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Making a Difference
Doing good for the world can do a world of good for business

Maybe it was the price-gouging for gasoline that followed after Hurricane Katrina swallowed New Orleans whole in September 2005. Maybe it was the poisoned produce on supermarket shelves in early 2006. Perhaps it was the media blitz about the movie "Blood Diamond" at year's end.

Thanks to the Internet and television, this country's malls and main streets are now only a pang of conscience away from the factories and mines where the jewelry and gems we cherish originate. No wonder social responsibility and protecting the environment have become important elements of branding.

Suddenly companies aren't just defined by the products they make, but also the difference they make in their workers' lives or in the places where they manufacture. Owners and executives in companies across the country are changing the way they do business to improve their impact on the environment, on the community, and on the countries where their raw materials come from. And it isn't only corporations that are making social responsibility a part of doing business. Even small companies can change their business models, improving worker pay, eliminating toxic processes, and protecting the environment, supporting sustainable development, and sourcing from suppliers that are equally responsible.

The trouble is that it costs more for goods when companies which make them do more good. Will consumers pay the price for conscience?

They say they will, according to a survey conducted by the Jewelry Consumer Opinion Council for Columbia Gem House in May of last year. Three-quarters of those participating said they would pay more for responsible products.

But doing good isn't just good for the bottom line. Business owners are discovering rewards like deeper bonds with customers, employees, goodwill in the community, and the sense of satisfaction that comes from doing the right thing.

Of course, the core of doing the right thing is make things right. Quality and conscience go hand in hand.

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Children outside their new school
Children outside their new school near the Chimwadzulu mine in Malawi.
Michael Kowalski
Michael Kowalski
Tiffany's 11 page "Sustainability" brochure informs customers about its ongoing environmental, ethical, and social responsibilities.
Inside Spread of Tiffany's
Inside Spread of Tiffany's "Sustainability" brochure.
Brian Leber
Brian Leber
Paw Bulata Medical Clinic
Paw Bulata Medical Clinic, funded in part by the Jeweler's Burma Relief Project.
© Photo by Planet Care

Helen Chantler and Marc Choyt
Helen Chantler and Marc Choyt
Celtic knot-work jewelry
Celtic knot-work jewelry from Reflective Images, (888) 733-5238.
Toby Pomeroy
Toby Pomeroy
18k reclaimed gold Stirrup hoops
Forged 18k reclaimed gold Stirrup hoops by Toby Pomeroy, (800) 381-8787.
18k gold pendant
Forged 18k gold pendant by Toby Pomeroy, (800) 381-8787.
Torry Hoover
Torry Hoover
enclosed eco-friendly refining system
Totally enclosed eco-friendly refining system at Hoover & Strong.
Eric Braunwart
Eric Braunwart
Rings with ruby and sapphire
Rings with ruby and sapphire from Malawi by Trios Studios, (503) 496-1285.
Frank McAllister
Frank McAllister
sampling & analysis at Stillwater
Stillwater provides free water sampling and analysis within a five mile radius of the mine.