Global Witless-ness

Some thoughts on the latest Global Witness/Amnesty International survey of retailers in the United Kingdom:

First off, it’s worth noting that the two companies that came off the best in this survey, as well as the prior one of U.S. retailers, are Signet and Tiffany, which are, not incidentally, two of the best respected and financially successful companies in this industry. I don’t think there is a better illustration that smart companies take this issue seriously.

But on a more sour note, the survey is predictably critical, and is titled “U.K. Retailers Not Doing Enough to Combat Conflict Diamonds.” (The U.S. survey had almost the exact same title.)  I think if there were ever a GW release that said ”Industry Does Enough to Combat Conflict Diamonds,” we’d all keel over.  Even if they did feel enough was done, they just don’t seem like the kind of people who would actually admit that.

It also includes this little factoid:

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed (62%) do not post any information on their websites about their policies on conflict diamonds.

Which is followed up by this call to action:

Jewellery retailers should make their policies on conflict diamonds prominently accessible on their websites.

Maybe I’m dense — I just arrived in Las Vegas, which tends to lower one’s IQ a bit — but I am mystified why GW and AI — two organizations, I should note, I generally respect and agree with — are so concerned about this website issue.

Now, personally, I think retailers should put their conflict diamond policies on their websites, because there are consumers who care about “blood diamonds” (and deservedly so), and it makes sense from a PR perspective. But that’s just a marketing question, and as long as these companies are fulfilling their Kimberley obligations behind the scenes, I don’t think it really matters one way or another what their websites say. In fact, I would be interested in any decent explanation — or maybe even a half-decent semi-explanation — as to how the contents of any company’s website could possibly make a difference as far as a) strengthening the Kimberley Process, or b) helping people in Africa, which is supposed to be the point of this whole exercise. If every jeweler in every country on every continent put conflict diamond policies on their websites tomorrow, I can’t see how that would impact Africa even a bit.

Are there really not enough problems in the world that Global Witness and Amnesty International feel they have to address this silly and unimportant issue? Is  this really the best use of their resources, not to mention the money of people who donate to them?  The only reason this issue seems to be included is because it’s something more to complain about, and it’s a survey that’s relatively easy to do (any assistant can do it from their computer.) It’s worth noting that the three articles I’ve seen on this survey don’t even include the website question, likely because the reporters found it too trivial to include. I wish the two NGOs had the same discretion.

JCK News Director