“Looking to secure supply chain manager sourcing? One of the things that are really important to ask our vendors is, what do you know about the labor conditions in which people work and making sure that the companies that you work with are all responsible and that they provide responsible working conditions.”
Welcome to Thrive by Design, the podcast for ambitious independent jewelry brands, looking to profit from their products, get ready to make more and sell more doing what you love, without spending every single waking minute doing it. Hey, and if you're a creative fashion or product-based business, I want to welcome you to the show. I'll be dropping big tips on launching, growing, and scaling your business. Spend more of your precious time using your creativity to make you ready. All right, let's do this.
Tracy: Welcome to the Thrive by Design podcast episode 265. Hey there, it's Tracy Matthews, Chief Visionary officer over at Flourish and Thrive Academy, and I am the host of the Thrive by Design podcast and I'm excited to be here, I have a very special guest. Today I'm going to be speaking with Brandee Dallow, the Responsible Jewelry Council, and I've known brandy for years, you're going to hear a little bit more about how we met in the episode. But one of the reasons why I wanted to bring this episode in now in fact, we actually recorded this about six or eight months ago. And because COVID hit and so much has changed this year, we ended up pushing some podcast episodes back.
So you're gonna hear us reference the Chicago Responsible Jewelry conference, which actually happens in October every year. And we're going to also be sharing a little bit more about that in our community, as well because they're doing a virtual event this year, since people aren't meeting up in person at live events. So this is going to be a really awesome episode for anyone who is interested in having a company that can basically claim that they are responsible sourcing. Brandee is going to walk you through some of the best practices that the Responsible Jewelry Council membership kind of brings forward.
And it seems like perfect timing. A few months ago, I was asked by a related 5013C, Ethical Metalsmiths to advise them on marketing and strategy and moving forward and ethical metalsmiths is an amazing organization if you aren't a member of it, and you haven't checked out the RJC yet, either. I would really encourage you to go check out the show notes and check out both of those organizations. They're doing really amazing things in the jewelry world right now. So as I mentioned, we are going to have links for both of those organizations in the show notes and I really want you to consider going and checking out both the Responsible Jewelry Council and Ethical Metalsmiths memberships if you're interested in what you've heard on the show today.
So we'll have links to both of those amazing resources. They are just awesome companies to be involved with because the change starts just one step at a time, which is awesome. With that being said, the reason why I'm talking about Ethical Metalsmiths is recently they asked me to be on their board of advisors and many of the graduates from our Momentum program are actually on the board. Actually, graduates and current students, I should say, we have Niki Grand and Jennifer Dawes, who's one of the co-founders, Susan Crow, Susan Wheeler, who is also in charge of the Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference.
And I bring that up just because I know a lot of people have been working really hard to grow their business this year and you know, realizing over time as you're growing and growing and growing and you're so in the middle of your business, and then something like COVID happens or we have a really crazy interesting year all around and basically everything that you knew about business and how to operate in the world kind of gets flipped upside down and what you've been doing all this time to actually grow your business, like what got you to where you are now is not going to get you to that next step, because you're just working harder, you're working harder and keep growing.
This is something that I see as a huge problem with jewelry brands, designers, makers, and product businesses that we work with over the years is that they get to a certain point. And they're working really hard. And they keep trying to use the same strategy that they use for growth in the earlier stages in their business to get to that next stage. But what ends up happening is that doesn't really work. Because what got you here is not going to get you there. And so we started offering these free business accelerator audits recently. And the reason why we're doing this is that we realize a lot of people actually want help right now, but they're unsure number one, how to ask for it. They're also unsure like is the timing right, because things are so uncertain right now. And also, you know, I think that maybe adopting like a new strategy can sometimes feel really overwhelming.
And so people get a little bit paralyzed, they put things off till later. And when really like, if you want to be able to survive and thrive and keep your business growing for the long term, even in a time like this, when we're having a massive pandemic, and everything that you know about business has been turned upside down, we're kind of facing some really interesting times. This is the time you start laying that strong structure for what is to happen next. And so if you're interested, if you're kind of in that phase, where you feel a little bit like you're spinning your wheels, you're working harder than ever and things aren't necessarily changing as quickly or in the way that you'd like it to.
