Sustainability Standards for Lab-Grown Diamonds
Diamonds have long been evaluated based on their 4 Cs (cut, color, clarity, and carat weight). However, with technology, we can now grow these precious stones in the laboratory. Lab-grown diamonds claim to be both carbon and climate neutral. Is that the case? Therefore, now we also need to evaluate the 5th C of carbon neutrality.
As miners of precious stones across the globe struggle to unearth cheaper and more diamonds, synthetic diamond producers are utilizing their manufacturing and commercialization processes to meet the market demand for diamonds. However, assuring customers of the quality and sustainability of the lab-grown stones remain a challenge.
The Rise of Lab-Grown Diamond Industry
Diamond growers or businesses that produce lab-grown diamonds have become great disrupters in the jewelry industry by offering cheaper and greener diamonds than their mined counterparts.
The chemically identical diamonds are made in a controlled environment, allowing the growers to overcome the scarred landscapes and conflict zones associated with mined diamonds. However, due to the lack of standards for accountability, the lab-grown diamond industry is like the Wild, Wild West. The players make eco claims for their products simply because they do not get their diamonds for the earth. However, as the industry grows, concerns emerge about how accurate these claims are.
To address these concerns of the modern consumer industries across the globe are utilizing set standards of quality. The contemporary consumer is interested in knowing both the quality of the product and the process used to produce and distribute it. Over 80% of millennials and other customers buy independently verified products and pass for social and environmental product attributes. In the case of diamonds, customers want to know that the product is both carbon and climate neutral before purchasing.
The Need for Sustainability Standards in Diamonds Industry
Recent years have seen consumers increasingly choosing lab-grown diamonds. As the popularity of these gemstones increase, so does the need to assure consumers they are getting the right product. In addition, consumers want to be sure that the choices they make match their values. In a world multiple businesses are using different technologies to make claims of environmental friendliness, sustainability standards are needed to ensure customers get what they want.
The introduction of sustainability standards in the diamonds industry provides the strong reassurance that consumers want. The standards demonstrate the performance of the company in meeting rigorous social and environmental requirements. The sustainability standards utilize input from different stakeholders to match the consumers' desires with the manufacturers' production processes.
The need for sustainability standards for lab-grown diamonds was also informed by controlling how marketers represent these stones in the media. Lately, a war of words is simmering between miners of natural stores and producers of lab-grown diamonds—the center of the row on the claims of environmental sustainability and standards.
The US Federal Trade Commission became concerned about the use of terms like “sustainable,” “eco-conscious,” and “eco-friendly” in describing lab-grown diamonds. While these terms lured consumers to buy the gemstones, markers could not substantiate these assertions. Therefore, there was a need to ensure that marketers have a reasonable basis for making an environmental claim. Furthermore, with lab-grown diamond production emitting about three times of greenhouse gas compared to diamond produced naturally. Therefore, marketers ought to substantiate what they mean by sustainable. Which has led to and influenced the development of sustainability standards geared explicitly towards the lab-grown diamonds industry.
Should Businesses Adopt Sustainability Standards For Lab-Grown Diamonds?
Businesses should adopt at least one of the sustainability standards for lab-grown diamonds to compete effectively and assure quality products to customers. Compliance with environmental and labor standards are the top concerns consumers have when purchasing any gemstone. They need assurance that all the suitable protocols and procedures are followed in the manufacturing and distributing gems. With the need for compliance increasing among consumers, businesses are being compelled to adopt such standards.
The young consumers of today want insights into the sourcing of virtually every item or product they purchase. In lab-grown diamonds, the consumers are interested in knowing whether the diamonds are sustainable and eco-friendly. The New York-based Lab Grown Diamond Council (LGDC) commissioned a sustainability standard for the diamond industry with this understanding. The standard, which is dubbed third-party SCS Global Services, seeks to ensure that proper measures are being adhered to in the production of lab-grown diamonds.
By adopting sustainability standards, diamond growers demonstrated that Consumers could trust their products and manufacturing process. Just because the growers do not mine their diamonds, it does not mean that their product is sustainable. Therefore, they need to show this in their production process and how they represent themselves to society. The Lab-Grown Diamond Council commissioned SCS to produce a standards framework for this industry on all sustainability measures. The independent certification systems help to give credibility to diamond growers on their claims of being eco-friendly.
