Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the python skin trade (en)
Last week ITC in partnership with TRAFFIC and IUCN released a report on the trade in python skins. Many newspapers around the world including the BBC covered the story. The report also hit social media, with hundreds of blogs and twitter feeds written on the topic. This wide coverage underlies the strong interest in the sustainability of our supply chains. Here are some personal reflections on the major brands and their Corporate Social Responsibility in the python skin trade..
Sustainable use: whose responsibility? The brands or exporting countries?
Several high profile brands like Gucci in the PPR group are active in the python skin trade. PPR report on their website their commitment to sustainability and cooperation with the report's preparation.
Their website says the following about their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) towards sourcing of python:"…only precious skins of species listed by CITES are used and are accompanied by a certificate of legal origin issued by the CITES management authority of the exporting country, in order to ensure that the survival of the species is not endangered"
PPR and fashion brands are meeting the minimum legal requirement by using a CITES permit. Traders and brands we spoke to in researching the report are also aware that the use of CITES permits does not necessarily ensure sustainable use.
The issue of a CITES permit implies the exporting country's compliance with Article IV of the Convention in warranting "non-detriment" i.e. exports of the product pose no threats to sustainability. The permits are issued by sovereign States and so there is a clear Governmental responsibility.
However, PPR like the rest of the industry would know about the lack of control capacity in exporting countries and that the permit system could have been abused.
The question in the age of growing vertical integration of global value chains (i.e. greater control by corporations over their supply chains) is whetherresponsibility for sustainable use lies only with governments. Many would argue that corporations have the resources available to protect biodiversity, ensure legality and provide adequate animal welfare.
There is therefore a widespread expectation that corporations should go beyond meeting minimum legal standard and introduce their own traceability schemes to complement the CITES system. Complementary schemes of this nature already takes place in the crocodile skin trade with shoe manufacturers as well as certified timber and food markets. It is time the same approach is implemented in the python trade.