Most of the glossy sustainability reports, published by companies, highlight that supply chain transparency is critical to ensuring sustainability, yet very little has been invested into creating the necessary levels of traceability in the trade of endangered species. Without transparency and accountability in the whole supply chain, from the raw materials end to intermediate and final stage manufacturing, there can be no proof of sustainability.
The legal trade in species has been found to be a key driver of population decline and the extinction crisis. The regulator of the trade in endangered species, CITES, was launched in 1975, on the premise that creating a legal, global, sustainable trade was the strategy to protect species well into the future. This regulator has failed this key objective. CITES’ mechanism for keeping track of what gets traded is so obsolete and that trade data it does collect are worse than useless – they cannot be reconciled with customs information or the UN Comtrade database. It is so easy to launder illegal product into the legal supply chain, that in 2018 the illegal trade in endangered species was estimated, by the World Customs Organisation, to be worth as much as US$258 billion annually; in the region of 80% of the value of the legal trade and again a clear indicator of regulatory failure.
This failure of supply chain management, enabling industrial scale wildlife and timber crime, represents a failure of business, industry, markets and investors. It is time to demand that all businesses, including personal luxury (clothing, accessories, Jewellery, beauty, wellbeing etc), high-end furniture and housewares, luxury hospitality, fine dining and gourmet food and the exotic pet industry, involved in the trade in endangered and exotic species get serious about sustainability.