Sustainability: The Full Picture
For consumers and media alike, the concept of sustainability is a hot topic, and rightly so. But the reality is that most consumers do not take the time to truly understand the positive and negative impacts of their purchases. We use cell phones constantly, but do we ever question the impact of technology production on the planet?
Currently, there is a simplification of the broader concept of sustainability into the singular topic of climate change, despite the truth that sustainability also encapsulates the impact on people and prosperity. There are many areas of the world that lack the typical wealth of developed regions, but are naturally rich in valuable raw materials like diamonds. Think about what would happen if these raw materials didn’t exist. A lack of high-quality employment, tax revenues and shared welfare could create a domino effect of damage to communities, wildlife and the planet. In short, sustainability cannot be simplified in the way it is so often covered in the media and pushed onto consumers.
What motivates us
This creates challenges for brands, businesses and industries. It helps to take a step back and examine the motivation behind a focus on sustainability. Perhaps it’s brand equity: Does presenting your product, brand or company as being “sustainable” create a greater desire that ultimately leads to greater sales and higher profits? Maybe it’s “obligation,” either through legislation or financial requirements. It could also be a genuine desire to contribute to the welfare of this planet.
The natural diamond industry embarked on the rethinking of sustainability 20 years ahead of many others, on a mission to learn from bad practices. As a relative newcomer to the industry, I have been genuinely impressed by the way we’ve tackled our challenges. We’ve advanced much further and faster than many can even imagine. Our motivations? A healthy balance of all the aforementioned.
Impact on communities
Born from the earth billions of years ago, natural diamonds contribute to the more complete definition of sustainability, which, in addition to environmental stewardship, yields extremely advantageous impacts on people and generates prosperity in a responsible way.
The natural diamond industry supports the livelihoods of over 10 million people, many of whom reside in regions of our earth with more limited options. In these places, the industry has worked especially hard in tandem with national governments to transform the presence of raw natural diamonds into high-quality employment, tax revenues and general citizen welfare. Diamonds have helped build schools, provide skills and education, strengthen healthcare, and protect hundreds of thousands of acres — actually three times more than they use — for biodiversity and endangered species.
And the Covid-19 crisis did everything but crumble this partnership; over the past year and a half and despite our own financial challenges, the natural industry at large quietly increased its commitment to its employees and their communities and hospitals, in a demonstration of intrinsic and genuine humanitarianism.
Doing the work
Our consumers are changing, and for our industry, it’s important to differentiate between the rhetoric found in the press and social media, and the reality of how consumers are behaving.
The consumer will believe in the values of an industry only if they trust it. To create that trust, we must all work together to ensure that each of us enriches the reputation of our industry. For this reason, I feel passionately about the work of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), an organization in which members support each other with skills and knowledge, without the need to feel competitive.
The natural diamond industry’s legacy reputation has made us collectively work much harder than most to rebalance our narrative. We will never rest on our laurels, but instead continue to strive as businesses and entities to be better at what we do. The work that is being done to improve the welfare of the planet, combined with the innovation that we see daily in the jewelry industry, is clearly being seen and recognized by our consumers.
Please continue to put the complete sustainability values at the core of your businesses, and let’s all work together. Because that’s what will ultimately lead to a better tomorrow for us all.