(Rapaport…June 3, 2005) A new industry organization pledges to work with governments, NGOs, and the diamond industry to protect the reputation of products and business models in eyes of the consumer. The Council for Responsible Jewellery Practices, based in the United Kingdom, unveiled an aggressive 3-year plan at JCK Las Vegas, presented by organization founder, Matthew Runci, who is also CEO of Jewelers of America.
All segments of the supply chain need to be involved and membership is open to all, Runci said. There is no need to recollect data or reinvent strategy, for the organization will build upon past work and research and address concerns of conflict diamonds, human rights, and labor relations. Furthermore, it builds upon the idea that the gold and diamond industries should be able to address consumer concerns before negative issues hit the media.
Runci said the retailer represents the entire industry in the eyes of consumers. “The integrity of jewelry depends upon trust of consumers,” he said. It is up to the industry to protect itself especially on issues related to gold and diamonds. “We are selling dreams and emotion, and this requires special care in order to be preserved.”
Consumers are aggressive in researching and asking about prices and product safety, which is a huge shift in the past two decades, according to Runci. He used examples to draw success stories, whereas, some industries –forestry, cocoa, fisheries, and tea– have already faced issues in the past, but created umbrella organizations across their supply chain to rebuild consumer trust.
“By the time you recognize a problem — it is too late, as in the case of conflict diamonds,” he said. Runci used the retail example of corporate responsibility for a garden rake; “Buy a rake at Home Depot and read the label –it certifies that wood didn’t come from rainforests. Twenty years ago, this was not an issue, but corporations have to show they are doing the right thing today.” Same too for diamond certification whereas 20 years ago, “how prevalent was diamond certification?” Runci asks, “I don’t know anyone who sells diamonds without it today.”
But the issue goes well past certification alone. “Consumers hold retailers accountable for situations past what goes on in the store,” using press clips to show how negative stories impact the diamond’s reputation with consumers. “It isn’t only about jewelers being proactive in the store, but protecting the whole lifecycle of products in the supply chain.” That is why retailers can’t afford to remain silent and “you can’t afford to think consumers don’t care about these issues.”
Research from the United States found that 90 percent of consumers would switch buying habits based upon negative product perception, and 81 percent would speak against that company or product involved in negative press. But 86 percent would switch to a brand associated with a positive cause, and 85 percent said they would consider social responsibility when choosing a product for purchase. The generation most outspoken for social cause is “Gen Y” (18-25 year olds) “as they are most likely to demand this commitment before choosing a company,” Runci said. That generation is the future consumer of luxury goods.
“Preserving confidence is protecting the business and the product,” Runci said. As the organization grows, it commits to: Showing integrity of products to both the media and to consumers; becoming the international organization representing the jewelry industry; setting compliance standards; and being the “industry’s” spokes-body.