Rio Tinto chosen to supply Wal-Mart with responsibly produced jewelry

Rio Tinto has been chosen by Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, to provide gold and silver for fully traceable, responsibly-produced jewellery. The partnership is part of a Wal-Mart initiative to achieve 100% traceability for all of the gold and silver jewellery sold at its stores. Wal-Mart’s Love, Earth® jewelry collection will be produced with 100% traceable gold and silver mined and manufactured based on industry-leading criteria. The project will initially focus on gold and silver jewellery using metal from Rio Tinto’s Kennecott Utah Copper (KUC) Bingham Canyon mine in Utah. The jewellery will be sold at Wal-Mart stores and Sam’s Club locations, and online. This partnership marks a shift in how Wal-Mart jewellery is produced and sold, and it will give customers the ability to trace their Love, Earth jewellery all the way back to the mine it came from by going online.

“We are impressed with Wal-Mart’s desire to become more sustainable and their efforts to proactively begin a relationship with us to help achieve their goals,” said Andrew Harding, President, Kennecott Utah Copper. “Companies like Rio Tinto and Wal-Mart have an opportunity to change the way products are manufactured and used to reduce impacts on the environment and local communities.”

“As the largest retailer of jewelry in the world, Wal-Mart is in a unique position to influence sustainable practices in the jewelry industry,” said Pam Mortensen, Vice President and Divisional Merchandise Manager for Wal-Mart. “With Love, Earth jewellery, we collaborated with partners like Rio Tinto who are at the forefront of sustainable business practices in the industry to bring an affordable and beautiful product to our customers.”

“Rio Tinto has shown real leadership and foresight in this groundbreaking jewellery initiative,” said Dr. Assheton Stewart Carter, Senior Director of Business Policies and Practices at Conservation International (CI). “We believe that these impressive efforts  – on the part of Rio Tinto, Wal-Mart and its other partners – are a positive first step for creating a new industry standard.”

Rio Tinto has also been working with CI on other initiatives. In 2007, the two signed a relationship agreement to cover CI’s global level work on integrating biodiversity considerations into the company’s environmental management systems.

Other suppliers in the Wal-Mart responsible jewelry initiative are Newmont Mining and Aurafin, a Florida-based jewellery manufacturer.

Rio Tinto says it “is committed to contributing to sustainable development, not just because it is the right, responsible and ethical approach to managing the earth’s natural resources and to safeguarding the health of the planet for future generations, but because it also makes sound business sense. By earning a good reputation for care of the environment and contribution to social improvement and the economic conditions of local communities within a strong governance structure, Rio Tinto can gain improved access to land, people and capital, the three critical resources on which the company’s business success is built.”