This story began in 2006, when David Rhode was looking for an engagement ring but couldn’t find a jeweller who could tell him where their diamonds had come from, or the conditions under which their jewellery was produced. The more he looked into the industry, the more compromises he discovered he was being asked to make. From blood diamonds, to dirty gold, to sweatshops and child labour.
Tell us about your story – education, prior work, and so on? How did you get interested in ethical and sustainable fashion?
I used to work as a television producer, in documentaries. Ten years ago I wanted to get engaged, and knew that my partner would be interested in the provenance of the diamond (she had worked in Africa, and I was aware of the ethical problems in the diamond industry). I wanted a top quality engagement ring, but also one where the materials were fully traceable and ethically sourced. I couldn’t find what I was looking for, and discussed this with my university friend Tim Ingle. Together we decided to tackle this issue.
What seems like the importance of fair trade?
It’s five years now since Fairtrade gold arrived on the market, and in that time a significant amount has been done to help small-scale miners in the developing world. According to the Fairtrade Foundation, the Fairtrade mining cooperatives sold 170kg of Fairtrade gold to the global market in 2015, generating a ‘Fairtrade premium’ of US$340,000 on top of the selling price to invest in community projects.
What seems like the importance of a (relative to the country) living wage?
The Minimum Wage simply isn’t enough to survive – certainly not in London. The Living Wage Foundation calculates the Living Wage based on the basic cost of living across the UK. In London, the Living Wage is £9.15 per hour. At Ingle and Rhode we are proud to be a Living Wage employer.
Climate change represents one of the biggest medium- to long-term threats to human survival in reasonable forms. The Government of Canada, NASA, the David Suzuki Foundation, The Royal Society, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and numerous others discuss this. Ethical and sustainable fashion relates to it. The reductions in hydrocarbon production from sustainable materials seem imperative sustain the further deterioration of the atmosphere, the biosphere, and the environment. What seems like the responsibilities of ethical and sustainable fashion companies in the prevention of climate catastrophe?
It’s impossible to offer a fine jewellery product with absolutely zero environmental impact. Mining inevitably impacts the environment, and metals are melted at high temperatures and gemstones are transported around the world. However, we believe we have an obligation to minimize our footprint as far as possible – as long as people require fine jewellery, we’ll make it in the most environmentally friendly way possible.
The Brundtland Commission Report described the need for sustainability. In that, we, the human species, need to meet the “needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” for long-term sustainability. Does this seem correct to you?
It seems like common sense, it’s just strange that so many people seem to disagree.
How can ethical and sustainable fashion contribute to the long-term sustainable future for the atmosphere, the biosphere, and the environment?
Fashion is clearly a high-profile industry. Anything that raises consumer awareness of these issues must be helpful in the long run.
Certifications, or standards and labelling, remain important, which associate with analysis. These include Fairtrade International, MADE-BY, the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code, the Soil Association label and the EKOlabel, the Oko-Tex standard 100 mark, and the European Eco-Label for Textile Products, and more. There’s many. Do these help systematize and clarify, or obfuscate and confuse?
Of these certifications, the only one we’ve had dealings with is Fairtrade – we’ve found their involvement in our industry to be very positive. The Fairtrade brand is extremely well recognised, and provides consumers with re-assurance that someone has bothered to verify supply chains back to source. If that helps encourage ethical production, that must surely be a good thing.
What is Ingle & Rhode?
An independent luxury jeweller, with a fully traceable and ethical supply chain.
Thank you for your time, David.