In the midst of a five-day Belgian State visit to India, the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) - umbrella organization for the Antwerp diamond industry - joined hands with its Indian counterpart, the Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC), to host a roundtable discussion today (Nov. 9) in Mumbai concerning the contributions of the diamond industry to social and economic development. The roundtable included high-ranking members of the Antwerp and Indian diamond communities, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Affairs Didier Reynders and Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry Shri Suresh Prabhu, while the official portion of the event took place in the presence His Majesty King Philippe of the Belgians.
Antwerp is the most important global trade center for diamonds; currently 84% of all rough diamonds and 50% of all polished diamonds are traded in Antwerp, and in 2016, this amounted to $48 billion. Trade relations between Belgium and India have always been excellent, and diamonds play a very significant role in this regard. Antwerp exports an enormous amount of rough diamonds to India, which is the most important diamond cutting and polishing center in the world. The diamonds polished in India are then often sold again in Antwerp, which generates a natural interaction between the two centers. Some 95% of all Belgian diamond exports to India is rough diamonds, which represents a 69% share of all Belgian exports of rough diamonds, making the stones the most important export product from Belgium to India by a wide margin.
According to the AWDC, sustainability plays a key role in this. "Promoting a sustainable and transparent diamond industry is among the AWDC’s main priorities," said AWDC CEO Ari Epstein. "The Antwerp diamond trade is widely recognized for its efforts regarding the ‘5th C’: alongside the 4 Cs that determine the value of a diamond, the 5th C stands for Compliance, Confidence and Corporate Social Responsibility. In recent years, AWDC has increased its commitment to sustainability, because we believe it should play a key role in the business model of the future. We wish to demonstrate that sustainability and growth are not mutually exclusive; rather, sustainable business practices generate opportunities."
The Antwerp delegation took the opportunity to demonstrate the ways in which the diamond industry contributes to social and economic development, focusing on the responsibility diamond companies have to do business in a sustainable fashion. Stephane Fischler, President of AWDC as well as the World Diamond Council, said, "In India, more than a million people are employed in the diamond industry. The same economic importance applies to Antwerp, where more than 32,000 people work in or are dependent of the diamond trade. And, it must be said again and again, directly or indirectly, the diamond industry supports the livelihood of more than 10 million people worldwide. It is hard to understate the importance of the diamond trade to many economies and individuals around the world. But," he added, "with great importance comes great responsibility, so failure is not an option."
Fischler spoke at length about Antwerp's efforts to secure a sustainable future of the trade, highlighting the AWDC's partnerships with the Diamond Development Initiative, an organization that audits and certifies alluvial and artisanal diamond areas in Africa against human and social rights standards, and CIFAL Flanders, a UN training center supporting the implementation of the sustainable development goals, with which it set up a “Start to SDG” support program for the diamond industry. Fischler added, "I am proud the efforts the diamond industry in general, and Antwerp in particular, is taking to foster global socio-economic development. There is no doubt that we, as an industry, have made great strides and come a long way. Our corporate social responsibilities and responsible sourcing standards are now embedded in the diamond industry ecosystem. But this does not mean we no longer face significant challenges, or that we have overcome the negative perception of our industry."
The event also featured speakers from several companies who exchanged ideas and case studies, discussing how CSR policies can be reinforced and translated in to daily practices on the level of mining and trade, and investigating how the Kimberley Process can contribute even more to improving ethical business practices in the industry. Among them were: Peter Wollaert, Managing Director of CIFAL Flanders; Amit Banshali, Managing Director of Rosy Blue; Kinjal Shah, Regional Director of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) India; Marie d’Huart, Executive Director of CAP Source and founder of ‘My Fair Diamond’, a new diamond jewelry collection whose raw materials are fully traceable down to the mine; Vijay Iyer, Managing Director of Rio Tinto in India; and Geert Van Reisen, Head of Strategy and Portfolio Management Diamond & Jewellery Clients at ABN AMRO.