Former Jewelers of America president and CEO Matthew A. Runci slammed the World Diamond Council and called for greater industry responsibility in a keynote speech at the Jewelers Vigilance Committee’s annual luncheon on Jan. 11.
“Not all [industry] associations are helping those of us in the room who want to help our performance,” Runci said. “The World Diamond Council has become little more than a cynical voice that, when prompted, talks the talk in the public domain but too often fails to walk the walk in private quarters. From a consumer confidence standpoint, its conduct today is quite frankly disgraceful.”
In response, WDC president Eli Izhakoff tells JCK: “Matt, who I respect and who played a key role during the early years of the Kimberley Process, has been less involved in recent years. If he had been, I do not believe that he would have spoken as he did.”
“The WDC has stood absolutely firm on two principles, and that is KPCS and the WDC Chain of Warrantees should be strictly applied, and that revenues from the diamond trade be used to advance grass-roots development in the mining areas,” Izhakoff says. “Just last month the WDC was commended by name in a resolution passed by the United Nations General Assembly.”
Most of Runci’s speech called for industry responsibility in the face of greater consumer consciousness of social issues.
“I still encounter people who think conflict diamonds were a bad dream,” he said. “Open our eyes … We’re not being singled out. Let’s avoid that foxhole thinking. The world—and public expectations of business—has changed.”
“If we as an industry don’t define best practices in this area, and demonstrate that we have incorporated those principles into the day-to-day running of our businesses,” he added, “then we leave it for others to paint a picture of us—and I promise it won’t be painted in flattering terms.”
Runci advised industry members to do the following:
- Support trade associations that support legal compliance and ethical responsibility, singling out Jewelers of America, the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, the American Gem Society, the Diamond Manufacturers and Importers of America, the Responsible Jewellery Council, Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America, the Diamond Development Initiative, the Diamond Empowerment Fund, as well as the Jewelers’ Security Alliance.
- At the same time, he said industry members need to take “individual responsibly” for conducting their business ethically, and not just rely on trade associations.
- Make a note to hold a staff meeting to discuss these issues. Set up goals for what you would like to achieve one year from now.
Prior to his speech, Runci was hailed by JVC president and CEO Cecilia Gardner, who also serves as WDC general counsel.
Runci “is a titan of our industry,” she said. “He combines the drive of Indiana Jones, the impeccable demeanor of James Bond, and the cleverness of Sherlock Holmes … We are a better industry because of Matt Runci.”
Runci was presented with the organization’s Stanley Schechter Award for his service to the industry. Later that night, he also received the GEM Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Jewelry Information Center, at the 11th annual GEM Awards held at Cipriani 42nd Street.