Fall 2010

[News]

Undergrad Inspires Changes at Major Jewelry Retailer

Bristol Bay, Alaska, site of a controversial proposed gold mine Bristol Bay, Alaska, site of a controversial proposed gold mine. (photo courtesy of alaskatrekker at en.wikipedia)

BRADEN PITCHER RECENTLY GOT one of the biggest surprises of his life.

Zale Corporation, the country’s second largest jewelry retailer, has adopted a more socially responsible gold purchasing policy all because of the HSU junior’s Natural Resources Conservation final paper.

Pitcher’s assignment was to write a brief study on an existing conservation project. A longtime lover of Alaska, he focused on efforts to stop the controversial Pebble Mine project in Bristol Bay, Alaska.

There were concerns that the proposed mine would disrupt fishing and wildlife jobs. But it could also have serious negative effects on one of the world’s largest Sockeye salmon runs. “The more I learned about the project,” Pitcher says, “the more I felt I had to do something about it.”

So he did.

Pitcher found an online pledge designed to help jewelry companies boycott minerals from Pebble Mine. No Dirty Gold, an organization promoting the responsible sale and purchase of gold, created the pledge. And Pitcher’s mother, a purchaser for the Zale Corporation, was able to get him a meeting with the vice president of the company to persuade him to sign.

Even after the meeting, there was little progress. “I did everything I could do,” Pitcher says, “but I felt like I was getting brushed off.”

Finally, in March, Pitcher received the news that the Zale Corporation, whose 2,100 stores and kiosks earned $48 million in 2007, had decided to sign the Bristol Bay pledge. “Not only did they sign,” Pitcher says, “they basically increased oversight on gold supply and made the process more transparent.”

The Zale vice president he had met with later told Pitcher that his “input and persistence were instrumental” in the decision.