Six lab-grown diamond companies and retailers have signed up for a pilot program that will audit their environmental, social, and governance performance against preset criteria.
If they pass, their diamonds will be certified by SCS Global Services as sustainably grown, though it’s possible that label will change.
Only individual diamonds will bear the certification, after they have been tracked and traced from grower to the retailer. So, for example, it’s possible a ring’s center stone will carry the the SCS certification, while its side stones won’t. (Just like a center stone sometimes carries a GIA report, while its side stones don’t.)
The pilot, commissioned by the newly formed Lab-Grown Diamond Council, will involve four growers—Green Rocks, Goldiam USA, Lusix, and WD Lab Grown—as well as two retailers, Helzberg Diamonds and Swarovski.
The news comes after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in April warned eight lab-grown diamond sellers against using general environmental benefit claims, like eco-friendly and sustainable, which are prohibited by the the agency’s Green Guides.
Interestingly, none of the lab-grown diamond sellers that were cautioned by the FTC are participating in the pilot program. In fact, most of the participating companies have shied away from making eco claims in the past.
“These are companies that want to do the right thing,” says Stanley Mathuram, vice president for SCS, which has also worked with Brilliant Earth and the Responsible Jewellery Council. “The message they are giving now is, ‘We support sustainability, and here are our practices to prove it.’ This won’t be just about how these companies compare to mined diamonds. It’s about each company’s own practices and how they measure up to a transparent standard.”
While Diamond Foundry has been certified carbon-neutral by Natural Capital Partners, this new standard goes beyond that toward “climate neutrality,” Mathuram says.
“It’s not just that we measure your electrical footprint and then you buy offsets,” says Mathuram. “It may be looking at ways to reduce electricity use. This is going beyond carbon-neutral and looking at a multitude of issues. We will also be looking at black carbon, ozone, and methane, and other pollutants that are hot-button topics for climate. We are talking about water, we are talking about solvents, we are talking about chemicals.”
It will also monitor the companies that cut the diamonds and make sure they adhere to existing labor and safety standards.
Another key component: good governance. In this era of anti-money-laundering rules that mandate buyers know their customers, retailers increasingly want information about who owns lab-grown diamond companies, Mathuram says. Yet many growers are nontransparent, and some have had been linked to fugitive economic offenders, offshore entities, or the Chinese military.
“We want the standards aligned with OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] anti-bribery, anti-corruption standards, so we know who owns them,” Mathuram says. “We can ask, ‘What is their history? Could there be money laundering involved? Do they pay fair wages?’ ”
A standards committee has been formed to develop criteria for certification. Among the members will be Dr. Saleem Ali, who has written about the ecological impact of both mined and lab-grown diamonds. (Both Mathuram and Ali are also involved in efforts to monitor and certify mining operations, including diamond producers, such as the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance.)