The role of business is expanding. While the need to provide good products at competitive prices remains the same, the definition of “good products” is rapidly evolving. Social responsibility can be seen as a quality attribute that increases the “good” of a product. As in all quality improvements, the higher the quality, the greater the cost and price. Consumers choose from a range of quality/price combinations. Some consumers want higher-quality socially responsible products and are willing to pay more for them; others don’t.
While many in our trade would like to do the right thing and provide high-quality, good, socially responsible products, it is up to consumers to decide what they want and how much they are willing to pay for it. Essentially the level of social responsibility is up to consumers. They will get the level of social responsibility they are willing to pay for — no more and no less.
The trade can have a positive impact by marketing and communicating the advantages of socially responsible jewelry products. Essentially, driving socially responsible demand through competition.
We should recognize that the flip side of good products is bad products that hurt people and society. There is a broad range of socially irresponsible actions that reduce the “quality” of our products and industry. Violation of human rights is the greatest evil, but environmental damage, unsafe or unfair working conditions and a host of other factors influence the “quality” of our products.
Furthermore, bad actions promote more bad actions. If someone bribes a government official or engages in other illegal activity that lowers their costs, legitimate companies are at a competitive disadvantage. Without a level playing field, you can’t have fair competition. Illegitimate firms gain extra profits, encouraging other firms to engage in bad practices. Just as you can have good, socially responsible competition, you can have bad, socially irresponsible competition.
While fighting evil may discourage some unethical behavior, it does not solve the problem. The way forward is to encourage, promote and reward good behavior and good products. This requires differentiating, labeling and certifying good products. We must reward good behavior and set the stage for socially responsible added value. We must transcend altruism and create a market where it pays for businesses to be good.
Creating “good” supply chains offers a responsible alternative to unknown sources of supply that may include “bad” products. Essentially the best way forward is to offer good products. And fortunately that is what is happening today.
The diamond and jewelry industry is on the slippery slope of legitimacy. Day by day more efforts are being made to identify and monitor good supply chains. The Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) is leading the way by establishing socially responsible standards and creating a transparent auditing system. Many organizations such as the Alliance for Responsible Mining, Impact, De Beers and others are working hard to help the artisanal sector meet fair trade standards that empower impoverished communities. International trade groups such as the World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO) are uniting to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Visit the Rapaport.com/src resources section for information about organizations and companies working on social responsibility.
It is important to recognize that the move to social responsibility is a process. Things are not perfect and there are legitimate concerns about greenwashing. For example, those that shamefully support the legitimization of Zimbabwean diamonds involved in human rights abuses hurt the image of all diamonds, including good diamonds that benefit society.
Article from the Rapaport Magazine – August 2021.