I'd love to invite you to apply to a free business accelerator audit and what we're going to do on those audits is we'll take a look at your three year vision. So this is sort of where you're going. The big picture of what you want to create in your business. I know for a lot of creative people this is really hard to do because you're living so in the moment but it is a really important exercise. Then we're going to take a look at your business as it is right now. And then we're going to uncover any blind spots or gaps or roadblocks that are actually preventing you from reaching your goals on your own. And so, after we do that, we're going to lay out a clear path forward of what needs to happen using our Desired Brand Effect methodology. And then we'll share a clear path forward of how we think we can help you implement that a lot faster.
Now, here's the thing. We can help everyone like we can help anyone who is starting up a business who's growing their business who's scaling their sales from multiple six to seven figures and beyond, online enough, we can certainly help everyone but we don't help everyone for a very specific reason because we want to help the people who are showing up for their business and actually doing the work. So if you are motivated and ambitious, and you're ready to move a lot faster, then perhaps this is for you. So I'd love to invite you to head on over to flourishthriveacademy.com/strategy and see if you qualify for a free business accelerator. audit right there.
All right before I invite in my guests Brandee Dallow, let me do a quick introduction of Brandee. Brandee is the North American representative for the Responsible Jewelry Council. And she was previously the director of North American diamond sales and marketing for Rio Tinto, the VP of Marketing for Julius Klein and a partner at JWT on the De Beers account. Dallow is the past president of the WJA, or the Women's Jewelry Association. All right, let's dive into this episode, I think you're gonna really enjoy it.
Tracy: I am thrilled to have my friend Brandee Dallow on the show. Brandee , welcome. Thank you so much for being here.
Brandee: I am so excited to be here. It's been a while. And I'm thrilled to be talking to you, Tracy.
Tracy: Yeah, I saw you last at the Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference a couple of months ago and I feel like so we were just talking in the pre show you started saying all that. Good stuff. I'm like, we got to start recording stuff.
Brandee: Yeah, Well
Tracy: Iwas trying to figure out like when we first met, I think it was through the WJA Women's Jewelry Association at some point. But then we got to know each other a couple years ago at the first or second Chicago Responsible Jewelry conference. So I'm excited to have you here because it's been a long time coming. We've talked about getting you on the show for a long time. And as we were talking about in the pre-interview, responsible sourcing and becoming in charge of the jewelry industry is becoming not only like a nice to have but more of a mandatory thing at this point. So I want to dive in and just absolutely more about your background and stuff like that. So thanks for being here. First and foremost.
Brandee: Thank you again. I'm thrilled.
Tracy: So you've done a lot in the jewelry industry. So tell me a little bit about your background.
Brandee: Well, interesting question and I will try as best as I can to make it short and sweet. But I guess what I always begin telling people is I don't come from the jewelry industry, family, I just happen to be one of those people who absolutely fell in love not only with this business, but with the people in it. And that's what's really kept me here. So my background was actually in broadcasting and journalism. That's what I went to college for. And, quite frankly, I wanted to be an on air, radio or television broadcaster. And basically what happened is I realized that I wasn't going to make enough money to even pay for gas.
And so when a former director of mine called me and said, Hey, I'm working in New York City now, because I was in Buffalo for college. I'm in New York City now. And I'm working for the New York State Attorney General, who at the time was Dennis Bako. And she said, Why don't you come work for me? So I said, Well, what do you know? And she said, Well, I'm a press secretary. I said, Well, what kind of skills do I need to be a Deputy Press Secretary? She said public relations. So I said, Oh, I took a couple of classes in college. Why not? I'll try it. And so I fell into public relations in that way.
And one thing led to another and after the Attorney General, and after a stint at Rubenstein public relations where I learned most of my skills, I got a call from a recruiter one day who literally I'll never forget the words were, hey, Brandee, would you like to work in diamonds? And honestly, I think I mean, what woman literally wouldn't say Yes, I'd be there, you know. And then they explained the job that was working at J. Walter Thompson, in the diamond group for the diamond Information Center, which was the public relations arm on behalf of De Beers in the United States. And it was a huge opportunity because for five years, I got to work on this amazing team filled with advertising specialists, marketing specialists, brand specialists, PR specialists. And of course, trade specialists, people who knew how to work with the industry and help them promote diamonds.
