De Beers agrees to stop buying ’conflict diamonds’

NEW YORK: The De Beers Group, which sells two-thirds of the world’s annual supply of rough diamonds, has bowed to public pressure and announced that it will no longer buy ’conflict diamonds.’

NEW YORK: The De Beers Group, which sells two-thirds of the world’s annual supply of rough diamonds, has bowed to public pressure and announced that it will no longer buy ’conflict diamonds.’

NEW YORK: The De Beers Group, which sells two-thirds of the world’s

annual supply of rough diamonds, has bowed to public pressure and

announced that it will no longer buy ’conflict diamonds.’



De Beers, which often promotes its gems as objects of ’love, beauty and

purity,’ took a major PR hit when human-rights groups revealed how

guerrilla battles in Africa are waged over the precious jewels. Human

Rights Watch has publicized the fighting in Sierra Leone and other

African nations, and has attempted to call attention to the company’s

purchasing practices.



As a result, in what many industry observers consider a pre-emptive

strike, De Beers has established a professional and ethical standards

code that will require better analysis of where gems have

originated.



’This was a smoldering crisis,’ said Institute for Crisis Management

president Larry Smith. ’De Beers did the right thing to maintain its

reputation before human-rights groups started demanding boycotts or

filing high-profile lawsuits. But their main goal may have been to

appease investors.’



According to Delahaye Medialink president Katie Paine, the new ethical

standards send a message to consumers that the company plans to be more

attentive to human rights concerns.



’De Beers is not known for their forward-thinking attitude,’ she

said.



’But this move reflects a growing trend in industry. Corporations are

realizing that consumers vote on issues with their pocketbooks.’



However, Aubrey Balkind, CEO of the branding shop Frankfurt Balkind,

questions whether the move will have as much impact as De Beers

claims.



’Unlike gold or cash, diamonds have no markings,’ she explained. ’They

can flow from conflict to non-conflict areas very easily, so it could be

very hard to hold De Beers completely responsible for the origin of its

diamonds.’



De Beers is accompanying the move with a concerted PR and marketing push

that will focus on building a brand and encouraging competitive

marketing practices within the diamond industry. Traditionally, the

industry has spent a mere one percent of its annual revenues on

marketing.



’De Beers is trying to shift its image from a secretive, monopolistic

cartel to a normal, competitive company,’ said Balkind, who has worked

in South Africa.



Although the Diamond Information Center (which handles De Beers’ PR)

generally focuses on informing consumers, the new PR push is designed as

a ’catalyst for growth,’ according to De Beers managing director Gary

Ralfe. He added that the branding effort will hopefully lead to more

diamond sales as well as increased prices for diamonds.



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