The Checkout

Cleaning Up Dirty Gold

Ylan Mui

For years, mining reform advocacy group Earthworks called on Wal-Mart to endorse its No Dirty Gold campaign and promise to adhere to several principles, including respecting human rights, cleaning up mine sites and not forcing communities off their land. The group never got a response -- except once, from the communications department -- from the company that sells more jewelry than any other retailer in the United States.

That is, not until 2006, after Wal-Mart had embarked on its sustainability makeover. In February 2007, it publicly joined the No Dirty Gold campaign. The other day, this press release with this e-mail pops up in my inbox: "Wal-Mart partners with Conservation International on new sustainable jewelry criteria."

Wal-Mart worked with CI to create an entirely a new line of jewelry called "Love, Earth" that meets a new set of environmental and social standards. By 2010, Wal-Marts hopes at least 10 percent of its jewelry will meet those benchmarks. Eventually, the retailer says, all of it will.

The biggest difference that shoppers will probably notice is that each piece of jewelry comes with a batch number that allows them to trace their purchase back to the mine. I haven't bought any Love, Earth jewelry yet (Hmmm, can I expense that?) to try it out, but the site also provides a handy flow chart of production.

There are two collections, one in 10 karat gold and sterling silver sold in Wal-Mart and the other in 14 karat gold and sterling silver at its Sam's Club warehouse division. Both collections include bangles, pendants and earrings with appropriately earth-y themes, like starfish and a "tree of life."

It's not the only thing that Wal-Mart is working with NGOs on. It also announced Monday that it is joining the global forest and trade network of the World Wildlife Federation, phasing out illegal and unwanted wood sources from its supply chain and increasing the proportion of wood products from credibly certified sources for U.S. stores. And read my story for more information on what Wal-Mart and other retailers are doing with aquaculture.

Looks like sustainability's buzz isn't fading any time soon.

By Ylan Mui |  July 17, 2008; 7:04 AM ET Consumer Alerts , Consumer News , Ylan Mui
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

I stopped listening to any of the anti-(fill in name here) advocacy groups years ago. They are nothing but self centered propaganda anti growth people.

Posted by: Robert G | July 21, 2008 8:19 AM

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