In Depth With Debbie: GSI’s Debbie Azar Interviews Iris Van der Veken
Iris Van der Veken is the Executive Director of the Responsible Jewellery Council, an organization founded with the vision of creating a responsible worldwide supply chain that promotes trust in the jewelry sector. Since 2005, the RJC has grown from 14 members to over 1,200 members.
Iris is a strong, powerful woman who inspires me, and someone I’m proud to call my friend. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I had the opportunity to sit down with her for a video interview filmed at the GSI Laboratory in New York to talk more in depth about our industry.
Iris is often described as a change agent, a philanthropist, and a pioneer leader on sustainability with a passion for women’s and children’s rights. Although she has worked in different industries ranging from technology to jewelry, the common denominator has always been sustainability and inclusion. As a result, her contributions have been invaluable.
Iris initiated a CEO working group in Belgium with leading companies such as IKEA, BASF, Cartamundi, AWDC, and Rosy Blue to launch a Children’s Rights and Business Principles Forum at the UN Leaders’ Summit, “Architects of a Better World.” She established the Network of the United Nations Global Compact in partnership with the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation. Under her leadership, the team received an award for excellent performance in driving communication and knowledge-sharing across borders within the global sustainability landscape.
“I have learned how important it is to let other people join in your journey of purpose. Be positive, but do not shy away from challenging others,” she says. It is because of this leadership that Iris has forged her reputation in the jewelry industry.
Iris also headed the OECD Alignment Exercise in the UAE to pilot test an assessment methodology for evaluating the extent to which the industry program was aligned with the detailed recommendations of the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas.
She was honored by Didier Reynders, the former Prime Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade, and European Affairs of Belgium for initiating the United Nations’ Global Compact Network, and for her work on promoting corporate social responsibility with a focus on human rights, including children’s rights within the role of business. In 2018, Iris received a pioneer leadership award in the UAE for her commitment to women’s empowerment.
WATCH this exclusive interview to learn more about Iris and the more sustainable future that she envisions for the global diamond and jewelry industry. She has so much to offer as a valuable member of the diamond industry, and I’m thrilled to be able to share the interview with all of you.
About The Author
Debbie Azar is the Co-Founder and President of Gemological Science International (GSI), one of the largest gemological organizations in the world, and a distinguished leader in the global diamond and jewelry industry. As an executive with extensive knowledge of the jewelry and gem lab industries, her entrepreneurial skills and vision have helped GSI achieve rapid and continuous growth worldwide, establishing 13 leading-edge gemological facilities on four continents. She currently serves on the boards of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, Responsible Jewellery Council, and Jewelers for Children, and is a member of the 24 Karat Club of New York. She has been featured in Forbes, Daily Mail, Good Morning America, Bloomberg, Bloomberg Businessweek, Fox Business, Fox5, CBS2, BOLDTV, Varney&Co, The Street, and NASDAQ, among others.