AWDC Publishes Its Second Sustainability Report, Focus on SDGs

03/05/2019 14:32

The Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) on Tuesday published its second sustainability report (available to download here), looking at the impact the umbrella organization for the Antwerp diamond industry has with regard to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), locally as well as internationally. The AWDC's "Report to Society" is the only sustainability report from a diamond trade hub that takes an in-depth and critical look at the local and broader impact of its policies and initiatives, as well as the challenges it faces. The most important themes in the report are ‘Integrity in the diamond value chain’, ‘compliance in the diamond industry’, ‘innovation and the future of Antwerp’ and ‘the economic impact in diamond-producing countries’.

As CEO Ari Epstein noted in his introduction to the report, the AWDC is well aware of the risks, reputational and otherwise, inherent to the global diamond trade, and takes its responsibilities as an influential industry organization seriously. "We know that vigilance, legislation, and a comprehensive attunement of the mentality of the industry’s participants to the relevant SDGs are imperative," CEO Epstein said. "Our mission is to safeguard the integrity of the diamond value chain and defend the reputation of the industry in Antwerp and globally - not by polishing over its rough edges, but by instituting fundamental changes and progressive practices befitting a 21st-century organization." Indeed, as he mentioned, "transparency is not just a buzzword at the AWDC. It is a strategic priority. We believe that the business model of the future must have sustainability at its core; that sustainability and growth are not mutually exclusive." That is why, he explained, the AWDC took a calculated decision early on to make sustainability a priority in the Antwerp diamond industry.

To hold themselves to the task, the AWDC invited a panel of four sustainability experts to review and comment on the report. One of those experts, Filip Reyniers of the NGO International Peace Information Service (IPIS), praised the report for its thoroughness and ambition, but wondered whether the AWDC should not be doing more to implement changes on the ground in diamond-producing countries - he cautioned in particular against the portrayal of artisanal mining as problematic, and industrial mining as unproblematic. He also asked whether "defending your reputation" should be a priority. AWDC's Head of Public Affairs Karla Basselier pointed out that the AWDC's mandate does not extend to the legislation of the countries with which it interacts, but that it makes considerable efforts to have a positive impact by providing support through capacity building and by partnering with international organizations that are on the ground. "We want the diamond community to act responsibly, whilst insisting on compliance with best practices," she commented. "Companies have a duty to care, and we are here to support and help them. We do not focus on our reputation and then create a report to bolster it," Basselier added. "This report is about being transparent to society, and to ourselves. If we act on the insights we have gained, and get everyone else on board, a positive reputation will follow."

Human rights expert Liliana Lizarazo-Rodríguez of the Law and Development Research Group praised the AWDC's "commitment to tackle the salient human rights issues in the diamond industry value chain, particularly in the extractive phase." She also viewed as positive the AWDC's commitment "to implement and enforce the KPCS and its critical view towards the scope of the KPCS, which does not address the social and environmental challenges affecting diamond mining, particularly artisanal mining." She also pointed out an "important challenge that is mentioned in the report and which needs to be looked at more closely, namely the fact that most diamonds (90%) are manufactured in India, but the evaluation of human rights conditions and particularly of working conditions at these Asian manufacturers is pending." AWDC representatives acknowledged they would need to dig deeper into manufacturing issues in future reports.

The AWDC's Report to Society comprises an integrated report in which the challenges facing the industry are linked to their annual figures and financial information. The AWDC says it took this approach so that its sustainability agenda could be more firmly anchored in our everyday operations. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) served as a general and inspiring framework in writing the report, which was produced in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines.