The CSR Newsletters are a freely-available resource generated as a dynamic complement to the textbook, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Sustainable Value Creation.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Strategic CSR - Fur

Reading various articles in the newspapers, I am often struck by how some industries have crossed their CSR Thresholds (Chapter 5, p181), but deny reality in desperate efforts to hold onto declining revenue streams. Such issues arise when I see the soda industry fighting a sugar tax or tobacco firms grasping at e-cigarettes as their industry’s savior. I haven’t seen much written about the fur industry, however. In fact, I am surprised a fur industry still exists. According to the article in the url below, however, it not only exists, but is trying to reinvent itself as the producer of a sustainable product:
 
“The British Fur Trade Association (BFTA) describes the wares of its members as ‘a natural, renewable and sustainable resource that is kind to the environment and respectful of animals' welfare.’ … The CEO of the International Fur Trade Federation (IFTF), of which the BFTA is a member, is former Liberal Democrat MP Mark Oaten. ‘It's a very natural product because it's an animal product and something which lasts for many decades,’ he says, describing how fur is ‘often passed down from grandmother to mother to grandchild.’”
 
What is mildly amusing about the claim, however, is that, after dutifully reporting this attempted revival in the introduction, the rest of the article proceeds effortlessly to demolish the shaky foundations on which it is built. First, there is the issue of toxicity:
 
“… because fur comes from animals, it has the cycle of decay built into it. Fur straight off a dead animal will rot, so manufacturers fight off decay through the application of a plethora of chemicals designed to prevent putrefaction. The main processing chemicals used are formaldehyde (linked to leukaemia) and chromium (linked to cancer). Not an attractive prospect either for wearers of fur or for the workers in processing plants. This hazardous process has led to fur dressing being ranked as one of the world's five worst industries for toxic-metal pollution – not by animal rights groups, but by the World Bank.”
 
Second, there is the issue of animal welfare:
 
“Some 80-85% of the global fur trade's products are industrially produced on fur farms. … Stomach-turning scenes have been filmed at fur farms across the world, with overcrowded cages, crazed terrified animals and routine killing methods that include suffocation, electrocution, gassing, and poisoning. On mink farms, caged female minks are bred once a year, they produce a litter or three or four kits which are killed aged around six months old. Between 40-80 mink are needed to make a full length coat.”
 
Third, there is the issue of relativity—while the fur industry rates itself favorably (in environmental terms) against clothes made of “faux-fur,” the reality is somewhat different:
 
“In 2004, Teresa Platt, executive director of America's Fur Commission, announced that one gallon of oil was needed to make three faux-fur jackets. Faux fur is indeed made from textiles like nylon and polyester which take hundreds of years to biodegrade, and produce pollutants on an industrial scale. Yet … despite the environmental cost of faux-fur, it still takes 20 times more energy to produce a farmed-fur coat.”
 
The end result?
 
“‘The idea that fur is in any way ‘green’ is pure fiction. In fact, several countries, including Belgium and Canada, have banned advertising claims to that effect peddled by the fur industry’ [says Ben Williamson, a spokesperson for PETA].”
 
Take care
David
 
David Chandler & Bill Werther
 
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Is the fur trade sustainable?
Tansy Hoskins
October 29, 2013
The Guardian