IRBC Agreement Dutch gold sector: greater respect for human rights, the environment and biodiversity throughout the gold value chain

19 June 2017

Today, the Dutch government, electronics manufacturers, jewelers, gold recycling firms and NGOs, among which IUCN NL, signed the International Responsible Business Conduct (IRBC) Agreement for the Dutch Gold Sector. The aim is to ensure greater respect for human rights, the environment and biodiversity throughout the value chain, from mining to recycling.

This is the first such partnership in the gold supply and production sector. By signing this agreement, Dutch businesses, Dutch government and civil society organizations are taking responsibility for enhanced implementing of the OECD and UN Human Rights Guidelines in this sector. The partnership will contribute to improvements in human rights and environmental protection across the global gold value chain.

Reducing ecological and social impact

“In many of the landscapes we work in, we see that gold mining has a significant social and ecological impact,” says Mark van der Wal, Senior Expert Extractives and Ecology at IUCN NL. In countries with weak governance, especially small-scale goldmining is extremely harmful from an environmental and human health perspective. “But also industrial gold mining requires safeguards in the form of a strong policy framework and effective enforcement of laws and legal regulations. Unfortunately, such safeguards are lacking in many countries,” Van der Wal continues. “Weak or non-existent law enforcement can lead to severe pollution of surface water, with far-reaching consequences for water and food security affecting a large area around the mining location.” In addition the ecological damage done by ill guided mining often makes the landscapes more susceptible to the effects of climate change.

With the agreement, gold traders, jewelers, electronics firms and gold recyclers, NGOs and the Dutch government join forces with the aim to reduce the negative ecological and social effects of mining, by promoting the demand for and production of responsible gold. “IUCN NL has stressed that the involved parties not only commit to improving their social responsibility but also to reduce their ecological impact," says Van der Wal. “Amongst others, we hope that increased transparency and accountability in the gold chain will lead to better compliance with the Minamata Convention, to protect human health and nature worldwide from the negative impacts of mercury use.”

The agreement is based on three pillars: know, show and improve. Due diligence processes allow businesses to analyze whether and how they might be associated with potential abuses. Based on that knowledge, the agreement partners can draw up improvement plans ensuring that their gold is responsibly sourced, that is: in legal and improved social and ecological circumstances.

IUCN NL also contributed to IRBC Agreements on plant protein and sustainable forest management.  

Update: From May 1, 2019, IUCN NL is no longer part of the IRBC Agreement for the Dutch Gold Sector.

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