In April 2019, tragically a fire broke out gutting the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. As people locally and internationally watched in sadness at this grand old lady’s demise, within hours and days of the event pledges to support the rebuilt were flooding in.  Just three of the world’s largest luxury conglomerates – Kering, LVMH and L’Oréal – pledged a combined €500 million to the rebuilding of the cathedral.

Whilst in no way criticising the pledge to support Notre Dame, Nature Needs More has to ask, if these three luxury conglomerates alone can pledge a combined €500 million in a matter of days, why haven’t they pledged the €35.6 million (US$40million) to roll out the CITES ePermit globally in the nearly 10 years it has been available? These companies and other luxury brands make huge profits from the legal trade in wildlife body parts and botanicals; which is worth tens of billions to the European luxury and fashion industry alone. Python skins, just one of the many exotic skins used for shoes, handbags and clothing imported into Europe each year, are worth more than US$1 Billion annually. To put that in perspective, in 2016 worldwide luxury retail sales were valued at US$1.25 Trillion annually. Given these massive profit margins and brand values of luxury goods, one might assume that it is worth it to these companies that the trade in these exotic skins, other wildlife body parts and botanicals is well regulated and the supply chains are transparent and secured against laundering of illegal items into the legal marketplace. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Just one recent example, in early 2019, Operation Blizzard, covering 22 countries netted 2,703 turtles and tortoises, 1,059 snakes, 512 lizards and geckos and 20 crocodiles and alligators, many of which were intended for use in the fashion industry for accessories including wallets and handbags. This is able to occur because CITES (the UN Convention that regulates this trade) is still using a 1970s paper-based permit and monitoring system. The luxury and fashion industries have completely ignored the poor regulation of the legal trade in endangered species and contributed next to nothing to fixing it, even though, as already mentioned, an electronic permit system, fully integrated with customs, has been on offer for nearly a decade.

This is why we have created the I Am A Cathedral Campaign. We are calling on companies, such as Kering, LVMH and L’Oréal who benefit from the legal trade in endangered species to cover the cost of implementing the global electronic permitting system. Expanding on the video we published in May we have created #IAmACathedral images and a letter to give consumers an opportunity to remind these 3 companies that our wildlife is precious and should be treated with equally high regard as a 900 year old cathedral.

Letter Campaign

Kering Group LVMH L’Oréal
Brands include: Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen and Brioni, Boucheron, Pomellato, Dodo, Qeelin, Ulysse Nardin and Girard-Perregaux Brands include: Berluti, Celine, Christian Dior, Emilio Pucci, Fendi, FENTY, Givenchy, Kenzo, Loewe, Loro Piana, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Moynat, Nicholas Kirkwood, Bvlgari, Chaumet, Hublot, TAG Heuer, Zenith L’Oréal collectively owns brands including: Decléor, Botanicals Fresh Care, Lancôme, Yves Saint Laurent Beauté, Giorgio Armani Beauty, Kiehl’s, Biotherm, Cacharel, Diesel, Viktor & Rolf, Ralph Lauren Fragrances, Guy Laroche, Helena Rubinstein, Garnier, Maybelline, Vichy, La Roche-Posay Dermocosmetics, Skinceuticals, Kérastase
Contact information:

François-Henri Pinault
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Kering Group
40 rue de Sèvres,
Paris 7e,
France

Contact information:

Bernard Jean Étienne Arnault
Chairman and Chief Executive
LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton
22, avenue Montaigne,
75008 Paris,
France

Contact information:

Jean-Paul Agon
Chairman and CEO
L’Oréal International
41, Rue Martre
92117 Clichy Cedex,
France

In the lead up to the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in May 2020 we are asking consumers to use the letter we have created to remind Kering, LVMH and L’Oréal of their duty to properly factor wildlife into their sustainable supply chain strategy. Make the letter your own and feel free to download any of the #IAmACatheral campaign images should you want to use them in your letter or social media.

The sustainable (luxury) fashion movement have been keen to tell the world that Supply Chain Traceability is one of their 3 core priorities. The very first step in achieving this for the endangered species, that make them so much money, is implementing an electronic permitting and monitoring system that is transparent and closes the loopholes in the current paper-based system which are exploited by unscrupulous operators and wildlife traffickers.

Please join us in this campaign by downloading the letter, making it your own and sending it to the CEO of any or all of the 3 companies we are targeting. Please also feel free to download any of the campaign images to embed in your letter.

The Letter:

Dear….

I was extremely shocked to discover the value of the LEGAL trade endangered species and specifically the massive profit margins (in the billions) luxury brands can achieve via the trade in wildlife body parts and botanicals.

In parallel, I’m doubly shocked to find out conversely how few resources (just a few millions) are made available annually to monitor and manage this legal trade. I appreciate that your company with pay the cost of your CITES permits, but these are just token amounts compared to the value of the legal trade.

