London-headquartered Gemfields, which owns the Kagem emerald mine, in Zambia, and the Montepuez ruby mine, in Mozambique, has become the first gemstone company in the world to be recognised as a corporate member by the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPSHR).
The principles are a globally recognised initiative by governments, companies and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) to confront human rights abuses and violations, and have become the common standard implemented across a variety of industries, guiding companies on how to conduct their security operations while at the same time respecting human rights.
“We are delighted that, after a long, thorough process, Gemfields has been acknowledged by the VPSHR members, and has become the first pure gemstone mining company to have been accepted as a corporate member.
The VPSHR represents an important space for governments, NGOs and corporates to share and challenge each other on how to improve security and human rights best practice and we welcome the opportunity to learn from these knowledgeable peers, as well as share our own experiences,” says Gemfields sustainability, policy and risk director Jack Cunningham.
As a supplier of responsibly sourced coloured gemstones, Gemfields highlights that it has always been committed to transparency and industry-leading practices across its operations, and to protecting and positively impacting the communities around its mines in Africa, which supply the majority of the world’s rough rubies and emeralds.
“This makes the company a natural fit with the ethos of the VPSHR,” it posits.
Gemfields also considers it as a sign of the continuous improvements that the company has made to its operations since 2015.
The VPSHR was founded in 2000 and developed over time, initially for the extractive and energy sectors, based on “joint effort for collective gain”.
Through constructive dialogues, VPSHR members engage in mutual learning and problem-solving and can devise common approaches to issues, to make a long-lasting impact on international human rights.
Less experienced members can learn from those more well-versed in security and human rights issues.
The three-pillar approach of the VPSHR, involving governments, companies and NGOs, acknowledges that, while the responsibility to protect human rights lies with governments, often companies and NGOs find themselves operating in complex environments with little guidance on the ground regarding how to respect human rights.
Businesses have a duty to avoid harming people and to address any adverse impacts they may have on the communities in which they operate.
One of the main contributions of the VPSHR is to provide well-researched criterion for a risk assessment that should be carried out before work begins.