Rapaport Magazine

Antwerp

By Marc Goldstein
A Sustainable Approach

Among the various issues that are included under the Corporate Social Reponsibility (CSR) umbrella, sustainability is undoubtedly a key one. “I strongly believe governments can be a key driver in the development of strategic partnerships with the business sector,” said Iris Van der Veken, manager of corporate affairs global for Rosy Blue.
   “It requires that governments remove barriers to strategic, sustainable growth and give companies oxygen to grow their business,” continued Van der Veken. “We should not forget that growth and entrepreneurship are inextricably tied together. It is our moral obligation that growth needs to be defined in a wider context of promoting economic, social and environmental added value.”

Best Practice Principles
   Obviously, sustainability is upfront a global issue but it is also an all-inclusive vertical issue that must extend throughout the value chain from mining to retail. Feriel Zerouki, Best Practice Principles (BPP) manager of De Beers, explained: “Our industry has evolved rapidly and we have come a very long way in a relatively short space of time. Whether the focus is on environmental issues, business practices or social performance, the industry as a whole is far more advanced than it was at the end of the previous century.
   “We still have a way to go, however,” continued Zerouki. “Some locations — and some parts of the supply chain — present more challenges than others and new risks and issues are constantly emerging. It is therefore imperative that we continue to focus on sustainability. The value of diamonds is inextricably linked to their emotional appeal, which is why these issues are possibly more important for the diamond industry than for any other.”
   About De Beers BPP, Zerouki explained: “We believe that the program has led the way in the diamond industry when it comes to addressing sustainability issues. This has been achieved through the identification of the industry’s main sustainability issues and the formalization of a set of compliance requirements in relation to these issues. This rapidly increased the focus on sustainability issues for sightholders and, in turn, elements of the wider industry. In addition, the BPP focus on issues throughout the supply chain and are constantly evolving to anticipate areas of developing concern.”

Global Efforts
   However extensive their commitment and efforts, it is clear the producers alone would be nowhere in their CSR efforts without the other players. Catherine Sproule of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) stressed: “Over the next phase of RJC’s development, its objectives are to increase its awareness and footprint in India and China, while staying focused on the inroads it has made in Europe and North America. RJC will also continue its founding commitment toward harmonization of efforts with other industry initiatives to ensure that responsible business practices are seen as aligned and synergized.”
   Questioned about the way RJC was managing the supply chain, especially in places where the risks are very high, Sproule responded that “RJC has memoranda of understanding (MoUs) in place with organizations and initiatives that allow all of us to seek better understanding of these complex issues. The increase in RJC certification and chain of custody concerns in the precious metals sector have shown us there is a dedicated effort to address these risks.”

Industry Specifics
   What about brands? Charles Chaussepied of Piaget agreed that RJC’s Code of Practice “is the best standards system available to promote ethical and responsible practices within our industry. But our industry presents some major specificities: All members of our association are involved either/or in extracting, transforming or selling products containing gold and diamonds. This is a major difference with other industries. Jewelry means for most of our customers dreams, happiness, beauty, rarity, excellence, know-how and sometimes…love…. How could we accept bribery, corruption, pollution or child labor anywhere along our supply chain?”
   “Antwerp is indeed taking leadership in CSR and we should be very proud of that, but I would not dare say that this is the cornerstone that will today give Antwerp a competitive edge,” concluded Van der Veken. “The key question is: How can all centers find the right balance in driving the CSR agenda forward? It is about transparency and building systems in your organization and your supply chain to monitor and protect the integrity of our natural diamonds. Often, there is a commercial dilemma with tight-squeezed margins. You need a very committed top management to make the right choice.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - June 2014. To subscribe click here.

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