The imbalance between the scale of the trade and the funds made available to monitor it needs to be addressed, because undoubtedly it is enabling the illegal trade to continue to grow. All profits can not be privatised, while all costs are outsourced to CITES signatory parties and the taxpayer.

With the European fashion and luxury industry owning the biggest global brands that benefit from the trade in endangered species, I am requesting your company contributes more, so that the desire you are creating with your customers for these rare species does not contribute to illegal harvesting and poaching to supply consumers who can’t afford your luxury price point. Just one recent example of this was Operation Blizzard, which ran across 22 countries and confiscated over 4,000 reptiles destined for the illegal fashion industry, to manufacture wallets and fashion accessories.

Undoubtably there is a massive body of evidence that the system set up to monitor this legal trade is not fit for purpose and critically under resourced; it is still a 1970s paper-based permitting system. This situation is something that companies that benefit from the legal trade have allowed to happen over several decades and this lack of care and interest needs to stop. Again, it cannot be that all profits are privatised whilst costs are outsourced to governments, conservationists and philanthropists.

CITES is a trade convention, not a conservation convention and as such it is incumbent on industry to cover the costs ensuring the transparency required to save the world’s precious wildlife and natural world.

Your company, together with other luxury brands have demonstrated how much wealth you have, when you can decide within 48 hours to pledge a combined €500 million to help with the reconstruction of Notre Dame Cathedral. I am calling on you to join forces to donate the less than US $40 million (€35.6 million) to modernise the CITES trade and monitoring system to play your part in collapsing the illegal wildlife trade, illegal harvesting and poaching of endangered species. The same species that liberate huge profits for your companies.

As you’ve been looking at “fixing fashion” supply chain transparency has been a key agenda item, that the industry says it needs to work on. The first step for the endangered species used is modernising CITES.

If you don’t commit to this you are doing nothing other than a marketing PR exercise and I implore you to take action in the week leading up to CoP18 starting August 16 to show a genuine commitment to the endangered species you happily profit from.

I believe that this is a pragmatic solution to a critical problem facing the natural world and in which you could fix in 24 hours if you should choose to do so, as you’ve already demonstrated so publicly with Notre Dame.

Yours…

Finally, we are often asked by people “What is something I can do to help endangered species?”. People feel overwhelmed by the scale and the complexity of the situation facing the natural world.  Writing this letter to these 3 luxury conglomerates is something that you can do and that can make a real difference. Urge your family and friends to send their own letter.

Join us in getting a pledge from these companies to fix their supply chains enabling the use of endangered species. Between them they can certainly afford to cover the less than €35 million needed to implement an e-permit system throughout the 183 CITES signatories; and that is integrated with customs system.  And if they were genuinely committed to Supply Chain Traceability (stated as one of their 3 core priorities), they could make this offer in a matter of hours and days!

For the Love of Wildlife and Disney, Lion King Initiative

Nature Needs More supports For the Love of Wildlife’s initiative asking The Disney Corporation to donate just 1% of what it has made from The Lion King franchise to cover this CITES ePermit roll out. Given Disney has made over US$8 Billion from The Lion King franchise alone this is not a big ask.

There has been a huge fanfare of Disney’s announcement of a US$1.5 Million (with another US$1.5 Million to come at a later date) to lion conservation. But we have to ask why Disney is getting so much kudos from such a paltry donation? When you look at the donation in in detail:

  1. Firstly, $1.5 million is less than 0.02% of what Disney has made from the Lion King franchise to-date.
  2. If you add in the $13 million Disney has donated to conservation programs across Africa since 1995, then the donations to-date amount to less than 0.2% of what Disney has made from the Lion King franchise.
  3. Given that the $13 million donation to Africa is over 24 years, this amounts to, on average ~$684,000 per year, which isn’t a lot for a company as profitable as Disney, whose CEO made $65.6m in 2018.
  4. Much of what they are offering is based on up front spending of fans and customers, $5 dollars from every Simba toy sold, $2 from every ride taken at Disney Animal Kingdom…which leaves you asking – who is really donating, the company or the fans?

It should be clear from the above examples that there is plenty of money available, if the companies that profit from exploiting our precious wildlife for fashion and entertainment would play their part in covering the costs of having a proper permit and trade system under CITES. It is up to us as consumers to call for action from these companies, as there is no evidence that they are willingly going to ‘give away useful and fair’ amounts of money that could be handed to shareholders.

Epilogue: We leave you with a finale piece of information to show how important it is to put and ‘keep’ the spotlight on companies. An article published in late June 2019 highlighted: French Billionaires Haven’t Paid a Cent to Help Fix Notre Dame—Yet. At the time of publication, the article states “But so far, none of that promised money has materialized.” The article appears to have prompted two of the wealthy donors, the Arnault and Pinault families, stump up €10m each!

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