“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you would do things differently.” — Warren Buffett.
Signet Jewelers has had a frustrating time of late. In the past year, it has battled allegations of diamond-swapping, sexual harassment and gender discrimination that have put its brand on the back foot and depleted its share price by more than 40% since last May.
But the company’s valuation is not the only casualty here. Signet, the largest jewelry retailer in the US, has made great strides in advancing responsible sourcing for the jewelry supply chain — strides that the recent negative publicity has overshadowed. And while this consequence is unfortunate, it serves as a reminder to the diamond and jewelry industry that a company’s reputation makes all the difference in a socially conscious consumer environment.
As Signet has carefully responded to each of the claims against it, it has highlighted its corporate social responsibility (CSR) program. Last month, the company published a CSR report for the first time — a “celebration” of its past activity in this area “going back decades,” David Bouffard (pictured), vice president of Signet corporate affairs, told Rapaport News at the time.
Responsible sourcing is one of four pillars that governs Signet’s CSR policy, as outlined in the report — the others being its people, environmental stewardship, and charitable giving. It’s also the policy that will likely have the biggest impact on the greater diamond and jewelry market.
Considering that Signet sources goods from approximately 700 suppliers across the globe, its responsible-sourcing protocols have a far-reaching effect. In addition, the company requires its suppliers to implement those protocols with their subcontractors, extending the impact even further into the trade.
“The raw materials that go into our jewelry — including gold, diamonds and other precious metals and stones — come from a multitude of locations around the world,” the company wrote in the report. “We understand that because this is such a complicated supply chain, maximizing transparency is essential.”
After successfully implementing protocols for gold and the 3Ts — tungsten, tantalum and tin — Signet has claimed a conflict-free gold supply chain for three consecutive years. It’s currently developing a protocol for silver and platinum-group metals, which is scheduled to launch this year, and one for colored gemstones, slated for 2020.
The protocol for diamonds — be it rough, polished or mounted in jewelry — was rolled out last year, and implementation is under way.