The reality is that, year-after-year, as we have all allowed the legal trade in exotic and endangered species to grow, unregulated and unchecked, we have been consuming our own ‘gift of bad luck’. Treating nature unthinkingly, and with such disrespect, has come back to bite us all.
But this is not only an individual consumer responsibility, it is a business, markets and investor failure. Pursuing profits, at all costs, and without due regard for the risks can, and does, lead to catastrophes, from oil spills and fires, to biodiversity collapse and pandemics. Governments around the world have capitulated to industry groups, to dilute all aspects of regulation, instead allowing voluntary governance schemes to take the place of ‘real’ regulation. These same business and industry groups have had 50 years to roll out these voluntary systems, they haven’t worked at all to slow biodiversity collapse, and they won’t work.
We have reached a time for real change, a time to update corporate law, so business isn’t legally mandated to maximise shareholder profits. It is time to strengthen and enact the laws governing corporate crime, including green crime, and to appropriately resource regulators such as CITES. This is no longer the time to rely on voluntary governance systems that are, in the main, just PR exercises. The voluntary governance ship has long sailed, and some would say sank!
Updating laws is the starting point, but their enforcement requires oversight by well-resourced regulators, and industry needs to pay for this through fees. Pursuing white-collar crime, and sending business executives to jail, needs to become an accepted norm, which is currently not the case.
Consumers need to think about their behaviour too, as without the desire and demand, the trade in endangered species could not be growing so fast. A 2017 World Customs Union Report quoted the United Nations Environment Programme, who stated that this trade is growing at 2-3 times the pace of the global economy; these are mindboggling numbers.