Greg Valerio, Jeweler And Fairtrade Campaigner Awarded MBE

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Greg Valerio, jeweler and Fairtrade campaigner, was awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) in this year’s Queen’s New Years’ Honour list for his work in Fairtrade Gold, particularly with gold mining communities in South America and Africa. A jeweler since 1996, Valerio recalls when he first saw the exploitation of the jewelry supply chain in India: slavery, child labour and people working in terrible conditions. These experiences inspired Greg to become an activist in the jewelry industry. By 2004 he had managed to deliver the world’s first traceable gold, from mine to wedding ring. On receiving his MBE, Valerio says, “The great challenge we now face is to forge a new luxury jewelry narrative that connects the aspirational emotion of the purchase with the dignity of the source. This is true luxury jewelry, 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.” 

An estimated 100 million people worldwide rely on small-scale mining for their livelihoods to support their families and communities. Small-scale miners often work long days, in difficult and sometimes hazardous conditions. There are serious health risks associated with the improper handling of toxic mercury and cyanide, 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. 

Greg spent his teenage years in the theatre and on the streets of London during the '80s. Soon, various experiences opened his eyes to the plight of the poor, where he ended up rubbing shoulders with iconic campaigners and fashionistas like Bob Geldof, Katharine Hamnett and Anita Roddick. He was the first international jeweler to visit Oro Verdé, Colombia, where he befriended eco-friendly gold miners. Monitoring supply routes of raw materials, Greg became determined to make transparency and traceability his mantra.

In 2011 Valerio worked with the Fairtrade Foundation to launch the world’s first Fairtrade gold from artisanal and small-scale miners in Peru, Colombia and Bolivia, where 90 percent of the labour force involved in gold mining is made up of artisanal and small-scale miners who produce tiny volumes, between 200-300 tonnes of gold each year.

Fairtrade Gold miners receive a guaranteed fair minimum price and 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, helping 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.

Photo Credit: Greg Valerio