At the recent President’s Meeting, World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB) president Ernest Blom said something noteworthy: “If customers are checking where their fruit and vegetables and tea and coffee were grown, be sure [they will do the same] when they go to buy an item of diamond jewelry that costs thousands of times more.”
The WFDB is generally considered the more conservative of the diamond groups, so his remarks seemed important, in that they implicitly endorse a chain of custody. When I asked him about this later, he didn’t think it was a big shift but noted the industry needs to evolve in this new consumer environment.
He’s right. Smart businesspeople deal with the world as it is, not as they wish it to be. They also believe in minimizing risk. As I’ve long argued, the industry faces serious problems if it doesn’t get a better handle on its supply chain. Here are some reasons why this is so important.
1. These issues are not going away.
The following jewelry items are now subject to government regulation: conflict diamonds, Burmese rubies, Burmese jade, Zimbabwe diamonds, conflict gold, conflict tungsten, and ivory.
Pre-2000, these issues rarely came up. Now they surface every year or so. The world is getting smaller, which means the once-distant problems of Africa and elsewhere are now our concerns. Expect this drumbeat only to get louder.
It’s not just our industry. Go to Change.org, and you’ll see petitions targeting everything from toothpaste to tomatoes. Even tech giant Apple was forced to act after criticism of its Chinese factories. Apple may not have lost one sale over that controversy. Yet the most respected, powerful, and richest company in the world bent to social pressure. If Apple doesn’t ignore these issues, why should we? Our industry is a lot more vulnerable. People believe they can’t live without Apple products. They can live without a diamond.
2. Millennial consumers care about these topics.
One can debate millennials’ commitment to social issues; you can’t make blanket statements about 78 million people. Still, most surveys have found that millenials take these issues far more seriously than Gen X-ers and baby boomers.