Unreported: When the Diamond Industry Does Good
Conflict or “blood” diamonds have been at the center of many a media article. They’ve been in the headlines of reports by human rights advocacy groups and — perhaps most prominently — in a 2006 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
But while it is crucial to highlight the presence of blood diamonds in the trade and to work toward eliminating them, we would be remiss to overlook all the good the industry does — not just for those in its own circles, but for those most in need.
Whether it’s setting standards for responsible sourcing, promoting sustainability and social awareness, supporting human rights and labor issues, creating just and fair systems for small-scale operations, providing education and training, or simply donating funds, these efforts all represent the same thing: a desire to help.
Clear guidelines for diamond and jewelry businesses are the building blocks of establishing a fair and equitable trade. Organizations like the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) and the World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO) set standards for social responsibility and promote international cooperation.
Teach a man to fish
The old proverb says, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” The latter is what groups such as Diamonds Do Good (DDG), the Artisanal Gold Council (AGC), the Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative (EDDI), Gem Legacy, the Young Diamantaires and the Mine Training Society aim to do. Not only do they provide education for disadvantaged people who want to enter the trade, they also establish programs for youth in underprivileged diamond communities.
Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) usually takes place in areas where access to a broader market and reasonable prices can be difficult to come by. De Beers’ GemFair initiative connects the ASM sector with a secure and transparent route to the global market, and provides ethical working standards and fair prices. The Fairmined Initiative and Fairtrade International, meanwhile, certify products from artisanal miners, empowering them with better working conditions and more equitable deals.
Charity begins at home
Though money isn’t everything, it can accomplish quite a lot. Columbia Gem House not only supplies the industry with fair-trade gemstones, but also donates many of those to auctions to raise money for poor mining communities. Meanwhile, India’s Gem & Jewellery National Relief Foundation contributes financial support to schools, hospitals and medical camps, and runs orphanages and old-age homes in destitute areas.
Keeping the planet safe for future generations is an important but often overlooked aspect of many trades. While the Mercury Free Mining organization is working on a method to eliminate use of the harmful chemical in gold extraction, NGO Pure Earth focuses on cleaning up the toxic pollution that mercury has already caused.
Honesty is the best policy
Most businesses inherently want to be honest, but it can be difficult without knowledge of defined rules, such as how to market items properly, where to buy responsibly sourced goods and how to build sustainable supply chains. That’s where the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC) comes in. The group provides free legal education and compliance guidance for the trade to help it stay authentic and meet its goals.
Law and order
As a society, it is our job to protect the rights of the less fortunate. The RJC puts time and effort into improving human and labor rights in diamond communities, while groups like IMPACT aim for gender equality in the trade. The International Peace Information Service (IPIS) offers research in support of entities trying to stem human rights abuses and prevent child labor, and Pact aims to create change by promoting entrepreneurship and by building knowledge and skills.
Sadly, there are many atrocities connected with diamonds. But that’s only part of a much bigger picture. So many diamond and jewelry organizations, businesses and communities work hard to make a lasting impact on society, to do right by their fellow humans, and to create a cleaner and more livable world.