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 $30 million (€27.5 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.