Majors

RJC Executive Director Resigns, Major Companies Exit Over Russia Inaction

MajorsMar 30, 2022

RJC Executive Director Resigns, Major Companies Exit Over Russia Inaction

Iris Van der Veken has quit while Pandora and Richemont are leaving RJC, citing the council’s soft stance on Russian companies.

Pandora and Richemont announced Wednesday that they have left the Responsible Jewellery Council in protest of the organization’s inaction on Russia, and RJC’s own executive director has stepped down for the same reason.
New York—Pandora and Richemont are leaving the Responsible Jewellery Council, the companies announced Wednesday morning, citing the organization’s refusal to cut ties with Russian companies.

Also on Wednesday, sources confirmed to National Jeweler that RJC Executive Director Iris Van der Veken has resigned over the organization’s handling of Russian diamond giant Alrosa’s membership.

Earlier this month, Alrosa voluntarily stepped down as vice chair of RJC, temporarily leaving the board of directors, but remains a certified member of the Responsible Jewellery Council, according to the organization’s website.

In a press release, Pandora said it had requested RJC suspend Russian companies’ memberships and responsible business certifications and urge its members to stop doing business with Russia, but the RJC did not oblige.

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“We are shocked and saddened by the unprovoked attack on Ukraine, and our thoughts go to the people of Ukraine, who are victims of this senseless act of military aggression,” said Pandora CEO Alexander Lacik.

“The war requires all businesses to act with the utmost responsibility regarding any interactions or business dealings with Russia and Belarus. Pandora cannot in good faith be a member of an association that does not share our values.”

When asked about Pandora's exit and the company's requests in regard to Russia and Russian member companies, RJC sent the following statement to National Jeweler.

RJC said its board of directors has begun an independent, third-party legal assessment in regard to Alrosa’s membership status.

“This process was commenced to consider the status of Alrosa as an RJC member, to ensure that the appropriate action taken, [and] was done so respecting the principles of natural justice and importantly that it was within the powers of the board,” said RJC Chair David Bouffard.

Bouffard added RJC has to act in line with its constitutional and statutory duties and “discharge its responsibilities in good faith.”

“The RJC appreciates that the pace of this process may be frustrating, but this is an unprecedented situation, which is constantly changing and requires that the time be taken, to ensure that due process is followed as exhaustively as possible. It will however be concluded imminently,” said Bouffard.

Pandora has been a member of the trade organization for 12 years.

As of Feb. 24, Pandora said it suspended all business with Russia and Belarus, and directed its suppliers and business partners not to source raw materials, products or services—directly or indirectly—from the two countries.

Richemont, the luxury conglomerate behind Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, has also left RJC, according to a Reuters report.

Chief Financial Officer Burkhart Grund made a statement to reporters at the Watches & Wonders show currently happening in Geneva.

“We’re not trying to make a statement per se; we’re trying to uphold the very high standards we’ve been shaping over [the] last 15 years. If RJC cannot uphold [the] highest of standards, then we cannot be part of that. That’s why we stepped down,” said Grund.

Editor's note: This story was updated post-publication to include a statement from RJC.

Lenore Fedowis the associate editor, news at National Jeweler, covering the retail beat and the business side of jewelry.

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