Jewelry line faced with criticisms

Walmart’s existing jewelry line, ‘Love, Earth’, claims that its production processes meet the corporation’s standards and criteria for ethical sourcing. However, an article published by Broward Palm Beach New Times reveals otherwise. Written by Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, her article refutes the multinational retail corporation’s claims of its jewelry line being “affordable, quality jewelry made from gold and silver that are traceable and from mines that maintain leading environmental and social standards”.

Extract from “Walmart’s ‘Love, Earth’ Jewelry Line Doesn’t Live Up to Green Promises”:

A few blocks from the jewelry factory’s entrance in La PazBolivia, Julia and Maria look over their shoulders to see if the night guards are watching. The two young Aymara Indian women shiver in the cold night air and lower their heads as they speak.

“It’s a horrible experience, but it’s what I have to do to feed my kids,” says Julia, a 20-something mother of two. “Supervisors yell at us constantly, and if we don’t finish our work quickly enough, we are told: ‘The doors are open for you to go.’ ”

Says Maria: “There isn’t even soap or adequate masks to protect from the dust.” Their list goes on — insufficient pay, strip searches upon exiting, discouragement from attending night school because it would interfere with work.

Barely a few moments have gone by and they are nervously shifting in place. After another over-the-shoulder glance, Julia’s slightly widened eyes say, “We’ve got to go.” Courage spent, they pull their jackets tighter against the chilly wind and walk off toward their homes in the impoverished neighboring city of El Alto.

The two women don’t know it, but thousands of miles away, their daily labor is sold by South Florida-based jewelry manufacturer Aurafin under the guise of “responsible sourcing.” (Names of current and former Aurafin factory workers have been changed to avoid retribution.) In 2008, Aurafin teamed up with Walmart, and the largest retailer on Earth sells this so-called responsibly sourced jewelry under a product line named Love, Earth. Aurafin and Walmart say the jewelry is made in conditions that favor the workers and the environment, a claim contradicted by tales from current and former workers.

Love, Earth’s gold comes from U.S. mines no more environmentally friendly than other mining operations, which critics say are responsible for widespread pollution. The precious metal’s journey then goes to Bolivia, where Maria and Julia and thousands of other workers toil — many in conditions much worse than the two women’s — for the benefit of the U.S. companies. While Love, Earth may shine like gold, that’s only varnish. Underneath, its anatomy is greenwash: The product is no better for the environment — or the people who manufacture it — than a standard piece of jewelry.

Read the rest of the five-page article here.

Sweatshops

Often, large multi-national companies own factories overseas in order to meet large consumer demands. Most of such factories are situated in third-world countries, and therefore low production costs are the main incentives for such companies. Although many of these factories may appear to abide by labor laws, those who work for their subcontractors face poor working conditions, child labor, low wages, and the overall breach of workers’ rights. Such an environment is commonly referred to as a ‘sweatshop’. The following is an extract from Ian Dixon’s website, ‘The Apparel Truth’, which explains the short film that he had produced based on his travels to sweatshops in Cambodia and India:

In spite of my suspicions, what I unearthed still surprised me. At first, I had only a rough idea of what I was doing, but through discussions with locals (at hotels, airports, in the street, with cab drives, anyone and everyone, in fact) I began to hear some unpleasant facts from factory workers and their relatives…From a combination of filming (both openly and under cover) and interviews with workers, their supervisors, rights campaigners and union members, I built up a disturbing sense of the inhumanity ordinary people are made to endure.

You can watch his film here:

You can join Ian in his campaign at ‘The Apparel Truth’ here.

If you have more time to spare, here is a longer documentary that similarly reveals the true nature of sweatshops in developing countries. In addition, H&M and several other Swedish multi-national companies also make their responses to this issue.

You can watch it here:

Toxic Jewellery

Have you ever wondered why some jewellery at your local retail stores are being sold at very cheap and affordable prices (besides the fact that they are mass produced, of course!)? Often, such jewellery are made from chemicals and cheap materials that make production fast and easy.

According to HealthyStuff.org, their studies have shown that many types of cheap and mass produced jewellery tend to contain harmful chemicals such as lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury and bromine and chlorine (PVC). Exposure to these toxins can contribute to allergies and long-term health impacts such as birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity and cancer. Young children, especially, are placed at a higher risk. When they put such items into their mouths, they are increasing their chances of ingesting the toxins.

Buying cheap jewellery may help you to save some money but the toxins and their health impacts are irreversible.

Quick tip: To avoid buying jewellery that are made from lead or nickel (they can cause poisoning and allergic reactions respectively), look out for terms such as ‘lead-free’, ‘nickel-free’ and ‘hypoallergenic’ on their labels.

To learn more about the findings from HealthyStuff.org, you can watch their report here: