FEATURE: How to solve a problem like responsible sourcing

Mining Russia

With consumer demand for more origin transparency continuing to influence jewellery sales, Professional Jeweller joined a meeting with the Signet Group, to discuss the future of responsible sourcing. In April’s issue we report from a roundtable with some of the jewellery industry’s key figures, to discuss the future of diamonds.

 

 

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FIRST ORDER OF BUSINESS

Not long after taking our seats and exchanging warm introductions, the collective entered straight into the crux of the meeting: Signet’s Responsible Sourcing Protocol for Diamonds (D-SRSP).

While we all arrived from different corners of the industry, one thing was clear: everyone agreed that the jewellery industry shares a responsibility to meet consumer expectations about the standards for diamond and jewellery production.

Today all businesses are expected to take responsibility for their supply chains, especially with respect to human rights and labour practices. These concerns are articulated by a significant body of national and international laws, as well as voluntary standards such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

In terms of the jewellery industry specifically, the Responsible Jewellery Council’s Code of Practices, and its Provenance Claim Provision, are setting global standards for all participants in the jewellery supply chain, from mine to retail. Similarly, the De Beers Groups’ Best Practice Principles are required for all De Beers sightholders, enforcing supply chain standards specifically for compliance audits.

The objective of the D-SRSP’s conceptionseems simple enough – to start tracking diamonds in the supply chain. The idea was for it to be instigated on a voluntary basis, as opposed to waiting for any legislation in order to “demonstrate to governments that voluntary initiatives can be implemented” and that they can “be piloted and be successful” So essentially, the protocol is about “asking suppliers to understand their abilities to track their diamonds back to four mining companies”. To those unaware of the operational specifics ofthe diamond industry, this may sound relatively simple and straightforward.

To anyone in the know, however, there is nothing simple or straightforward about the proposition of the D-SRSP. In actual fact, this subject alone has just unleashed a pandora’s box of issues and implications.

WHY NOW?

Diamonds are an emotional product, often used to celebrate life events like marriage, birth and commitment, therefore consumer confidence is of upmost importance. It is clear that all in attendance were in agreement that any initiative that looks at raising industry standards is a welcome one. Given that the diamond industry is largely unbranded, any reputational damage is likely to affect everyone, so there was a real sense of community and camaraderie as each person around the table spoke.

Sourcing concerns have long been an issue, and the momentum has only been growing over the last decade or so, when the issue was propelled into the mainstream consciousness with the help of coverage in both the news and entertainment media. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Leonardo DiCaprio fan who isn’t aware of the phrase ‘blood diamond’. This coverage has, in part, led to the rise of ethical awareness, especially amongst millenials. This group of 18 to 30-somethings play a pivotal role in the D-SRSP; it is their confidence in the diamond industry that needs to be built and nurtured to secure its future, and to do so, their expectations and demands need to be met.

One participant of the roundtable was very clear about the importance of addressing the issues surrounding this demographic. “The millenials are very interesting. They are suspicious of big business. However, research has shown that whilst they are suspicious, they also want to work with them. Initiatives like this protocol reach out to this really important, up-and-coming generation. We can work in partnership with them and prove our intent to move forward and progress, and be an industry which provides and assuages concerns and provides solutions for many of the problems that we see in the pipeline over the years.”

 

Read the rest of the feature in this month’s issue, available now.

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