Iris Van der Veken has resigned as executive director of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), in response to how it is handling the current status of Russian diamond miner Alrosa, sources tell JCK.
Van der Veken, who has been a passionate advocate for RJC and sustainability issues as well as a prominent public face for the group, first became executive director in 2019. She declined to comment for this article.
The news comes as two large companies—Pandora and Richemont—announced they are leaving the group in response to how it’s handling the Ukraine crisis.
The main issue is whether Alrosa should continue to be RJC-certified following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The diamond miner is one-third owned by the Russian government and first received RJC certification in 2017.
Some—including RJC strategic adviser and North American trade lead Brad Brooks-Rubin—have called for Alrosa’s certification to be temporarily suspended, given it’s brought the group into disrepute. The Russian miner was sanctioned earlier this month by the United States and on Friday [March 25], by the United Kingdom.
No U.K. bodies are allowed to do business with a sanctioned entity, which could raise an issue for the London-based RJC.
The RJC said in a statement to JCK that, at the start of the invasion, it “commenced to consider the status of Alrosa as an RJC member, to ensure that appropriate action [was taken] within the powers of the Board.”
The RJC “appreciates that the pace of this process may be frustrating, but this is an unprecedented situation, which is constantly changing and requires that the time be taken to ensure that due process is followed as exhaustively as possible. It will however be concluded imminently.”
As a member-based trade association, the RJC must act in accordance with its “constitutional and statutory duties and discharge its responsibilities in good faith,” it said.
Brooks-Rubin tells JCK: “There could have been other approaches taken to what is clearly a challenging situation that would have balanced the seriousness of the Ukraine crisis with whatever legal restraints there are. Instead, there’s been silence.
“Iris has been an exemplary leader, before and during this crisis,” he says. “I hope the board will find a way to keep her as executive director.”