LONDON — De Beers Group, the world’s leading diamond miner, is investing in the future.
The company, which directly employs around 20,000 people worldwide, wants to create a positive lasting impact — not only within its mining operations in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Canada, but also in its stores and across its public communications — with a wide range of targets grouped under four pillars that make up the company’s Building Forever 2030 Goals.
Here, Katie Fergusson, senior vice president, sustainable impact at De Beers Group, speaks to WWD about how the group intends to measure and track its Building Forever 2030 targets in the areas of leading ethical practices across the industry, partnering for thriving communities, protecting the natural world and accelerating equal opportunity.
WWD: What’s the thinking behind the launch of the Building Forever 2030 Goals for De Beers Group?
Katie Fergusson: We started working on the Building Forever Goals in 2018. What we identified was that we already had a very strong foundation in several of the pillars. So we had for a long time been leading in the industry in terms of raising the bar on standards, for example, to cover the entities across the full diamond value chain, bringing international standards into the industry through those principles and an assurance program.
We’ve had conservation properties in southern Africa for decades, and protection of species through those properties. And we’ve had community development programs around areas like health and job creation for a long time. For example, we were the first company in southern Africa that introduced free antiretroviral treatment and testing around HIV and AIDS.
We had some really strong foundations. But the sustainability, environmental and social challenges have significantly increased over the last few years. We’re now in a climate crisis. Inequality is rising. The expectations of businesses and brands to really play a strong role on these issues and set ambitious targets has really increased.
We wanted to make sure that we were on the leading edge of that. So for the first time, we’re working toward setting forward-looking goals. We worked with partners across the business and across the value chain. We do community socioeconomic assessments every three years, where we talk to a whole range of community stakeholders around our minds about what they care about. What are their expectations of us? We did lots of engagement with government partners in those countries, and we engaged employees and tested the goals through our materiality process with opinion formers and sustainability right away from mining through to retail.
That led to the 12 goals that we set out in Building Forever. Some of them are taking what we already did well and scaling that to reach further across the value chain, like responsible sourcing. Some of them are real moonshots, like reaching carbon neutral in our across all of our operations by 2030. That’s well ahead of science-based targets. But we really felt very strongly about that.
WWD: How is De Beers Group tracking and measuring the progress for the wide array of targets set in the Building Forever 2030 Goals initiatives?
K.F.: So in terms of tracking and measuring, we’ve got a sustainability integration team. Each part of the business has had to develop a detailed five-year plan of how they’re going to work toward the goals. And that’s all the way through from our mining operations all the way through to the brands and consumer markets end of the business.
They have quarterly milestones that we track through dashboards and we are putting in place performance metrics against each of the goals, and we will be telling that story better in our sustainability report, but we want to look at a much more interactive way to share data with people who are interested and with our consumers.
We’re looking at innovative ways of doing that. But also, I think that data is really important. It underpins the credibility of the goals and we need to hold ourselves accountable. But also the human stories as well. We need to tell the journey not just through our own eyes, but through the eyes of our stakeholders as well. Are we achieving what they think we need to be achieving? And I think we need to be really honest, to be willing to share where we’re not delivering on what we’ve learned.
WWD: The goals tackle not only areas like transparency and traceability, but also social responsibility. Is this something communicated more internally or for the consumers?
K.F.: It’s definitely across the whole value chain. From the consumer’s perspective, what we know they care most about is their provenance and traceability. They want to understand the positive impact that has had. We are very focused on our code of origin proposition and traceability using Tracer, our blockchain platform to really trace the diamonds through and increasingly be able to tell the story of diamonds to the consumer. We know that consumers increasingly care about that and want more information, which is fantastic.
Also, we can see that consumers across all markets definitely care about nature and climate. We’ve seen that shift through that sort of shared experience of the global pandemic. Our commitment to carbon neutrality right the way through our value chain, we know is something that’s just as important to the consumers as to other stakeholders across the value chain.
Last year, we launched a really large five-year partnership with National Geographic, called Okavango Eternal. We have a 50-year partnership with Botswana. The Okavango Delta in Botswana, a World Heritage Site, is really important. Ecotourism is the second biggest industry for Botswana. The partnership with National Geographic is about protecting the headwaters for the delta, which because of climate change and pressures from commercial agriculture and the fact that they have been unprotected through the civil wars in Angola, are under serious pressure. If they dry up, then the Okavango Delta disappears and all of the incredible biodiversity that goes with it.
In the social space, it is around inclusion and diversity, but not just in terms of our workforce, but also how, as a brand, we are showing up on issues like gender equality, and we can do a lot in our retail side as well. So through our partnership with UN Women, for example, we’ve also joined the Unstereotype Alliance, which focuses on inclusive marketing. Gender equality is the other one that we’ve really focused on over the last few years, both with our partnership with UN Women and with other partners as well.