Dr. Greg Valerio MBE
Awarded MBE in 2016 The Queens New Years Honours list for services to Fairtrade Gold and artisanal gold mining communities in South America and Africa.
Awarded Honorary Doctorate by Winchester University for services and work in the field of social justice in 2016.
Awarded Honorary Doctorate by Chichester University for work in social and environmental responsibility in business practice 2017.
Winner of The Observer Ethical Awards Global campaigner 2011.
Voted by The Retail Jeweller 2011 and 2016 as one of the Top 100 Trailblazers in the UK Jewellery Industry
Maverick, pain in the arse, social entrepreneur, out of the box, radical, passionate, emotional, idiot, unmanageable, direct, to the point, breath of fresh air, rebel, visionary, scruffy, non-conformist, looks like a bum, economic terrorist, heretic and dangerous bastard have all been used to describe Greg and his commitment to human rights, ecological responsibility and fair trade economic practices in marginalised and forgotten communities.
Standing in a filthy Garnet mine in India he called the ‘Gateway to Dante’s Inferno’ convinced Greg he had to be not only a budding retail jeweller – but also a campaigner on behalf of those who were being exploited at the source.
The destinations he visited were often like apocalyptic scenes – Sierra Leone diamond mines, Congolese gold mines and Indian gemstone mines where adults and children worked knee-high in mud, exploited by local and international traders, the modern day slavery of extreme proportions. All this compelled Greg to confront and create a better option for the jewellery world. Greg confronted the industry giants and power brokers – with passion and fire – to pursue human rights and environmental justice throughout the jewellery value chain.
Life wasn’t always that way, of course. Greg was expelled from school. He spent his teenage years in the theatre and on the streets of London during the 80’s. But various experiences opened his eyes to the plight of the poor.
He ended up rubbing shoulders and worked with iconic campaigners and fashionista like Bob Geldof, Katharine Hamnett, Anita Roddick and Harriet Lamb. He was the first international jeweller 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. ‘Jewellers often ignore the stories of their sources,’ he said. ‘This is an industry that is running scared of the truth, but with the resources to put it right.’ In 2004 CRED Jewellery launched the first ethical jewellery website selling ‘green’ wedding rings. Seven years later, he became The Observer Ethical Awards Global Campaigner 2011 for his work in advocating for Fairtrade gold. He was voted by The Retail Jeweller as one of the top 100 innovators. In 2016 he was awarded a MBE for services to Fairtrade Jewellery and the rights of artisanal miners.
In recent years, Greg has reformulated his approach to campaigning and life, reconnecting with the radical tradition of social justice, caring for creation and economic justice that is found the life and witness of Jesus. Spiritual contemplation alongside activism and seeking the common good is being outworked through the Society of St Columba – a new monastic community in Chanctonbury, Sussex. This spiritual entrepreneurial activity involves the restoration and renewal of an ancient historic 23 acre farmstead, organic, no dig, gardening, shepherding rare breed sheep, and establishing a space for retreat, reflection, training and empowering through praxis, a new generation of activists who are not willing to settle for the status quo.
Respected for his creativity and reviled for his compassion, Greg believes the dreamscape, hopes and aspiration of communities cannot be built on the desolation of the destitute, economic injustice and the ecological abuse of the planet.
In 1991 aged 24 following trips to Tanzania and Ethiopia, he started CRED a development education network on the south coast of England. Working with young adults in schools and colleges he became a regular facilitator of young activists in the field of human rights, the environment and fair trade (economic justice for the poor).
In 2016 CRED Foundation launched its Mercury Free Gold Programme – designed specifically at working with African artisanal mining communities to achieve Ecological Fairtrade Gold production with appropriate technology and the establishing of dedicated export trading platforms.
In 1996 Greg Valerio started CRED Jewellery the pioneering fine jewellery company. Cred Jewellery was the UK and Europe’s first jewellery company to retail fair trade green gold and platinum jewellery collections. Some of the highlights of his work has been the publication in 2003 of ‘Towards an Ethical Jewellery Business’, the introduction in 2004 of fully certified green gold wedding rings to the UK in partnership with Oro Verde.
Greg worked with The Fairtrade Labeling Organisation (FLO) and other National Fairtrade Organisations from 2010 to 2014 co-ordinating their International Gold programme.
After visiting this pioneering small-scale mining initiative in 2003/4, he continues to advocate for their social and environmental mining in the rain forests of Colombia. Oro Verde support indigenous sustainable mining methods for gold and platinum that do not use cyanide or mercury and offer 100% transparency on gold.
Alliance for Responsible Mining.
In 2005, alongside artisan miners from Colombia, Greg Valerio was one of the founding Board members of ARM. An NGO mineral consultancy that specialises in working with artisanal mining communities. Stepped down in 2010.
Following an invitation in 2008 by Inuit small-scale ruby miners in Greenland, he witnessed first hand the colonial marginalisation that was taking place at the hands of the Danish Government and the Canadian Mining Company True North Gems. He has been active in supporting the indigenous people’s right to mine, own, transform and sell their Ruby without fear of prosecution by the authorities. It is still illegal in Greenland to pick up ruby and take it home.
In 2010 with US ethical jeweller Marc Choyt, he co-founded FJA whose aim is to make ethically sourced jewellery the only moral choice for consumer and supplier. FJA enables jewellers and jewellery businesses to commit to transparency and traceability in the jewellery supply chain from source to product. It also acts as a voice to marginalised communities who are effected by injustices around mining as a whole. Stepped down in 2017.
Greg has two daughters, shepherds sheep, is working to establish the new monastic community at Chanctonbury and keeps bees.