So I was there for five years, and it was probably, you know, the greatest beginning of a career in jewelry that I think anyone could possibly have. And my, I guess I shouldn't say it's my favorite, but I would say the most interesting side of that experience was definitely working on the conflict diamond issue. And this was before even people called it the Blood Diamond issue, because I got the opportunity to work with the world Diamond Council and other professionals, especially at the De Beers on ensuring that people knew that diamonds weren't always an issue, and that they were diamonds doing a lot of good across the world and especially in Africa.
So that was a humongous experience. From there. Yeah, it was absolutely amazing. And to this day, you know, I know that the industry often says that they feel a loss in De Beers is you know, you generic advertising and diamond is forever. And I think it's not just the loss of the diamond is forever campaign. It's really the loss of this group of 60 amazing people who really supported the industry like no other and it's marketing, it's image promotion. And that really hasn't happened in many many years. And but so, that was really a fantastic experience. And from there, I guess then that was the beginning of sort of getting stuck in diamonds and I went to work for one of De Beers's largest clients by value, which was a company called Julius Klein and got to hang out in the coolest most amazing diamond factory in New York in my opinion. Got to see the most incredible rare diamonds and diamond jewelry being made and being caught and polished.
And I was there for 11 years and my primary job there was to introduce Julius Klein as a brand to retailers, primarily independent retailers and help them understand the value of working in collaboration with a company like Julius Klein to market, the kinds of diamonds and jewelry that was in their showcases.
That was an awesome, yeah, that was an awesome experience. And, you know, it really combined a lot of learning for me because I didn't know the science of diamonds. I didn't know that, that was involved. I didn't know any of the logistics of what it takes to cut a diamond. And in that sense, the art of it. And, you know, to me, diamonds, gemstones, jewelry, one of the best things of working in this business is that we're always learning. And that job really taught me about the value of learning. And, and that's what I got to do a lot of and so we created A brand or we called it the brand behind the brand. And we increase their marketing at the retail level. We did a lot of retailer training to teach people how to sell diamonds and diamond jewelry.
And we really worked in partnership on promoting a stores independent jewelry brand. That was amazing. And then, again, sort of following my career path, which was, you know, one person asked me Do you want to do something and it came up again, I got another phone call from different recruiters who said, Hey, Rio Tinto, North America is looking for someone to head up their diamond sales and marketing office to display something that would interest you. And of course, to go back to the mining side, but in this time, work more specifically around smaller diamonds and therefore more mass product.
So working with the segments of the worlds, etc. was sort of a great opportunity. to round out my career in jewelry, and I was with Rio Tinto, working with their clients as well as we tellers to help sell diamond jewelry and market diamond jewelry for three years, until Unfortunately, they closed my office. And as I think most of the industry now knows they closed the office because they're now going to be closing down there. So, unfortunately, they closed that office. And it was at that time that I decided I would take a step back and really assess what I wanted to be when I grew up.
it was a little later in life than I guess one would expect to have that opportunity to reflect and see what you wanted to do next. is actually from me, and my career is the first time I ever got to stop. So what is it now? What do I want to do? And it turns out that that was the best thing that ever happened to me career wise. And I swear by that, and people often ask me, how did you end up here? And why or how do you feel? And my answer very organically has been on this journey of mine.
I finally realized after 20-25 years in the jewelry business, which I never expected to be in, why I came here, and it's to end up with the Responsible Jewelry Council, and working with the industry now to promote best business practices, secure supply chains, transparency and responsibility so that not only can we protect our industry to help it thrive in a new era.
Tracy: That's amazing. So tell us a little bit more about what the responsible jewelry council or as we're going to refer to it as the RJC A little bit more in depth about what they do.
Brandee: Sure, absolutely. So RJCis actually a standard setting and certification organization or vision is a responsible worldwide supply chain that promotes trust in the global fine jewelry and watch industry. And we do this by creating or delivering, I guess we can say what we call our product, which is the code of practices. Our code of practices is a set of 42 different provisions, the last 10 of which are the last 12 which rather only apply to mines. But these are the standards by which businesses must follow in order to show responsibility, traceability, dedication to transparency within our industry. What makes us really different is that whereas a company can absolutely sign a document, whether it's by being a part of an association in our industry or other and generally sign that document and say, Yes, Ma'am, I'm doing the right thing. That's a great first step towards showing transparency and responsibility.
