New Wal-Mart jewelry can be traced from mine to store

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc is introducing a line of gold and silver jewelry that can be traced from the mine to store shelves as the retailer looks to sell more jewelry sourced from mines and manufacturers that meet its environmental and human rights standards.

A sign marks the entrance of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Rogers, Arkansas June 5, 2008. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Wal-Mart said the Love, Earth line, which includes a $69.84 sterling silver necklace and $48 hoop earrings, will be sold in its U.S. discount stores, Sam’s Club warehouses and online. A customer who buys the jewelry can log on to a website to see where their particular piece of jewelry was mined and learn about the suppliers’ environmental programs.

“It’s the first time ever that we, or any major mass retailer, have been able to provide customers with a way to trace the path of their product from the mine it was actually mined from to the shelf,” said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Tara Raddohl.

Under Chief Executive Lee Scott, Wal-Mart has set goals of one day using only renewable energy and creating zero waste, and has challenged its suppliers to follow in its footsteps.

Last year, it released a report outlining the progress made in meeting the goals, and included a section on sourcing more sustainable products, like jewelry.

“For every ring that is made, gold mining generates approximately 20 tons of waste. Most of the world’s gold deposits consist of microscopic specks that must be chemically extracted from rocks using thousands of gallons of cyanide,” the report stated.

“As the largest retailer of jewelry in the world, we see an opportunity to bring more sustainable practices to this industry,” it said.

Wal-Mart’s long-term goal is to ensure that 100 percent of the gold, silver and diamonds used in the jewelry it sells in its U.S. stores is sourced from mines and produced by manufacturers that meet its sustainability standards.

Those standards currently include minimization of waste and pollution; safe disposal of waste and hazardous materials; respect for employee rights; and compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

While Wal-Mart’s Raddohl could not estimate when it might meet that long-term goal, she said Wal-Mart wants at least 10 percent of its jewelry offerings to meet those standards by 2010.

To create the Love, Earth jewelry line, Wal-Mart worked with mining company Rio Tinto Plc; Newmont Mining Corp, a global gold producer; and Aurafin, a Florida-based jewelry manufacturer.

Wal-Mart said it now plans to increase the number of approved mining and manufacturing suppliers it works with, and it will introduce diamonds in the Love, Earth line.

Reporting by Nicole Maestri; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe