With the worldwide spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus and the imposition of lockdowns in most countries, the WDC called on its members to contribute blogs describing that they were experiencing in their own organizations and households, and how they viewed the impact of the global pandemic.
Our huge trading hall, which is usually teeming with activity, is now fairly empty because of restrictions that allow only 100 people access at a time. Who would have imagined a diamond exchange with no handshakes to seal transactions?Almost four months ago, when the coronavirus broke out, I found myself having to manage the worst crisis the Israel Diamond Exchange has ever known. The challenge was massive and I approached it with great apprehension – to safeguard the health of the community, which includes more than 3,200 members and some 8,000 small and medium-sized business owners, and the health of the industry that is so dear to us all.
The economic crisis that struck in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted in unprecedented ways on China’s jewelry retail markets and their supply chains. This was self-evident from the data collected at the Shanghai Diamond Exchange (SDE), where we saw polished imports through SDE into China decline by 70 percent during the first four months of 2020. But, with much of the lockdown now lifted, we are seeing businesses springing back. Many have returned to full operation and Chinese consumers are coming back to the shopping malls. We expect to see trade and the market gradually ramp up in the coming months.
More than four months and counting. My last trip abroad was in January. It was to the United States, where I visited New York City and Miami. I remember watching the TV news and hearing about an unusual flu-like virus that had been detected in Wuhan, and later talking about it with my staff in the Far East. At the time, I recall thinking: “Another SARS, far away in China. Just ignore it, stick to your agenda and it will go away soon.”
We are almost halfway through what has been an unexpected and turbulent start to the year. While tens of millions remain in lockdown, others are slowly easing their way back into a “normal” rhythm, albeit at a slow and careful pace. I am proud to say that here in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), we are among the latter category.
JEWELRY COMPANY’S CENTENNIAL COMMITMENT
LOOKS TO ADDRESS MEGA-CHALLENGES OF RESOURCE SCARCITY,
AND CLIMATE, DEMOGRAPHIC AND SOCIAL CHANGE
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, Chow Tai Fook donated three ambulances to hospitals and clinics in Wuhan, the initial epicenter of the pandemic, which is a city where the company operates extensive manufacturing and logistics facilities.
A long-time member of the World Diamond Council, the Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group is one of the world’s largest jewelry companies, with a workforce of about 30,000. It operates more than 3,800 stores in about 500 cities, in greater China, Japan, Korea, other Southeast Asian countries and the United States. It also has a fast-growing e-commerce business. The firm was founded in Guangzhou in 1929 by Chow Chi-Yuen.
Not only a pioneer in the growth of the fine jewelry markets in Asia, and mainland China in particular, the Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group has also been committed to the development, implementation and promotion of responsible business practices.
As the company approaches the 100th year since its founding, it has announced what it refers to as its Centennial Commitment. The company’s Chairman, Dr. Henry Cheng Kar-Sun explained the approach in a detailed Sustainability Report, which was released in June 2020. “The new initiatives in our four priority areas – responsible sourcing; craftsmanship, innovation and technology; resource efficiency and carbon reduction; and people focused – enable us to face the megatrends of resource scarcity, technological breakthroughs, climate change, and demographic and social change, all of which, in their various ways, will have a disruptive effect on our industry,” he wrote.
The wastewater treatment system at Chow Tai Fook’s production hub in Shunde which is able to process up to 300 tons of wastewater per day. The company makes an effort to use the treated water in its manufacturing processes.
Environmental sustainability is a is a key element of the program, with Chow Tai Fook pledging to reduce its ecological footprint by at least 15 percent by 2029. This includes substantially cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption and waste generation, as well as obtaining ISO 14001 Environmental Management Certification for the environmental management systems in all its mainland China production hubs – in Shenzhen, Shunde and Wuhan.
There have been few disruptive events that match the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Soon after its scale became apparent, the company set up an in-house facemask production line, using the high-standard dust-free cleanroom technology at its production hub in Shunde to produce some 100,000 facemasks per day. These were distributed both to employees and to other communities in need.
The company also initiated a charity sale campaign in mainland China to support medical professionals, and donated three ambulances to hospitals and clinics in Wuhan, where the pandemic first struck and where Chow Tai Fook operates a large production and logistics facility.
In 2012 the Chow […]
“Women of the Diamond Industry” focuses on the issue of gender equality along the entire diamond and jewelry supply chain. The series provides a platform for women in the industry to tell their own story and describe the particular challenges they have faced in their careers.
The second article in the series is authored by Esther Finda Kandeh, National Coordinator of Women in Mining & Extractive Sierra Leone.
Esther Finda Kandeh, National Coordinator of Women in Mining & Extractive Sierra Leone
LOOKING OUT FOR THE INVISIBLE MINERS OF SIERRA LEONE,
CHANGE IS POSSIBLE IF WE ACT NOW
I was born in the Tankoro Chiefdom in the Kono District of Sierra Leone, one of the poorest diamond-mining communities in the country. In 2013, concerned by the plight of women in the mining areas, I established Women in Mining & Extractive Sierra Leone (WoME-SL), to address the realities that we experience on a daily basis. My goal was to create an advocacy platform and community-level pressure group that would promote the empowerment of women and the wellbeing of young people within the mining communities in Sierra Leone.
WoME-SL was later transformed into a national organization, comprised of and led by women from different mining districts in the country. We work together to address the increasing challenges that we face at the local level within our communities. Our organization has been an enthusiastic participant in the regional approach endorsed by the Mano River Union (MRU), which is promoting a program originating from the Kimberley Process in West Africa that will build capacity in artisanal diamond-mining areas, including the ability to effectively comply with the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme’s minimum requirements and training on the OECD’s conflict minerals guidance. It is within this framework that we have been happy to cooperate and collaborate with the World Diamond Council.
Sierra Leone is located at the center of the West Africa’s Rice Coast, which is a region spanning a string of countries, stretching from Senegal in the east to Benin in the west. It’s a nation blessed with natural resources, with the minerals among them being rutile, bauxite, gold, iron, limonite and, of course, diamonds.
The mining sector plays an integral role in both Sierra Leone’s economic and social structure. Some 30,000 individuals are either directly or indirectly employed by large-scale mines, with an estimated 300,000 people, including their dependents and extended families, reliant upon the revenues they generate. Furthermore, artisanal mining and related activities provide livelihood support to at least another 300,000 Sierra Leoneans according to World Bank data, and upwards of 10 percent of the population relies to some degree on artisanal diamond mining.
The mining sector accounted for an average of 5 percent of Sierra Leone’s GDP between 2016 and 2019, and prior to the COVID-19 crisis has been expected to grow by 7.4 percent, although that forecast has been […]
AS THE COVID-19 CRISIS SPREADS THROUGH ASM AREAS,
INDUSTRY STEPPING UP TO HELP THE MOST VULNERABLE
A member of GemFair staff preparing food and aid packages for artisanal miners and their families at a mining site in Sierra Leone’s Kono region, as part of the organization’s COVID-19 response.
By Konstantin Born
Business Development Manager, GemFair
When I left Freetown, Sierra Leone, to fly home to my family in London on March 11, I expected to be back in West Africa within weeks. How could I have known that fewer than 10 days later the Government of Sierra Leone would announce the closure of all border crossings and international arrivals via air, and that I would be sitting in my living room in London while writing this piece. Even though it looks as if the first airlines will begin to resume flights to Freetown in the coming weeks, the country I have lived and worked in for many years will have changed markedly by the next time I return.
I am the Business Development Manager of GemFair, which was launched in 2018 by De Beers Group in Sierra Leone to advance the artisanal and small-scale diamond mining (ASM) sector. GemFair’s goal is to support the formalization of the ASM sector – by raising standards, delivering fair value and digitally tracing the diamonds that artisanal miners recover from the mine onward.
At the beginning of July, we announced together with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Mano River Union (MRU) that GemFair will be collaborating in the development and delivery of an ASM capacity-building program that promotes safe and responsible operating standards in the MRU member countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Ivory Coast. It is part of a regional approach promoted by the Kimberley Process, of which the World Diamond Council is a supporter and stakeholder.
Before the COVID-19 crisis, the author, Konstantin Born (right), with Raymond Alpha, GemFair’s Location Manager in Kono, during a field trip in Sierra Leone.
Since GemFair’s inception, our teams in London and Sierra Leone have worked tirelessly to make a change for the most vulnerable and often forgotten members of our industry – the artisanal and small-scale diamond miners. Many people forget that the ASM sector is a significant employer in the global diamond sector, with millions more depending directly or indirectly on ASM for their livelihoods.
Having worked with artisanal miners both in a capacity as a policy advisor to Sierra Leone’s mining regulatory authority and during my time at GemFair, I will never stop to be impressed by how hard they work and how resourceful they are in order to generate an income for themselves, providing for the needs of their families and communities. And we have been making progress. Through the commitments and actions of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) and more recently through initiatives like GemFair, we are starting to see the gradual […]
WDC BOARD CONFIRMS LEADERSHIP FOR NEXT TWO YEARS,
EDWARD ASSCHER, PRESIDENT,
AND FERIEL ZEROUKI, VICE PRESIDENT
ABOVE: WDC’s top leadership through 2022, Edward Asscher (right), President; and Feriel Zerouki, Vice President.
Meeting in a virtual session on June 5, 2020, the Board of Directors of the World Diamond Council has confirmed the organization’s leadership team for the next two years, with Edward Asscher serving as the new President of the international organization charged with leading the diamond and jewelry industry’s effort to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the jewelry supply chain and with representing it in the tripartite Kimberley Process coalition. Feriel Zerouki becomes the first woman to serve as WDC Vice President.
Having served for the past two years as the WDC Vice President, according to the WDC bylaws Mr. Asscher automatically assumed the President’s role from Stephane Fischler, who had served first as WDC’s Acting President, starting in 2017, and then for two years as President, beginning in 2018.
A member of one of the diamond industry and Amsterdam’s most well-known families, Mr. Asscher is serving a second term as WDC President, having held the role from 2014 to 2016.
He is also currently Vice President of the European Council of Diamond Manufacturers, and is a past President of both the International Diamond Manufacturers Association (IDMA) and the International Diamond Council (IDC), which is a diamond standards-setting organization affiliated to IDMA and the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB).
Long involved in public life, Mr. Asscher has also served in functions outside of the diamond industry. He is past President of the Liberal Party in Amsterdam, and was elected as a Senator for the party in the Dutch parliament, serving in the upper house from 2007 to 2011.
Feriel Zerouki, who was elected to the post of WDC Vice President, is the Senior Vice President of International Relations & Ethical Initiatives at the De Beers Group.
Joining De Beers in 2005 as a supply-chain analyst at the Diamond Trading Company, in 2009, she was appointed Best Practice Principles Manager for De Beers, with responsibility for building and maintaining a streamlined social compliance program for the company. She was then appointed to Head of Government and Industry Relations in 2015 with the overarching objective of protecting the integrity of diamonds, the diamond supply chain and maintaining the integrity of De Beers and its commercial interests. She additionally serves as General Manager of De Beers’ GemFair initiative, which works to provide capacity-building opportunities to artisanal and small-scale miners, providing them a secure route to market for ethically-sourced diamonds, and she serves as Honorary Treasurer of the Responsible Jewellery Council.
Ms. Zerouki will become WDC President at the end of Mr. Asscher’s two-year term in 2022.
The WDC Board of Directors also confirmed the reelection of Ronnie Vanderlinden, President of the International Diamond Manufacturers Association (IDMA), as WDC Treasurer, and the appointment of Udi Sheintal as WDC Secretary.
IT IS SURVIVAL TIME
Dear colleagues and friends,
I retired from my business on March 2 this year, just a few days before the COVID-19 pandemic started dominating news headlines all over the world. It was bad timing for my children, Lita and Mike, who now run the family company.
In the 50 years I have been involved in the industry, I have never experienced so rapid a fall in global retail sales. And we all know about the diamond multiplier effect – if retailers’ sales shrink by 10 percent, then the wholesalers’ business will contract by at least 20 percent, as the latter group reduces the inventory it’s holding. This means that manufacturing companies are experiencing a much larger fall in sales.
So now the whole industry has reduced inventory, with the exception being the rough diamond producers. But with their sales very limited, they are cutting production.
Four months into the crisis, and we do see that certain retailers are managing to do rather satisfactory business. Pent up demand is one factor for this phenomenon. People realize that in these difficult times, the fundamental values of life are so important – health, family and love. Fortunately, diamond jewelry is a symbol for all of those, and we know from experience that the expression and realization of these values is bringing customers to the stores.
Even I, after 50 years of marriage, recently gave my wife a diamond eternity ring.
We need to ask ourselves what all this means for our industry – from the miners in the producing countries, to the polishers, the wholesalers, the jewelry manufacturers and the retailers?
We know how important rough diamond production is to the producing countries. Millions of their citizens depend on the health of our industry and the diamond supply chain. It’s easier to track what’s happening in the industrialized mining sector, with some mines being furloughed and others on minimal production. But the devastation in the informal mining sector is often hidden. We need to ask ourselves what this means for the alluvial diamond miners and what we can do about their wellbeing?
I am confident about the very large companies, but I worry about the state of artisanal and small-scale miners and diamond polishers. This is a group made of the individuals who together with their families depend almost entirely on the revenues generated by the small number of diamonds that each is able to process.
We are all overwhelmed by the tremendous pressure of a market that changed so drastically in such a short time. In this turmoil, do we still care about working conditions, the environment and social rights?