However, at the end of a members two year journey with our code of practices towards becoming responsible, we have a third party audit. And so when a company gets certified by the Responsible Jewelry Council, it is a third party that is giving them that checkmark Wow. And we find that yes, and so that is a huge differentiator because we know that there can be consumers just don't trust. They don't trust anyone, until they know that there is an ability to prove, you know, a company's responsibility. And so this third party audit once a company passes it really Who's that and gives that company? The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval? That is RJC certification.
Tracy: Okay, I have a couple of questions about that. Like what's, what's your standards to get like the RJC certified?
Brandee: Sure. So like I said, RTC is a membership based organization. I actually didn't say that, but I should have. So yeah, so we have members. So first, I think it's important to say that it is voluntary, you know, so, just even saying, I want to become an RJC member, really shows that you're on that first step towards committing to having a responsible business. So that's wonderful. Yes, absolutely. And right now, by the way, we've grown, we were started 15 years ago by 14 organizations. And we've grown hugely, we've got over 250 members now. We cover, yes, we cover over 10,600 premises. And over 330,400 employees are now covered under our certification.
So in 15 years, we'll be celebrating our 15th anniversary this year in 2020. So people will definitely start seeing some of that celebration. We've really grown from, you know, this 14 group organization to much more, you know, again, almost 1250. And I think that shows a tremendous change in our industry and the way we're, we're looking at the importance of responsibility. I actually think you asked me about what does what do they have to do, you know, what does a company have to do? And I sort of started talking about our members.
So the companies who decided to become certified, they've got two years to become certified and again against 42 different provisions. Those 42 provisions are specifically typically designed to fulfill six different broad objectives. So the first of which is general requirements, which makes sense, you know, to improve legal and regulatory compliance within a company to strengthen public reporting. I don't know how many companies know that it is so important that we report to legal entities about some of the things that we're doing, and really to secure a commitment to responsible business practices. So that's the first of six.
That's our general requirements. The second now we get a little deeper into what does it take to be responsible? And so number two would be responsible supply chains, human rights and due diligence. So what does this mean? This really means to increase the use of due diligence to uphold human rights and to support community development in the communities in which we operate, which we know are vast. We have areas to teach people how to promote anti corruption efforts. And also this is where we have access to the ideals about managing sourcing risks. We talk a lot about sourcing risks at our trade shows and within our industry. So I just want to point out that obviously, this is something very important because the supply chain is all tied together. And so one must always manage their sourcing risks.
Very, very tactfully. Okay, the third of our six major topics within the CLP local quota practices is labor rights and working conditions. Basically, we want to teach companies how to set up management systems that will help them better comply with international labor laws and ensure responsible working conditions, not just in their own premises, but also within the factories that They work more than they own, or even those that they work with. So I get a lot of questions on this one, because of course, you know, especially here in the United States, retailers certainly will say, Well, of course we follow labor law, you know, of course, we don't have child labor, etc, which I certainly believe is generally true. Well, there's no other reason to believe otherwise.
However, again, when we're looking to secure our supply chain and manage our sourcing risks, one of the things that is really important to ask our vendors is what do you know about the labor conditions in which people work? You know, when you're buying your material, and making sure that the companies that we work with are responsible and that they provide responsible working conditions for their employees. So it's really important to look back.
Tracy: My question is about because you don't like in other countries You know, their standards for child labor are very different, right? Like, how is that monitored? Like, if they have child labor? Is it that the children can only work during certain hours or conditions? Or is it totally banned? Or like, what's the deal with that?
Brandee: Of course. And I think it's important that it worked. It's important that it's different. It's really important that it's different because nothing of what the RJC is doing throughout our supply chain is meant to hurt us. So whether we're working in colored stones or diamonds or platinum group metals or silver, you know, the items that are covered in our code. So RJCcertainly does not want to interfere with companies and the way they do business within their own countries. So we specifically follow local law, as well as international law which is obviously very efficient.
