For years, lab-grown diamond sellers habitually dubbed their products sustainable and eco-friendly. However, in 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent letters to several companies warning them not to use those terms.
The issue wasn’t just that the companies provided almost no information about the eco-impact of their processes—though that probably didn’t help. It was the language that they used, what the FTC called “general environmental benefit claims,” which are forbidden under its Green Guides.
“It is rare that a product can have an environmental benefit in all the ways that consumers might take away from a general claim,” said FTC attorney Robert Frisby.
In other words, the term sustainable means different things to different people. Even the FTC admitted the term has no true definition, so using it doesn’t help a consumer make an informed choice. In many cases, using those terms for lab-grown diamonds is arguably misleading, since some of these supposedly eco-friendly growers use coal power, which worsens climate change.
Now, SCS Standards, a division of SCS Global Services—which has conducted audits for the Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC) and Brilliant Earth—has developed a sustainability certification for the diamond industry. Anyone interested in understanding the company’s definition of sustainability can refer to its publicly posted 128-page standard.