Are lab-grown diamonds more ethical?
There is much debate around lab-grown sustainability, and whether they are truly environmentally-friendly and ethical.
Although many consider this a fact, the reality is lab-growns require significant energy to produce. And although it can be difficult to measure the carbon footprint of a single diamond, experts have found that a majority of lab-grown production uses high amounts of non-renewable energy.
Research conducted by the Natural Diamond Council revealed that lab-growns produce on average 3x more greenhouse gas emissions than mined diamonds (511 kg per carat compared to 160 kg for natural diamonds). However, it’s important to note this report was commissioned by large mining companies—natural diamond mining also has a clear environmental impact.
When measuring the carbon footprint of a single diamond carat, mined or lab-grown, a wide range of factors will come into play: this includes the type of machinery used, energy sources, extraction methods, as well as the country in which the diamond is produced.
These variables make for great uncertainty and conflicting information. Indeed, such research can lead to confusion and inaccuracies, hence why it is crucial that both natural and lab-grown diamond producers work towards more sustainable practices.
Although sustainability does concern the environment, it also aims to protect people and their livelihoods. One of the main criticisms of lab-grown production is that it fails to sustain employment and economic growth in diamond producing countries. Countries such as Botswana have widely benefited from diamond mining. Ever since opening its first mine in 1967, Botswana has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and has successfully improved living standards through education, health and new infrastructure.
On the flip side, lab-grown diamonds can be more easily traced, and unlike natural gems, offer more transparency with regards to human rights and worker’s conditions.