As consumers increasingly look at the social, economic and environmental impact of their purchases, brands and retailers are working to be more transparent. While many companies are catching up to these demands, luxury brands such as the De Beers Group have been leading the way in this area for decades.
During last week’s Fairchild Media Group’s sustainability summit, “Sustainability Now: The Pressure Grows,” Sourcing Journal’s Kate Nishimura interviewed Pat Dambe, De Beers Group’s vice president, market outreach, natural diamonds, to share insights into how the company is promoting ethical and sustainable diamond mining. During the session, titled, “Building Forever: Blueprint for a Better Future,” Dambe discussed the origins of the Kimberley Process, the role of transparency and the implementation of its Provenance Solution and Tracr blockchain technology.
In 2003, De Beers and other diamond producers partnered with the U.N. to establish the Kimberley Process, which the organization notes is the process of uniting “administrations, civil societies and industry in reducing the flow of conflict diamonds — ‘rough diamonds used to finance wars against governments’ — around the world.”
Dambe described the formation of the mandate as “a pretty aggressive process” that was put together “by governments, the private sector, like ourselves as De Beers, to address some of the key issues” at the time. “As we say in our industry, one conflict diamond affects all of us,” she said. “Our whole focus was to make sure that any diamond that is certified by the Kimberley Process really focuses on responsible sourcing and some of the key elements towards protection from mine to finger.”
Dambe said for its part, De Beers “goes over and beyond the Kimberley Process.” She said the company instituted, about 15 years ago, “what we call our best practice policies. And I think we are pretty aggressive with our value chain in terms of meeting certain key criteria for participating in our value chain.”
“As much as we are a leader and a strategic director within the Kimberley Process for ourselves, we go over and beyond by making sure that every single aspect of our value chain is reviewed from an ethical and best resourcing practice perspective,” she explained. “What it means within the communities that they’re in, is ensuring that we can be a leader in terms of the [sustainable and ethical] benchmarks.”
In regard to the Provenance Solution, Dambe described it as “a unique selling position” that showcases authenticity. “It’s not about what we say, it’s about what we do,” Dambe noted. “What we are doing with our technology is being able to trace from mine to finger and understanding, like I was saying, the best practices and policies that are used across that value chain. And this is really important to a discerning consumer today.”
The technology, called Tracr, shows where each diamond comes from and the impact along each step of the value chain. “And I think that’s really important for any consumer understanding origin to finger,” Dambe said. “I also think that one of the things that Provenance allows for is a differentiation of the diamonds. Like food or anything else, you want to know, ‘Where does it originate from?’ and ‘What is the life within that origination?’”
Dambe said since the Provenance process reveals the impact of production on producing countries, it can serve as a model for other industries and other product categories, too. “It’s really about the communities and making sure that we empower, enable and understand that partnership with the communities in terms of what’s important to them,” she said. “It’s not just about extraction, but uplifting lives, which doesn’t just mean social investment. It means really looking at ways that we can make a difference and perhaps impart technology, new skills, new opportunities and diversification.”
“And Provenance is not just about the ethical practice, Provenance is about growth, it’s about ensuring that we’re building something over and beyond our value chain and as we call it, our Building Forever strategy, which is a true partnership with the government, the communities and all the stakeholders, plus the consumer,” Dambe said. “It’s important for the consumer to feel that what they’re wearing is making a significant impact to where it comes from and to be able to measure that significant impact as well, which is really important.”