A RETAILER’S APPROACH TO CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY
AND COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT ENCOMPASSING THE GLOBE
Talk about community to jewelry retailers nowadays, and the perspective you’ll encounter will be inevitably broad. Acutely attuned to the requirements and sentiments of their own customers and consumer base, they are increasingly conscious that they also serve the interests of those responsible for producing the precious materials and items sold in their stores.
“[W]e we take responsibility wherever we have an impact,” wrote the Signet CEO, Virginia C. Drosos (left), in Signet’s most recent Corporate Social Responsibility Report.
And when the company is Signet Jewelers Limited, the world’s largest diamond jewelry retailer, the concept of community encompasses the globe. The firm operates approximately 3,300 stores in the United States, Canada, Ireland and the British Channel Islands, primarily under the name brands of Kay Jewelers, Zales, Jared, H.Samuel, Ernest Jones, Peoples Jewellers and Piercing Pagoda. Its online outlet is JamesAllen.com. It also has a diamond liaison office in India, a diamond cutting plant in Botswana and a technology center in Israel.
“Our sphere of influence goes beyond just the places we do business, and we recognize that our people, values and culture require that we take responsibility wherever we have an impact,” wrote the Signet CEO, Virginia C. Drosos, in the company’s most recent Corporate Social Responsibility Report, released last year.
Signet clearly has impact, consciously leveraging its considerable market reach to raise the bar on minimum responsible sourcing standards being applied in the jewelry sector. Its open-source Signet Responsible Sourcing Protocol (SRSP), which must be applied by companies that supply it, covers gold, silver, platinum group metals, diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds, as well as the 3Ts (tin, tungsten and tantalum). In 2018, a special section on human rights was added, developed in line with the Responsible Jewellery Council’s (RJC) Code of Practices.
The timeline for the development of the Signet Responsible Sourcing Protocol (SRSP), which now covers gold, silver, platinum group metals, diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds, as well as 3Ts (tin, tungsten and tantalum).
Signet was one of the 14 founding members of the RJC, when it was established in 2005, and the company’s Vice President of Corporate Affairs, David Bouffard, currently serves as its Chairman. By 2019 more than 260 Signet suppliers were RJC members, representing 94.2 percent of all Signet jewelry purchases by value.
Signet has helped fund DDI’s Sending Schools to Kids program, which provides mobile educational opportunities to children living artisanal mining areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Responsible sourcing practices has been a primary focus, but capacity-building in the mining regions has also garnered Signet’s attention. The company has been a strong supporter of the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI), since it was founded in 2005 to transform the artisanal and small-scale diamond mining industries in Africa into economically viable, and socially and environmentally responsible business sectors.
Signet has helped fund DDI’s Sending Schools to Kids program, a project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which is designed to provide educational opportunities to children living in some of the most impoverished regions of the world. Often lacking access to government educational services, many are forced to travel long distances along precarious trails to reach the closest school. As a consequence, they are inclined to drop out and go to work in the mines with their parents.
The goal of Sending Schools to Kids was to train teachers and send them into mining communities. DDI provided classrooms, furniture, uniforms, school materials and meals to the students, as well as clothing and materials to teachers. At the end of the first phase of the program, 100 percent of the students involved had passed their national exams and qualified for entry into high school.
In the communities where its stores are located, Signet’s approach has been to support local charities and services providers, with a long-term goal of raising annual contributions to a level where they are equal to 1 percent of the company’s pre-tax earnings.
The campus of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Since 1999, Signet has provided more than $71 million worth of funding to the institution, which treats sick children without charging for their care.
Much of the attention has gone to supporting hospitals and support foundations catering to sick children, in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland. Among the largest of these is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a pediatric treatment and research facility focusing on children’s catastrophic diseases, and in particularly leukemia and other cancers. Located in Memphis, Tennessee, patients are not charged for their care. Providing $5.4 million in support in 2019, Signet has funded St Jude’s to the tune of more $71 million since 1999.
“We have propagated a set of core values within Signet,” said David Bouffard, “which are people first, leading bravely, owning up to accountability, integrity and continuous improvement, and earning the trust of our customers and building relationships with them. In this content, Corporate Social Responsibility is not simply an altruistic activity. Strong and sustainable businesses can only be built on strong and sustainable societies.”