So, you know, we recognize it, obviously, in certain countries, a child, you know, a child of a certain age must work in order to have food, or put it on the table. nd so we totally recognize local law when it comes to any of these things, and appreciate what, you know, that need and the importance of that. And the same with pay. So, whereas I think now in the United States, we're up to like $15 an hour, but I would assume that that's certainly not the case elsewhere. So we wouldn't look at our auditors rather look at local law, and make sure that the minimum wage that local law has is being followed.
Tracy: Okay, amazing. Okay, perfect. That answered my question. That totally makes sense, because I know that this has come up in conversations that I've had at different conferences or interviews and stuff like that. So thank you for clarifying that. Amazing
Brandee: I'm actually on the fourth. So, this is the fourth, the fourth Oto large topic has to do with health, safety and environment with the goal which is really to protect the health and safety, the health, rather and safety of both people and environments and to use natural resources efficiently. So this would cover this area as simple as Do you have your fire extinguisher in the right place in your office or your factory? Do you have the right lighting so that in case of an emergency, people know where to find the exits, all the way to, you know, what do you need to do for carbon efficiency? What are the local environmental laws and how do you know what you need to do to follow them? How do you make a difference in your environment?
So it's really quite a broad topic. But obviously a very important moment, especially in the days that were that we're living in. Number five is gold, silver, platinum group metals, diamonds and colored gemstone products. And so I'll pause here and just sort of give an important piece that a lot of the industry from all levels, sort of has a misconception about the RJC. The RJC covers business practices. So these 42 provisions that I spoke of under these six broad objectives are about a company's business practices the way they operate.
We are not about following a particular product. We do have a second level of certification, and that's called our chain of custody certification. Which a company can voluntarily do however, what are auditors Look at and what these 42 provisions look at are really about do you have the business practices and procedures in place to be responsible? So in this section now, when we talk about gold, silver, platinum, Diamond and cold gemstone products, we're talking more about operations that are developed to control and disclose information about products, mainly to protect misleading or deceptive marketing practices.
Okay, so our what is what people are saying about their products aligned with law? Or are they saying things that they shouldn't be saying? What did their invoices say about the products that they're selling? What do they do and what do they put in their marketing materials to the consumer? And this is, you know, every section as as I said, is important, but I would say what's really important about this section is, is if we look at some of the major issues that our industry is facing right now, let's take lab grown diamonds for example, you know, one of the main thing is that the FTC, you know, presents legally is the words that you must use when you talk about your diamond product.
That also goes for what are the laws around billing or adding color or whatnot, heat treatments to colored gemstones. There are very specific words that a company must use if they're going to promote a market or even put it on an invoice to sell to someone. And so what our code does is explain what you need to do to not mislead or not have deceptive language, where you go to find the right language, and how do you make sure to put it into the materials that you utilize?
Tracy: That's really helpful, because I know people when they see me they think that they're using the right Words often they aren't.
Brandee: Yes, we, we definitely do. And I think, you know, as proven by the jewelry glossary project, which people are working on right now, we have a lot of words that people are using, and they're using them in different senses. And the good news is most people are using those words, like sustainability, for example. And in a good way, you know, they mean well, they want to do the right thing and not, not say something that's wrong. But it is very important that certainly as we grow and we secure our supply chains that we are speaking the same language, and the legal language. And so that's what this would check on.
Tracy: Okay great
Brandee: So number six is the last one, and this one will be quick. And so the last one is these 12 last provisions. So this is the only one that was To only apply to mining companies, so miners of diamonds, colored gemstones, platinum, silver and gold. And this provision is meant to secure responsible exploration, mining practices, etc. that protect the communities in which we operate and protect the environments from adverse impacts in which we operate. And so this section would just be for mining companies. And I don't believe I said this yet. So while I'm talking about mining, the wonderful thing about the rgcs quarter practices is that it does cover from mine to finger literally. So RJC’s coder practices are open to two mines, to manufacturers, to wholesalers, to retailers, to designers, and it's really meant to bring the industry on a journey towards responsibility on every level.
Tracy: I love it. So you said something about the language. You're talking about language. And you talked about the Glossary Project. So the question I had was like, in your RJC terms, what's what is the definition of? Can you use the word sustainable or no? And what does it mean to the RJC? Or is there other language people should be using instead?
