The good news: Fashion brands are increasingly prioritizing animal welfare. The bad: They’re not going nearly far enough.
Luxury companies are especially “behind the curve” when it comes to rooting out animal cruelty in their supply chains, according to a new study by animal-rights group Four Paws, which worked with brand-rating platform Good on You to analyze 111 brands spanning different segments across 14 countries.
Aside from outliers like Stella McCartney, which earned the report’s highest score of 90 percent, most high-end purveyors cobbled together an average of 23 percent “due to their high rate of wildlife exploitation and a general lack of transparency,” it said. Several rarified nameplates fell below that threshold, including Off-White at 15 percent, Coach at 14 percent and Michael Kors at 8 percent. Dior, Fendi, Hermès, Prada, Louis Vuitton and Moncler each received a score of 0 percent, sinking them to the bottom of the list. Even fast fashion performed better, with an overall score of 53 percent.
Change has been steady, albeit slow, the report noted. Since 2020, 14 percent of the brands reviewed improved their animal-welfare rating. In the span of a year, the proportion of brands with a formal animal-welfare policy has also more than doubled to 57 percent. Another 14 percent of companies have made a commitment to swerve away from certain animal-derived materials. Notable businesses that stepped away from fur this year, or announced plans to, include Canada Goose, Gucci owner Kering, Oscar de la Renta and Valentino. In July, Puig, the parent company of Carolina Herrera, Dries Van Noten, Jean Paul Gaultier and Nina Ricci, said it was shedding exotic skins. Earlier this week, Hugo Boss pledged to eschew mulesing-linked wool in favor of more ethical suppliers by the end of the decade.
One positive note is “change is happening and it’s thanks to the hard work of many industry players, the fantastic animal-free material innovations becoming increasingly accessible and people speaking up and voting with their wallets,” Jessica Medcalf, global corporate engagement manager, textiles, at Four Paws, said in a statement.
At the same time, millions of animals continue to suffer mulesing, live plucking, factory farming and more for vanity’s sake, Four Paws said. Despite the existence of certification programs such as the Good Cashmere Standard, the Sustainable Fibre Alliance and Textile Exchange’s Responsible Down and Wool Standards, only 32 percent source certified wool or down. Most brands, the study found, continue to employ animal-derived materials with only limited supply chain traceability and transparency.
“Our report shows that despite high community expectations for animal welfare, most fashion brands still know extraordinarily little of the conditions faced by animals within their supply chains,” Medcalf said. “Brands talk the talk about caring for animals, but dig a little deeper and you’ll often find weak or patchy animal-welfare policies or none at all.”
The report urges brands to create a more sustainable model of fashion production and consumption by reducing the use of animal products, ensuring and encouraging higher levels of welfare and swapping animal products with sustainable animal-free alternatives.
“The key message here is, consumers have [the] power to push the industry forward,” said Gordon Renouf, co-founder of Good On You. “The best-performing brands show us not only how the industry can do much better, but also that real change happens when each of us takes action. This report is one more way that Good On You’s ratings of thousands of fashion brands are empowering people all over the world to enact their values and buy better.”
The study arrived on the heels of a plea by a group of Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish leaders for Louis Vuitton to ditch the use of fur in its collections. In a joint statement, Orthodox Christian priest Stephen Karcher, Hindu activist Rajan Zed, Jewish rabbi ElizaBeth Webb Beyer and Buddhist priest Matthew Fisher said that the “cruel, outdated and unnecessary” practice is inconsistent with the values of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, its parent company.
“Louis Vuitton should explore new boundaries of fur-free creative design and discontinue selling all products made from animal fur,” they said. “Animals should not be made to suffer and killed to make fashion and glamorize bodies when there are other valid fashion alternatives at our disposition. Cruelty should never become fashionable.”
Recent investigations from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) also claimed horrific animal abuse in Indonesian slaughterhouses that supply snake and lizard skins for Gucci and LVMH. The animal-rights group described pythons that were strung up, pumped full of water and skinned while still conscious. Live lizards, it said, were tossed around and slammed with machetes “for no apparent reason other than to cause them more pain and stress.”
“No matter what standards companies tout, PETA entities have repeatedly exposed the horrendous ways in which animals are abused by the exotic skins trade,” the organization wrote on its website. ”No bag, belt or wallet is worth so much pain and suffering.”
Coach owner Tapestry said it and its brands are committed to ethical practices in all aspects of the handling of live animals in its leather and exotic skins supply chain. “We believe that all animals, while taking into account specific species’ needs, should benefit from the Five Freedoms as defined by the Animal Welfare Committee,” a spokesperson told Sourcing Journal, noting the company’s membership in the Leather Working Group’s Animal Welfare Group and the Business for Social Responsibility’s Southeast Asian Reptile Conservation Alliance.
Likewise, Kering said it has always been committed to the “highest standards of animal welfare, sustainability and labor conditions in its sourcing of precious skins.” The conglomerate also pointed to its goal of 100 percent traceability and “strict adherence” to the Kering standards for raw materials sourcing and manufacturing processes by 2025.
“As soon as our attention was drawn to such practices, we launched an internal investigation,” a representative told Sourcing Journal. “Should there be a proven connection between this facility and our supply chain, we would immediately terminate the business relationship.”
The other brands did not respond to requests for comment.