Differences between the Standards
The main concern for diamond customers is whether lab-grown diamonds are both eco-friendly and sustainable. However, these two terms are not necessarily correct, given that growing diamonds in the lab is more carbon-intensive than the mining industry. The lack of clear guidelines is the cause of the misuse of such descriptors for lab-grown diamonds. In turn, they tend to mislead consumers in their decision-making.
In the bid to prevent misleading advertising and negative influence in the minds of the consumers, the US Federal Trade Commission requested the industry to remove the terms "sustainable" and "eco-friendly" in lab-grown stones marketing. While this move guided the sector, it also prompted LGDC to commission the guidelines. Once certified sustainability standards are effected, incorrect assumptions and lab-grown stone descriptions will end.
Lab-Grown Diamond Council (LGDC) Standards
For years, the LGDC trade organization has been internally recognized as a third-party independent certifier and developer of industry standards. While different industry players have always used LGDC standards as guidelines, sustainability standards specific for lab-grown diamonds were needed. The need for sustainability standards has seen SCS Global Services creating the first sustainability standards for the diamond and jewelry market. Unlike the early, more general standards, the SCS Global Service standards are set explicitly for the lab-grown diamond industry.
SCS Global Services certification
The SCS Global Services certification is a premier standard that involves a complete assessment of the production of lab-grown diamonds, diamond testing, compliance auditing, and traceability. Upon successful completion of the evaluation, an SCS Sustainably Grown Diamond certification mark is issued. The purpose of this consumer-centric mark is to enhance the point-of-sale marketing strategies and messaging.
Similar to other sustainability standards in the marketplace, the SCS Global Services certification addresses environmental stewardship, economic viability, and social responsibility issues. It also establishes a benchmark goal for cutting-edge neutrality for the participating companies. This aspect of the new standards sets up apart from the other criteria in the marketplace.
Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC) Standards
The Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC) announced in 2021 that they would be developing their first standard for diamonds and gemstones grown in the laboratory. With most RJC members selling natural and lab-grown products, the council needed a credible solution. The robust standard is designed to cover environmental, social, and business integrity requirements.
Dubbed as the laboratory-grown material (LGM) standard by RJC, the measure will address the risk profile specific to lab-created products instead of natural ones. The bar is in no way a competitor of the Certified Sustainability rated Diamond standard by SCS Global Services. Instead, it is a standard geared towards driving consumer confidence and trust while encouraging the transparency of industry players.
Lessons from other industries with similar standard
We can learn several lessons from industries that have affected sustainability standards. The most important task is that industry members thoroughly assess their processes before adopting the guidelines. The assessment ensures that they comply with the set standards and are working towards improving their processes. In addition, the industry player must demonstrate their conformance to the requirements of a standard before getting the certification.
The development of certification standards is informed by the laws and regulations put in place by the government. These standards not only benefit businesses and consumers but also ensure conformance to environmental and social responsibility. When businesses adopt sustainability standards, they understand the manufacturing process and the entire supply chain. The typical certification process involves documentation review, physical testing, on-site inspections, interviews, traceability, and supply chain assessment.
The need for sustainability standards for lab-grown diamonds is necessitated by consumers' demand for products that have the highest ethical standards and meet moral responsibility. In addition, the modern consumer is interested in products that offer value while protecting people and the planet. With these developments, the new standard being developed plays a vital role in building confidence in consumers while encouraging transparency of the businesses in this industry.
Bates, R. (2021). RJC developing standard for lab-grown materials. JCK – The Industry Authority. https://www.jckonline.com/editorial-article/rjc-developing-lab-grown-standard/
Certified sustainability rated diamond. (n.d.). Choose from 100+ Programs to Meet Your Sustainability Goals | SCS Global Services. https://www.scsglobalservices.com/services/certified-sustainability-rated-diamond
Leotaud, V. R. (2019, June 10). Lab-grown diamonds to get sustainability standard certification. MINING.COM. https://www.mining.com/lab-grown-diamonds-get-sustainability-standard-certification/
The ongoing quest for a sustainable diamond. (n.d.). JCK – The Industry Authority. https://www.jckonline.com/editorial-article/quest-sustainable-diamond/
SCS Global Services. (2019). Lab grown diamond council retains SCS global services to develop sustainability certification for lab grown diamonds. Share Your ESG Sustainability News With a Global Audience | 3BL Media. https://www.3blmedia.com/news/lab-grown-diamond-council-retains-scs-global-services-develop-sustainability-certification-lab