Optimizing the diamond’s potential: A global movement of people using business as a force for good

SEPTEMBER 26, 2019

Stephane Fischler
WDC President

Next week, on October 2 and 3, representatives of the members of our organization, which are associations and companies from across the diamond and jewelry industries, will gather in Antwerp for the Annual General Meeting of the World Diamond Council (WDC). It is being hosted by the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC).

The subjects on the agenda of the meeting are of critical importance, relating predominantly to our industry’s push to improve the relevance and efficiency of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), which is particularly pertinent given that the KP is now in the final months of a review and reform cycle. Another key issue is WDC’s own program to promote increased transparency and supply-chain due diligence from mine to retailer, as it is embodied in our new System of Warranties (SOW). Both these elements are likely to impact the way we all do business over the coming years.

While the discussions in Antwerp will focus on many technical matters, including the scope of the KPCS, its peer review mechanism, a permanent secretariat, a multi-donor fund for organizations and countries with limited capacity, and a SOW toolkit, in essence what we will be focusing on is protecting the integrity of the diamond and the diamond industry, and optimizing their potential to generate sustainable economic and social opportunities, including in the countries where rough diamonds are produced and processed.

But “optimizing their potential” is likely to take a good deal more than simply fine-tuning the KP and the SOW. It will also require a substantial rethink about how we view the future of demand for diamonds and how our value chain allocates the profits that it generates.

For years many of us in the pipeline have regarded our product as a commodity, with its price a factor of its size and other physical characteristics. The fact that rough diamonds were largely sourced in under-developed regions was not considered an element that in any way may enhance their value. On the contrary, it represented a reputational risk that threatened to undermine it.

A strategy based exclusively on risk avoidance is misguided and possibly dangerous. Too often, I still hear industry colleagues stating that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well, let me tell you, preciousness and trust once broken takes a long time to fix. Sometimes they never recover.

A commodity is an anonymous product without a story, while a brand is recognizable product with a story. And a diamond’s story is incredibly compelling. Created through primordial geological processes deep beneath the earth’s surface millions of years ago, each stone is unlike any other – a physical wonder of nature. And a select few are precious products, with the potential to create a better life for all involved, and in particular for the people on whose land they serendipitously were discovered.

This is the story of the diamond brand that we must tell, if we want our product to optimize its potential. But do to that honestly, we also must play our role in ensuring that a sustained portion of the revenues flowing into the producing countries are invested in the development of the communities in the areas where rough diamonds are found, and particularly where artisanal mining is involved. Over the years, several of our members have partnered with the governments in the countries they operate in to assure that the diamond business can transform ordinary people’s lives at the very grass roots. This should be and remain a source of inspiration.

Last month, the heads of 30 major American corporations published a full-page letter in the New York Times. In it, they wrote of a “global movement of people using business as a force for good,” operating “with a better model of corporate governance – which gives us, and could give you, a way to combat short-termism and the freedom to make decisions to balance profit and purpose.”

This, at its core, is the ethos of the WDC. I invite all industry members to join us in our mission.

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