Isn’t there just one step from Volkswagen to ethics in diamonds?

Marianne Riou

There are some current affairs that pass nobody by, and the Volkswagen scandal is one of them. What does it have to do with the diamond industry? It’s a clear illustration of our recurring questions about the grounds for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) actions, ethics and respect for consumers…

This Volkswagen scandal seems frankly astounding.  How, in today’s world, can a global company, one of the biggest Groups in the automotive industry, allow itself to get caught up in such a fraud? Because this is not just some small error made in passing (11 million vehicles fitted with anti-pollution test rigging software!) and the consequences are huge. For Volkswagen clearly, there is an enormous fine, investigations, resignations, an epic fall in the value of its shares, the impact on its image, etc. But the consequences risk affecting the whole automotive sector since the American authorities intend to extend their investigations to other manufacturers.

Why am I talking to you about the Volkswagen affair you may ask? Because it is impossible not to draw a parallel with the preoccupations about ethics and inspection that quite rightly agitate the diamond industry! This “Volkswagen scandal” is more or less what the diamond industry fears the most right now, even if the problem of the costs of rough and the margins on polished diamonds have made us look the other way for a while. Don’t you agree?

Imagine if it happened to “us”? Can you imagine the suspicion that a scandal involving one company could cast over the whole industry? Imagine if clearly over-valued diamonds were found on a piece of fashion jewelry that was selling well… Imagine if a consumer with an inclination to sue (and who would blame them?) discovered that what he thought was a natural diamond on the exquisite engagement ring he was about to offer to his prospective fiancee was in fact a synthetic one? Imagine how much damage one case of dishonesty could do and what would happen to an industry that goes to so much trouble to find ad hoc actions to win over consumers.

Let’s face it, being an alarmist is very boring… Let’s not cry wolf for no reason. But frankly, we absolutely do not have the means to ensure that it will not happen. What means do we have to watch our backs and reassure consumers? Who is sufficiently clearly committed to CSR actions (and is successfully communicating about it) to prove their desire to give back the profits of the diamonds that they sell?

Because beyond any humanist consideration and being simply pragmatic, this story reminds us that, to sell today:

– being transparent is essential;

– carrying out corporate social responsibility actions is essential;

– taking care of employees is essential;

– being able to demonstrate the quality of your product is essential;

– giving credit to consumers is essential…