Kimberley process and diamonds: Which role can the companies play?
In 2003, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) was designed by United Nation General Assembly Resolution to certify the origin of rough diamonds to avoid their revenues to be used to fuel civil wars or conflicts, as well as preventing the exploitation of workers and children sifting for diamonds, as it happens in Ruanda, Zaire and Burundi.
This scheme wants to prevent those “blood diamonds” to enter the international marketplace in order to assure consumers that by purchasing these precious minerals they are not financing any abuse of human rights.
What is the limit of KPCS? It is a soft law, which means that it is not legally binding on the participating countries: diamonds cannot be adversely possessed because they do not meet the KPCS requirements. For example, Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields are managed without observing KPCS standards but nothing has been done yet, leading to the resignation of two co-founders of the organization after the Zimbabwean government’s declaration to sell the diamonds with or without KPCS’s certification.
Which role can the company play? Corporations are one of three pillars of the KPCS project together with government and civil society, and they are the one who have the strongest influence on the market since they are the intermediary between mines and final customer. This industry can make a big difference on order to solve this issue, and one of the many way they can do it is as simple as striking: a unconditioned refusal to purchase any rough diamond that doesn’t have KPCS certification would increase the Resolution’s weight and drive the market towards the Kimberley process aligned producers, giving an effective and efficient tone to the certification. A further step could be to create a legally binding, collective agreement to condemn the practices used to extract diamonds also by publicly funded companies, as it is happening in Zimbabwe. In this way, even if the government tries to overcome the certification, there will be no buyer for their products: diamonds will be heaven’s, and not hell’s, splinters again.