With another annual Kimberley Process meeting behind us, some colleagues reminded me of the ongoing need to focus on ethics, rather than politics. The desire to shake off politics is understood, as it seems seedy, suffers from mixed interests and, above all, can be ethically-challenged.
Politics are also viewed as a somewhat impractical way of doing things. Sadly, without politics, matters aren’t done. In an ideal world, we would like to see that a problem is tackled by a short brainstorming session, followed by the adoption of the best possible solution, and concluded with its immediate implementation – without the interference of irrelevant considerations.
While we do not live in an ideal world, it is still worth deciding to reach a higher ethical standard. Clearly, a diamond pipeline that excludes violence and generates improved economic conditions to all involved, especially those suffering from poor living conditions is just such a goal. One aim of this would be to include making sure that consumers are aware of these ethical achievements when reached.
Taking the higher road
It is worthwhile to take a step back to make sure we are seeing the forest, not just the trees. Awhile back, the global fishing industry was under attack for its practice of catching whatever was in their nets path and tossing back into the sea whatever they didn’t commercially need, (euphemistically called “by catch”), and in the process killing huge quantities of turtles, sharks and dolphins.
As a consumer, I have no idea how this was eventually resolved, but I check that some sort of dolphin logo appears on the tuna cans I buy at the supermarket. In all honesty, I have no idea what that logo means. Is it a proof-positive indication that only tunas were caught in the fishing boats’ nets?
Does the company with the largest consumer tuna brand operate its own fishing boats; do they buy tuna on the open market to meet demand? Who is supervising them, and is there any oversight at all ensuring that the dolphin logo is used only when indeed no dolphins were killed by the fishing company?
Maybe it’s the cynic that hides in every journalist, but when looking at a can of tuna, I always wonder if the dolphin logo stands for anything. Yet, I always have a few cans of tuna in the pantry…
Most consumers, at least in the West, are probably like that. They stand in front of a variety of offerings – on the shelf at a supermarket or display case at a jeweler – and wonder. The decision is driven by a few considerations.
The known brand has an advantage and price is always important. Ethics, it seems, is not the top priority, but more of an additional benefit, a reinforcement of the brewing decision. A known brand, that stood the test of taste (or other similar considerations for other products), which is priced right, and has the right ethics insignia, is preferred.
Will consumers buy the same product if the dolphin logo all of a sudden disappeared? How much consideration do we give to emissions rating when buying a car? How much thought do we give to the conditions in which Coltan is mined in Congo when buying a smartphone?
These issues and questions need to be taken into consideration when thinking about how to address the issue of ethics and diamonds. The solution should have oversight that is practical, identifies the problems and addresses them in a timely fashion. The solution should take into account manufacturers’ needs, so they can take a willing part in implementation and contribute to it. It must be obvious enough that retailers are aware of its operations and won’t feel “naked” in front of their consumers. Finally, consumers must feel confident that the logo accompanying the effort, as the final sign of this process, stands for something very real.
All this is achievable, but it will take some real politics for it to happen.