How the jewelry business is cleaning up its green vocabulary.

Avoiding baseless claims and misused terms is a big task when it comes to corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the jewelry world, but it is important. Leaving it undone can mislead consumers and cause them to buy the wrong products.

The seriousness of the problem is highlighted by a study conducted by the European Union Commission in 2020. 53% of green claims contained vague, misleading or unfounded information, 40% of claims had no supporting evidence, and half of all green labels had weak or non-existent evidence. The trade body also reports that the European Union is home to 230 sustainability labels and 100 green energy labels, all with very different levels of transparency.

“Consumers today are looking for purpose and are particularly concerned about the social and environmental impact of their purchases,” said Iris van der Veeken, executive director of the Watch & Jewelery Initiative 2030 (WJI 2030), which was founded in spring 2022. It is key when claims are made that they are reliable, and this requires stronger collaboration across the value chain than ever before.

Language issue

To combat these problems, government and jewelry trade groups in the U.S. and Europe are trying to standardize some definitions and strengthen their guidelines.

For starters, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) late last year encouraged industries to submit edits to their green guidelines, with the goal of preventing marketers — in the jewelry sector and elsewhere — from making misleading environmental claims.

Last March, the European Commission proposed requirements to verify the claims companies make – including verification by an accredited verifier – and “new rules on environmental labeling methods to ensure they are robust, transparent and reliable”. Veken.

The Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC) is also making efforts to create trust-building supply chain standards, while WJI 2030 focuses on climate resilience, conserving resources and promoting inclusivity.

On the language front, Green Guides’ feedback included a request from the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) to ban the use of the word “recycled” when referring to recycled diamonds, gemstones and precious metals, and to ban phrases like “never mined.” ” or “mineral-free” in relation to such materials.

Both AGTA and the Cultured Pearl Association of America (CPAA) have asked the FTC to define “sustainability” – a previously undefined term – as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” In the year In 1987, the United Nations’ Brundtland Commission on Sustainable Development. The CPAA also called for the definition to include the “three pillars” from the Brundtland Report – economic viability, environmental protection and social equity.


Of course, major changes can be delayed into implementation, but failure to do so can lead to legal action. “The FTC can prosecute a business for not complying with the notification requirements set forth in the FTC Act [that gave the body its mandate]” says Sarah Yod, Deputy General Counsel, Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC). “The National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau also reviews advertising requests and makes enforcement recommendations in the self-regulatory process.”

For that and others, having standardized language and rules — and adhering to them — is in the best interests of all businesses.


There may not be uniform definitions for many green terms in jewelry, but the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has its own definitions for selected words and phrases. Johanna Levy, vice president of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) programs, shares some here.

Sustainability: The practice of conducting business in a way that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This follows the 1987 United Nations definition of “sustainability”.

Ethical (Ethically Sourced): Ethical source focuses on transparency, fair wages and safe working conditions in line with local and international regulations and recommendations, and in a way that shows respect for local communities.

Recycled: Works in a circular way where materials are reused or recycled, such as when GIA experts verify jewelry items for sale on eBay.

Responsible: conduct business responsibly and ethically.

Conflict-free: Clear internal practices ensure gems comply with relevant laws, regulations and industry protocols faced by the GIA and the Kimberley Process for diamonds.

Carbon-neutral: Achieving a net zero carbon footprint by balancing carbon emissions with proportionate carbon removal. At GIA, we explore projects that use automation to reduce our global footprint and align climate targets with the Paris Climate Agreement.

Main image: (left to right) Iris van der Veken and Johanna Levy. (Photograph by Dmitri Prum; Gemological Institute of America)

This article is from GIA. Pay attention to sustainability Special report. See other articles here.

Rapaport: Business Means Information

Stay up to date with our free news and analysis about the diamond and jewelry industry.

Leave a Comment