Sunday, October 18, 2009

The ethical side of diamond buying

The diamond industry in recent years has been pretty badly hit by bad press, thanks to movies like Blood Diamond. I’m always pretty much supportive when supply chain issues are brought to light as it’s a necessary step in order for businesses to be sustainable. Anyway, as a result, the diamond industry has taken huge steps to correct this issue. In the course of my work with clients and personal research on the supply chain transparency, I discovered some of these resources that might be useful. As such, am sharing them here:

http://www.kimberleyprocess.com/ - the efforts of trying to stem the flow of conflict diamonds are documented here.

http://diamondfacts.org/difference/index.html - In the interest of fairness, I thought I’d include a voice from the other side: that diamond purchasing does help many African economies and families. It generates employment and income amongst other things.

My own personal reflections are such: The legal and documentary assurance is one thing and is heartening to know that there are such measures put in place. I’ve personally verified that my suppliers are part of these legal networks as mentioned by the Kimberley Process. You can ask me personally for more details if you’d like. J

However, anyone that’s involved in operations will know that legality and documentary proof doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story of what’s happening. As such, I attempted to find out what was going on by talking with suppliers at different levels of the supply chain: from the men who go to the mines and export the gemstone rough, to the ones who have the contacts to purchase rough from the Big Boys in Antwerp and Israel, the cutters and the wholesalers. The personal research resulted in loads of interesting tit-bits and enlightening anecdotes that did shed more light on the supply chain transparency and sustainability issues that I’ve been meaning to find (and I’ll be happy to share personally if you’d like to know the details). However, what remained was still a distinct lack of complete clarity of what was happening on the ground. For one, it was impossible to trace the origins of a white diamond; I believe that there are gemmological labs working on this but this remains elusive as of now. Separately, there still exists a huge amount of wariness of sharing information to business consumers as there’s a belief (and justifiably so) that revealing too much would jeopardise their own businesses. In simple economic terms, lack of knowledge was a good barrier to entry for potential competition and many people were happy to keep trade secrets just that…secret.

What I can vouch for at this present moment is this: a) the legal and documentary evidence that they are adhering to conflict-free practises and b) their personal business ethics of honesty in their dealings with their clients (i.e. me). The rest unfortunately remains a little murky but I endeavour to keep on searching on what’s happening on the ground when possible.

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