The trade in wildlife body parts and botanicals is worth tens of billions to the European luxury and fashion industry. Python skins, just one of the many exotic skins used for shoes, handbags and clothing imported into Europe each year, are worth US$1bn alone.
Given the massive profit margins and brand values of luxury goods, one might assume 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.
So how much would it costs to fix the basics – implementing electronic permitting, traceability of shipments and real-time reporting? Probably as little as USD $40million. With the I Am A Cathedral Campaign Nature Needs More is 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.
Can these companies afford it? Well yes, within a couple of days of the tragic Notre Dame fire in Paris (April 2019), just three of the largest luxury conglomerates – Kering, LVMH and L’Oréal – pledged a combined €500 million to the rebuilding of the cathedral. So yes, they can afford US$40million (€35.6 million).
With the ‘I am a Cathedral’ campaign let’s remind companies that our wildlife is precious and should be treated with equally high regard as a 900 year old cathedral!
In the lead up to the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in May 2020 we are asking consumers to use the letter (below) we have created to remind Kering, LVMH, L’Oréal and other luxury brands of their duty to properly factor wildlife (and nature more broadly) 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 scrupulous operators and wildlife traffickers.
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.
|Kering Group Contact Information:
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
40 rue de Sèvres,
|For transparency, Kering Group’s brands include: Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen and Brioni, Boucheron, Pomellato, Dodo, Qeelin, Ulysse Nardin and Girard-Perregaux|
|LVMH Contact Information:
Bernard Jean Étienne Arnault
Chairman and Chief Executive
LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton
22, avenue Montaigne,
|For transparency, LVMH Group’ 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 Contact Information:
Chairman and CEO
41, Rue Martre
92117 Clichy Cedex,
|For transparency, 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|
Please join us in this campaign by downloading the attached letter and sending it to the CEO of any or all of the companies we are targeting. Please also feel free to download any of the campaign images to embed in your letter.
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 luxury conglomerates is something that can be done and 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 for endangered species. Between them they can certainly afford to cover the less than €35.6 million needed to implement an e-permit system throughout the 183 CITES signatories; and that is integrated with customs. And if they were genuinely committed to Supply Chain Traceability are one of their 3 core priorities, they could make this offer in a matter of hours and days!