Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is sometimes seen as a diversion of precious financial resources to an area that isn’t on the essential list as far as running a business is concerned. It is also seen only as an unavoidably necessary drain on company resources. Nothing could be further from the truth. CSR is a vital part of what we do. It defines who we are and more importantly, it defines our product in the consumer’s eyes. It imparts a value to both the industry and its product that nothing else in the world can.
The diamond industry can hold up its head with pride on the subject of CSR. In India, we have built schools and hospitals, worked at building up the infrastructure of the rural areas that are home to the majority of our workforce. We’ve adopted ethical methods and best practice principles, improved workplace safety beyond the accepted norm and backed social outreach programs that include drug rehabilitation initiatives and a raft of measures to improve the lives of not only the people who work for us, but their near and dear ones and the communities they come from.
But how is the diamond industry perceived overall? Apart from the CSR bullet-point list of things we’ve done to score brownie points with, how are we viewed by society at large — all around the world? Are we seen as a force for good? An industry that people think of approvingly?
The information technology industry, by its very nature, is perceived as a major force that is transforming the world through what it does. An industry that in the end makes the world a better place for everyone.
Is the diamond industry seen that way?
Sadly, we aren’t — despite all the good we’ve done, we’re not. It is saddening to see that the lasting impression we have left on the world is still negative — as major magazines still run articles like this one. The head-on approach to tackle and control blood diamonds is a saga that the global diamond industry can be justifiably proud of. No other industry of any kind has ever even attempted something on this scale. The diamond industry, working with civil society and governments, actually stopped the horror of blood diamonds in its tracks.
So why do we still see articles like the one mentioned above? The answer is that, whether or not there is conflict in a region is not the issue. Diamonds need to actually make a difference in the lives of its stakeholders. India, where most of the world’s diamonds are processed, can legitimately say that diamonds do make a huge difference to the lives of industry stakeholders. The thing is, however, that we in the diamond industry are responsible for all stakeholders, both upstream and downstream of wherever in the process pipeline we might be.
If diamonds are not making a positive difference to the lives of stakeholders in the upstream mining communities, and circumstances are again allowing the ugly side of human nature to manifest itself in our industry, then it is our duty to do something about it. Diamonds have to be seen universally as a force for good.
This is why it is important for all of us to support programs like the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI), which benefit stakeholders with whom we don’t normally have any direct contact. Our product passes through many hands and when it comes into ours, we have to be sure that the hands it passed through before us were positively impacted by their passage. We can then confidently tell the world that diamonds actually make this world a better place.
Being able to say that is not simply about looking good and scoring brownie points with our public image. Making the world a better place is an attribute that will make consumers want to buy diamonds. It gives them an opportunity to make a difference themselves by buying our product.
CSR isn’t about looking good. It is actually good for us and our product. It gives us an attribute that no new gadget with state of the art technical wizardry can compete against. Diamonds should make the world a better place.