Harry Stevens is a freelance reporter covering climate change, corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, and sustainable finance. Harry has contributed to several media outlets, including Justmeans, GreenBiz, SocialEarth, and Sustainablog. You can follow Harry on Twitter: @Harry_Stevens...
Responsible Diamond Supplier Receives Best-In-Class Certification
Avilan Diamonds has been named the first-ever Responsible Source for diamonds by Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), a leader in third-party environmental and sustainability certification.
To achieve SCS certification, Avilan, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., underwent a rigorous review to ensure that its diamonds were produced under fair labor practices with minimal harm to the environment.
Avilan sells post-consumer diamonds that are already in existing inventory, eliminating the need for additional mining, which can be environmentally harmful and socially exploitative. Still, to ensure that environmentally and socially responsible practices were used during production, Avilan must painstakingly trace the source of each of its diamonds.
"SCS Responsible Source for diamonds includes evaluation against numerous criteria including those related to supplier screening and due diligence, corporate governance, labor practices, and environmental impacts," says Andrew Collins, Technical Manager of Environmental Certification Services for SCS.
Collins points out that the SCS criteria exceed international norms, and Avilan chose the SCS certification after determining it offered the "most rigorous" screening available.
"The certification process through SCS was intense and included opening all of our books for transparency, tracing the source of every single diamond in our database to validate our supply chain, and building a strong network of retailers and consumers," said Jana Hadany, marketing director for Avilan.
Conflict diamonds, or "blood diamonds," have gained a foothold in the public consciousness in recent years over revelations that revenue from African diamond mines has been funneled to fund human rights atrocities in places like Liberia and Sierra Leone. Many such diamond mines have also employed forced and child labor.
In 2003, the United Nations established the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme to prevent diamonds used by rebel groups to finance civil war from entering the diamond market. While the Kimberley Process has brought about a reduction in the availability of conflict diamonds, the scheme has also been the object of criticism.
The World Diamond Council recently expressed support for reform of the Kimberley Process, and for expanding the definition of conflict diamonds to include a wider range of human rights abuses. Likewise, Global Witness pulled out of the Kimberley Process in December 2011, asserting that the scheme fails to credibly remove conflict diamonds from the marketplace.
"Savvy consumers and retailers are aware of the issues surrounding conflict diamonds, but many still don't know the whole truth," said Hadany. "While the Kimberley Process was enacted to stop diamonds that fund rebel movements against established governments, there are too many loopholes; loopholes mean that suffering still exists in the form of human rights' violation and negative ecological outcomes."
Avilan, which donates a percentage of sales to charity, hopes that achieving SCS certification will instill further confidence in its socially-conscious customers. "This validation definitely sets Avilan apart from other diamond companies who claim to offer responsibly-sourced gems but lack a true third-party validation," said Hadany.
SCS has also certified that Avilan has established a baseline use of energy, water, waste and greenhouse gas emissions, with commitments to make future reductions across these categories.
Image credit: Christina Rutz