Brandee: What do you think? Well, sustainability of courses is incredibly important to us, and has been embedded throughout all of our standards. And for rGc, being sustainable really refers to the way materials and products are sourced, and how they're made, how the people involved in the process are treated, and the impact that that we our people and our products have on our environment. So whatever we do, our actions should not have a negative impact on the communities on the environment in which we operate, whether that's locally if you're a local retailer, all the way through to you know the mining communities in which are products will then begin. And you know, for us sustainability means that we need to take care of the people on our planet.
And of course, you know why? Because, you know, the word I haven't brought up yet, which I think is just so important is consumer. You know, we're really all doing this work, because we're consumers, and we work with consumers. And there is this shift in mindset. And the younger generation, or even our generation is leading the way and wants brands to be more responsible. And to focus more on what we just called sustainability. They require that we take these proactive steps like the RJC has to make a difference, not just in our own businesses anymore. We're not just with our own employees, but also in the overall context of the industries in which we work. And so yeah, I hope that answers, you know, how we feel about sustainability.
Tracy: Totally. So I want to say Start like winding this down a little bit, because there's so much there. I feel like there's so much depth in that. But I have a couple more questions for you. The first question is, what resources does RJC provide to members? And then can anyone join?
Brandee: Yes. So the answer to Can everyone join? Because that's an easier one is yes. If you are working in diamonds, platinum group metals, gold, silver, or three particular colored stones at the moment, that would be Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald. And so you're probably asking why only those three silver and those three colored gemstones were just brought into scope in 2019. Quite frankly, because we had to start somewhere that you know, in the beginning, it was it was focused on diamonds and gold and platinum. We got the ball rolling, we started moving, and then once things were better understood, and we really were able to take our standards to the next level.
And people could appreciate that next level, we brought in these colored gemstones. And so ideally one day, we will add to that. But those are the topics that are currently under our code and can be certified. As far as what do we provide to jewelers? I love this question because my immediate response is such a good one, and that is that everything is open source. So, obviously, we'd love new members, that's really important in order for us to grow in the industry to grow. However, even if you're not a member, you gain access to our quota practices, or training materials etc
As much as you want on our website, which is https://www.responsiblejewellery.com/ . And on our website, as I said, we have the code of practices. We have a code of practices guidance notes, we have self assessments companies can take individuals to see where they stand against the code. We provide toolkits and guidelines to prepare members for the third party audit, I spoke earlier.
We provide toolkits and guidelines to prepare members for the third party audit, I spoke earlier. And we really do this open source. So we have this open source attitude because, again, we recognize that this is a journey of continuous improvement. And we are with companies every step of the way. Since I began with RJC, two years ago, I really hope that the individuals and the companies that I'm working with recognize that they are not doing this alone. You know, it is so important that we build a community and we do this together. And really, that we learn from one another. And so everything is available.
Tracy: That is amazing. Brandee. Brandee, thank you so much for being here today. Can you repeat one more time, the RJC website and where we can find you?
Brandee: Absolutely. The RJC website is https://www.responsiblejewellery.com/
Tracy: Awesome. Brandy, thank you for being here. I'm gonna have links to a bunch of the things that she spoke about in the show notes. So make sure you check it out. It's been a pleasure having you on the show today. Thanks, Tracy.
Thank you so much for listening to the show today. As I mentioned before if you want to learn more about the Responsible Jewelry Council or Ethical Metalsmith you can go grab and check it out on the show notes. Head on over to flourishthriveacademy.com/265 to grab the full show notes over there. This is Tracy Matthews, Chief Visionary Officer of Flourish and Thrive Academy, and the host of Thrive by design. Signing off for today.
Thank you so much for listening to the show. If you haven't done so yet and you enjoy what you're hearing. I'd love for you to do two things to help us out. Please please please share this with your friends. And I would love for you to give us a little rating and review wherever you're listening to the podcast, especially if you're listening on Apple podcasts. And the reason why I make this request on many of the episodes is because when we get more ratings and reviews, it actually shows Apple that this is a relevant show and that people aren't listening to it so it pushes out the show to more people just like you and we want to be able to reach as many jewelry and creative product rounds as we possibly can and help them with their business. See in the next episode.