The Value of Disclosure
Ethicist Rushworth Kidder says the jewelry industry can
handle its gemstone disclosure issues by following simple ethical
A day after sitting through a spirited two-hour debate on
gemstone disclosure at the Gemological Institute of America's
International Gemological Symposium in June in San Diego, CA,
Rushworth Kidder told conference attendees the jewelry industry
would receive high marks for its deliberative process where disclosure
is concerned. "You had strong disagreements with no animosity
and that's a good thing," he said.
Kidder cited another hallmark of ethical behavior: as an industry,
jewelers are endeavoring to create standards of full disclosure
before the government imposes them by law. For example, prominent
industry members grappled throughout the symposium with how to
tell consumers about new diamond technology such as Lazare Kaplan
International's GE POL process, which changes the color of some
diamonds (see pp. 23-24 and 130-131 of this issue for related
The ethicist said many laws today are devised to regulate
ethical decisions once thought to be unenforceable. But ethical
behavior eroded, so the law stepped in. If the jewelry industry
can demonstrate it will "do the right thing" within
its associations and by individual actions, there will be no
need to create additional laws to regulate new gem disclosures,
Kidder, who is the founder and president of the Institute
for Global Ethics, advised the jewelry industry to look at the
basic human values that guide ethical behavior. Honoring these
values will naturally lead to the kind of disclosure that will
benefit buyers as well as the general reputation of jewelers.
These basic values include:
- Honesty: Disclose because it's the truth.
- Respect: Respect your customers and their need to
know the facts about what they buy.
- Responsibility: Stand behind what you sell.
- Compassion and Fairness: Do unto others as you would
have them do unto you.
Kidder spoke compellingly about the need for ethics in business
today from pragmatic and moral viewpoints. On the pragmatic
side, he reminded symposium attendees that today it's either
"disclose or be disclosed." And if the credibility
of the jewelry industry disappears, there are a lot of other
luxury products to buy.
He also pointed out that with the explosive growth in new
technology, science is getting ahead of the law anyway. "As
soon as we figure one thing out, another will come along."
Rather than try to regulate everything, it pays to just apply
Morally, encouraging ethical behavior elevates the human race
or can lead to its destruction. He cited the nuclear accident
at Chernobyl in Russia, where unauthorized fiddling with the
reactor by experimenting engineers led to the disaster. "It's
emblematic of the capacity of new technology to make one wrong
decision cause a disaster," he said.
by Peggy Jo Donahu
Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.