the country’s coal industry and excessive traffic pollution. “I am extremely focused on the environment, medical care and education in China,” says Ma. Because of the country’s disastrous air pollution, between 350,000 and 500,000 Chinese die prematurely every year.

The US ‘a nation behind bars’

A recent report by human rights NGO Human Rights Watch is calling for reform within the US criminal justice system. HRW’s recent report – Nation Behind Bars: A Human Rights Solution – found that far too many US laws violate basic principles of justice by requiring disproportionately severe punishment, in what the NGO believes to be an excessively harsh criminal justice system.

Jamie Fellner, co-author of the report and senior adviser to the US programme at HRW, says that fair and prudent punishment is not only a core human right, but also a core principle of American justice that has been neglected far too long. “The land of the free has become a country of prisons,” Fellner says, explaining that several US laws requiring penalties that are far longer than necessary to meet the purpose of punishment have given the US the world’s highest reported rate of incarceration.

The report details that 30-odd years of harsh sentencing laws have left the US with over 2.2 million men and women behind bars. “Too many men and women are serving harsh prison sentences for non-violent and often minor crimes,” Fellner says. As a result of widespread incarceration and an exceedingly punitive approach, there is growing support for criminal law reform.

The report outlines several recommendations around the prudent use of criminal sanctions, fair punishment, and equal protection laws. These include ensuring that the severity of the punishment does not exceed the gravity of the crime, ensuring that minors are not subjected to the same criminal procedures and sanctions as adults, and ending criminal sanctions for possession of illegal drugs for personal use.

“There is growing national recognition that disproportionately harsh laws are not needed to protect public safety and to hold offenders accountable for their crimes. To the contrary, community wellbeing is best served by fair laws and just sentences,” Fellner concludes. 

ethically sourced materials  Fairtrade Foundation  Human rights  jewellery  philanthropy  precious metals  US prisons 

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