Removing the (Ethical) Tarnish from Diamonds

Here’s an interesting interview with the Chief Executive of diamond giant DeBeers, from the Wall Street Journal: De Beers Polishes Its Image

When Gareth Penny became De Beers Group’s chief executive in 2006, the world’s biggest diamond producer was mired in some of the worst crises in its 120-year history.

Rapper Kanye West’s “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” in 2005 and the movie “Blood Diamond” in 2006 were triggering a wave of negative publicity about buying “conflict diamonds,” which were sold in the 1990s by African rebels to help pay for their wars. De Beers had already worked with the United Nations, governments, and human-rights groups to introduce the Kimberley Process, a voluntary certification program for rough diamonds that allows the origin of the gems to be traced, but the company was vulnerable to a consumer backlash nonetheless.

The most interesting part of the story is about the Kimberly Process. The WSJ interview, read alongside (say) the Wikipedia page for the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (seriously worth reading!), makes for a pretty good case-study of how industry, NGOs, and international “soft law” can together go a considerable distance towards rescuing a once-dubious product.

1 comment so far

  1. plasticsyntax on

    The entire history of De Beers is fascinating from a business ethics perspective. Conflict diamonds, price fixing, cartels, artificial scarcity, and arguably their role in popularizing diamonds as a symbol of love all have played a role in the success of the company.The first article I ever read on the topic is a great place to start for those that are interested: < HREF="http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/198202/diamond/" REL="nofollow">http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/198202/diamond<>


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