Wherever we operate, we need to think about cash flow, for this will dictate whether we, as companies, can survive. We also need to look in the eyes of the thousands of members of staff we have had to furlough. It’s a tough and imperfect world in which we live, and we are often being called to […]
WDC President applauds GemFair-GIZ-MRU agreement to deliver training on responsible ASM standards in West Africa
WDC President applauds GemFair-GIZ-MRU agreement
to deliver training on responsible ASM standards in West Africa
JULY 8, 2020
Edward Asscher, President of the World Diamond Council, has expressed the WDC’s strong support for an agreement announced today by the De Beers Group’s GemFair initiative, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Mano River Union (MRU), according to which the three bodies will collaborate in the development and delivery of a regional training program that promotes safe and responsible operating standards in the artisanal and small-scale mining sectors (ASM) in the MRU member countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Ivory Coast.
“It is projects like these that demonstrate the capacity of the Kimberley Process and its partners to go beyond the traditional scope of conflict prevention, by also building real grass-roots capacity and economic opportunity in the countries where diamonds are mined,” Mr. Asscher said. “Furthermore, by taking a regional, rather than a country-by-country approach, not only is it possible to offer solutions that are more effective, because supply chains do not stop at border crossings, but also to deliver effective results simultaneously to a considerably larger number of ASM communities than otherwise would be possible. It is an approach that WDC has promoted within the KP for many years.”
Mr. Asscher expressed his pride that a WDC member, the De Beers Group, will be playing a key role in the venture. “The strength of the KP is vested in the synergies created by the coalition of its government and non-government participants, and once again our industry is showing that it is ready to step up to the plate. By teaming up with GIZ and MRU, GemFair will be providing critically needed training about safe and environmentally responsible mining techniques to artisanal miners, government officials and civil society activists in all the MRU countries.”
The proposed regional training program will enhance capacities, promote knowledge sharing and build a comprehensive understanding of mine site health and safety, environmental management, ethical sourcing standards and diamond valuation among miners, government officials and civil society activists in the four MRU countries. Covering the gold and diamond sectors, it will be operated as part of GIZ’s Regional Resource Governance Program, which is implemented on behalf of the German Development Corporation (through the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development) and the European Union. GemFair will design the training curricula and provide staff and expertise to deliver the training.
The World Diamond Council (WDC) is inviting its members from around the globe to share their experience of life during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to discuss its impact on the industry, today and during the months and years ahead.
THE VIEW FROM RAMAT GAN:
WE’RE AN INDUSTRY THAT HAS ALWAYS OVERCOME
AND EMERGED STRONGER
JULY 7, 2020
Israel Diamond Exchange
World Federation of Diamond Bourses
I write to you direct from the Israel Diamond Exchange in Ramat Gan. Our huge trading hall, which is usually teeming with activity, is now fairly empty because of restrictions that allow only 100 people access at a time. Who would have imagined a diamond exchange with no handshakes to seal transactions?
Almost four months ago, when the coronavirus broke out, I found myself having to manage the worst crisis the Israel Diamond Exchange has ever known. The challenge was massive and I approached it with great apprehension – to safeguard the health of the community, which includes more than 3,200 members and some 8,000 small and medium-sized business owners, and the health of the industry that is so dear to us all.
In 2015, I was elected the 10th President of the Israel Diamond Exchange, and this past April I was chosen as Acting President of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses.
In the past I had declined the WFDB position. But I accepted it this time, because it is clear to me that now more than ever the industry needs leadership. I am certain that there is an opportunity to lead the industry to new achievements, to bring about greater cooperation between diamond exchanges around the world and also to strengthen Israel as a vibrant and central trading center.
The coronavirus crisis came at a time when the industry was already in crisis. This, plus the deadly epidemic, has led to a decline in Israel’s domestic export and trade turnover, estimated at the end of April to be $1.5 billion.
As a result, we not only had to reinvent ourselves, but to turn a crisis into a new opportunity. During the lockdown we found that there was a demand among diamantaires in Israel and around the world for a new and transparent international trading platform. The WFDB decided to act on behalf of the industry. The Get Diamonds platform was chosen and within a few short weeks the site amassed 1.3 million diamonds, with a total value of $ 5.7 billion, making it the largest diamond trading platform in the world. The WFDB is continuing to upgrade the site, improving the interface to enable diamantaires around the world the best user experience possible.
At the Israel Diamond Exchange, during the crisis we also decided to adopt advanced technology as a way of life. We renewed our website and have switched all of our services to online, with a 24/7 human chat.
And while innovation is the […]