Sustainability at De Beers: Transforming the Diamond Industry

by: Stuart L. Hart

Publication Date: April 25, 2024
Length: 28 pages
Product ID#: 4-351-794

Core Disciplines: Social Impact, Sustainability

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Teaching Note

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This case explores transformative business redesign for sustainability and social impact at De Beers, a longtime global leader in diamond manufacturing. De Beers (and the diamond industry at large) have come under fire over the years regarding social malpractice (e.g., displacement of indigenous groups, forced labor, poor working conditions, and the sale of “blood diamonds” to fund armed conflict) and environmental harm (e.g., open-pit mining, ecosystem degradation, water overuse, and carbon emissions). The case presents corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives introduced by De Beers in 2020 aimed at having a positive impact on society, the environment, and the industry overall.

The case surveys the competitive landscape and increasing pressure from consumer trends and product substitutes before introducing three possible scenarios for De Beers to transform its business model and entirely re-orient its operations to maximize positive social and environmental impact. It is the end of 2023, and the fictional case protagonist has shaped the formation of these transformative opportunities and faces a decision about which, if any, to recommend to modify De Beers’ historical challenges and chart a brighter path forward.

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Evaluate the social and environmental challenges created by the diamond industry and by De Beers, specifically.
  • Assess the pros and cons of lab-grown vs. natural diamonds, including their impact on the environment, laborers, consumers, and diamond pricing/market value.
  • Analyze De Beers’ existing sustainability efforts for depth of impact/ambition and identify any remaining gaps.