Jeweller and Activist Greg Valerio awarded MBE in the Queen’s New Years’ Honour list 2016 for his work in Fairtrade Gold.
Greg Valerio, jeweller, activist and Fairtrade campaigner has been awarded MBE in the Queen’s New Years’ Honour list 2016 for his work in Fairtrade Gold and with gold mining communities in South America and Africa.
A jeweller since 1996, Greg first saw the exploitation of the jewellery supply chain in India – slavery, child labour and people working in terrible conditions. This experience motivated him to become an activist in the jewellery industry and by 2004 he had managed to deliver the world’s first traceable gold, from mine to wedding ring.
In 2011 Greg worked with the Fairtrade Foundation to launch the world’s first Fairtrade gold from artisanal and small-scale miners in Peru, Colombia and Bolivia.
Ninety per cent of the labour force involved in gold mining is made up of artisanal and small-scale miners who produce just tiny volumes, between 200-300 tonnes of gold each year. Around 70% of this is used to make jewellery, with consumers across the globe spending a whopping $135 billion a year on gold jewellery.
Greg said: “This award belongs to all of us and I hope that it will embolden us all to keep fighting for fairness in the jewellery trade. Jewellery and justice are not incompatible and lost to each other. The great challenge we now face is to forge a new luxury jewellery narrative that connects the aspirational emotion of the purchase with the dignity of the source. This is true luxury jewellery, a legacy of peace, justice and prosperity for the communities at the source and a continued celebration of design, creativity and love in the gift that is given.”
Gold is a symbol of love, power and wealth the world-over. But look behind the glitz and the reality is not so glamorous. An estimated 100 million people worldwide rely on small-scale mining for their livelihoods and to support their families and communities. Small-scale miners often work long days and in difficult and sometimes hazardous conditions. There are serious health risks associated with the improper handling of toxic mercury and cyanide, which can be used in the extraction process. Small-scale miners are at the end of long and complex supply chains and for those working in remote locations, it can be difficult to sell their gold at a fair price.
In 2012, Greg helped deliver a Comic Relief funded pilot project for Fairtrade International to apply Fairtrade principles to small-scale mining groups in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The groups underwent their first ever Fairtrade audit in 2015 and it is hoped several will achieve accreditation in due course.
Bismarck Onyando, gold miner from MICODEPRO in Kenya, one of nine cooperatives which took part in the African pilot, said: “We are happy to hear that Greg Valerio was awarded MBE in the Queens Award. We are celebrating with him this great honour. Congratulations to you my friend Greg!”
For Fairtrade Gold, miners receive a guaranteed Fair Minimum Price and a Premium to spend on improving their businesses or on community projects, such as education, clean water and healthcare. Fairtrade certification means these small scale-miners meet Fairtrade Standards. This can help them to improve their mining and business practices as well as open the market to generate more sales on better terms. The Standards include strict requirements on working conditions, health and safety, handling chemicals, women’s rights, child labour and protection of the environment. Learn more about Fairtrade’s work with gold and precious metals
In January 2015, Greg worked with the Fairtrade Foundation and other global Fairtrade markets to launch a bridal campaign ‘I Do’ to sell encourage 100,000 brides and grooms to ask for Fairtrade gold when they buy their engagement and wedding rings.
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