The US Federal Trade Commission issued a warning to eight corporations final April over their deceptive advertising of lab-grown diamonds. The admonition uncovered a simmering disagreement between the producers of these diamonds and the miners of pure stones, a row that centres on claims round environmental requirements and sustainability.
One of many FTC’s issues was that corporations had been describing their merchandise as “eco-friendly”, “eco-conscious” and “sustainable”, with out substantiating these assertions. “Entrepreneurs will need to have an inexpensive foundation for any environmental declare they make,” it mentioned, including that “corporations ought to keep away from normal environmental profit claims as a result of it’s unlikely advertisers can substantiate all affordable interpretations of these claims”.
A month later got here a report from Trucost, an analytics firm that researches the hidden prices of unsustainable practices. It had been commissioned by the Diamond Producers Affiliation — which contains seven of the world’s largest gemstone miners, together with De Beers, Lucara and Rio Tinto — to take a look at the socio-economic in addition to environmental impacts and advantages of diamond mining.
Trucost estimated that, in 2016, greenhouse fuel emissions related to lab-grown diamond manufacturing are roughly 3 times larger than pure diamonds produced by DPA members. This was most likely an underestimate, it famous, as a result of an absence of publicly obtainable data.
Diamond growers have develop into the nice disrupters within the jewelry business, dramatically undercutting the value of mined pure diamonds by producing a product that’s chemically equivalent however made in a managed surroundings distant from the taint of battle zones and scarred landscapes.
However in keeping with Stanley Mathuram, a vice-president at third-party certifier and requirements developer SCS International Companies, the lab-grown diamond business has develop into a bit like “the Wild, Wild West, making eco claims for its merchandise simply because they don’t get their diamonds from the earth”.
“Simply because you aren’t mining doesn’t make your manufacturing sustainable,” he factors out.
SCS has been commissioned by the newly fashioned Lab Grown Diamond Council to provide a requirements framework for the business on an entire vary of sustainability measures. It’ll create an unbiased certification system to present credibility to growers’ eco-friendly claims.
Its pilot programme has 4 growers and two retailers on board, together with Inexperienced Rocks and Swarovski. Its focus is not going to simply be about vitality use, says Mr Mathuram. “Local weather points, water, waste chemical substances, social points, labour practices, governance, these all matter too,” he says.
Jean-Marc Lieberherr, who stepped down in December after virtually 4 years as chief government of the DPA, accuses some growers of creating false claims about utilizing renewable vitality. “Some say that they haven’t any carbon footprint, however given the extremely excessive temperatures they should run their reactors, photo voltaic or wind vitality will not be adequate,” he says.
“Solely hydropower would ship that. What number of have entry to hydropower? They might have some renewable vitality of their grid or purchase photo voltaic credit however that isn’t fairly the identical.”
Given the excessive temperatures contained in the reactors through which the diamonds are grown “15m litres of water are wanted yearly to chill them off”, Mr Lieberherr says. “In areas the place there are already water shortages, that isn’t nice. You need to maintain individuals to account on the claims they make.”
De Beers has a foot in each camps. Because the world’s largest pure diamond producer, it has additionally entered the lab-grown diamond sector with the launch of Lightbox Jewelry in 2018, with the goal of driving down the value of the stones and forcing them right into a separate class of “enjoyable, trend jewelry at an accessible worth”.
The group has not signed as much as the brand new certification pilot, as it’s already invested in third-party verification. David Johnson, head of strategic communications for De Beers, hopes the brand new initiative “will not be an train in greenwashing” and that “the entire business ought to have a look at giving customers larger transparency, however you’ve gotten some companies taking a extra cynical strategy”.
Diamond Foundry, the most important of the US diamond growers, was not thinking about participating within the pilot both. “We had been approached,” says Rachel Rhoads, director of improvement and partnerships, “and we love the workforce and approve of what they’re doing, however we really feel we’re licensed already and that we’re already setting requirements”.
“We’re the one carbon impartial grower, it’s a part of our core values.”
Paul Zimnisky, a New York-based diamond business analyst, believes that solely a small handful of growers have been prepared to participate within the sustainability requirements pilot as a result of verification is an costly course of and never the entire producers are as sustainable as they declare of their advertising. And in any case, he believes that on the entire “customers are selecting lab-grown diamonds due to their cheaper price, not as a result of they’re sustainable”.
Furthermore, he provides, producing diamonds for the jewelry sector is a short-term pursuit till they’ve sufficient scale to promote the stones cheaply to know-how corporations to make use of in laptop chips, the place he says larger earnings lie. “I don’t suppose the jewelry business is the top sport for lots of producers,” he says.
Olya Linde, the lead writer of Bain’s annual diamond report, printed in December, says: “Extra alternative for customers is sweet and lab-grown and pure diamonds shouldn’t be considered as a risk to one another. There’s area for each.”
She emphasises the significance for diamond growers to concentrate on changing into carbon impartial however, as Mr Mathuram factors out, it is not going to be a simple course of. “Many growers are primarily based in China, which has brought on market instability, undercutting costs,” he says, questioning “how would they qualify for sustainability”.