This report studies the ethical issue of Hermès regarding to animal cruelty. It also includes how Hermès respond to the issue, Hermès Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) and recommendations on how people should properly react to the issue
Hermès, one of the most well-known brand for its luxurious products was established in 1837 in Paris, France by Thierry Hermès and it has passed down to five generations of the family. At the beginning, Hermès was a harness workshop which provides the needs of European nobleman. In 1855, Hermès won the first price for its category and won the same price in 1867 at the Expositions Universelles in Paris. Afterward, Thierry’s son, Charles-Emile Hermès took over and relocate the workshop to 24 Rue Du Faubourg Saint-Honore in Paris which become the company’s headquarter until these days. Then, the business started producing saddlery and selling retail together with his sons – Adolphe and Èmile-Maurice. By 1900, they produced “Haut À Courroises” Bag which was intended for riders to bring their saddlers with them.
After the retirement of Charles-Emile Hermès, both of his sons took over Hermès and changed the company name to Hermès Frères. In 1918, Hermès produced the first leather golf jacket with zipper for Prince of Wales, Edward. In the 20’s Emile Maurice patented zippers used in the golf jacket and became the sole head of the business, he also started to introduce accessories and clothing collections of the company. Two years later, he created the first handbag with zipper and in the next two years Hermès started to establish its presence in the United State and opened two stores outside of Paris. In the 30’s, Hermès started shipping their products to the United State specifically in Neiman Marcus, New York and they introduced one of the most well-known product of Hermès which is “Sac À Dépêches” (renamed as the “Kelly Bag” after Grace Kelly) in 1935. The first silk scarf was also produced two years after the introduction of the “Kelly Bag”. In the 50’s, Hermès obtain its Duc-carriage-with-horse Logo and its famous orange boxes. In 1956, “Sac À Dépêches” bag became very popular because the princess of Monaco then, Grace Kelly was seen carrying the bag for a photograph with Life Magazine to hide her pregnancy.
In the early 70s, many other businesses entered the market and Hermès started to decline as they were unable to compete due to the use of natural materials while the demand of artificial materials increased rapidly at that time. However, Hermès fragrance gains back its popularity when the demand for natural materials increased and at the same time La Montre Hermès, the watch subsidiary was established in Bienne, Switzerland. A few years later specifically in 1978, Jean-Louis Dumas took over the business from his father, Robert Duma-Hermès and focused on the production of silk, leather goods, and ready-to-wear products. A year later, Dumas changed Hermès promotion strategy by recruiting a young model to advertise Hermès scarf which then introduced Hermès to a different set of consumers. In 1982, the “Birkin Bag” named after a famous actress and singer Jane Birkin was established when she was seen carrying Hermès leather handbag. Over a period of time, Hermès continues to grow and expand its popularity until now it has around 311 stores worldwide and hired around 12,834 employees based on the data in 2016. Many famous celebrities such as Madonna, Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore are also client of Hermès.
Some strategies that Hermès apply to maintain its reputation include: “Inside The Orange Box” training which is a three-day training session that are provided for new employees in order for them to understand more about the history and background of Hermès. Second is an event called “Podium” which are held twice a year to gather 1000 store representatives and each of the representatives were asked to choose the most unique product to showcase and sell. Third is the “Limited Edition” strategy and they also limit the amount of product distributed in each store. The strategy used by Hermès is to maintain scarcity and exclusivity of each of their products sold. Hermès also frequently collaborate with famous designers to benefit from each other’s reputation and Hermès also claim that each product was handled by only one person from the beginning until the end of its process to maintain the quality of the product.
Hermès And Corporate Social Responsibility
Corporate social responsibility is known as “a form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model.” (Corporate Social Resoponsibility, 2017) CSR is an often used abbreviation that reflects a company or organization responsibility for the environment, society’s wellbeing and stakeholders. In many cases, companies and organizations are required to adopt CSR due to being pressured by the local communities, pressure groups, activists, advocates or other non-profit and governmental organizations. In order to avoid bad publicity and huge financial losses, many companies and organizations seek to embrace the idea of “corporate citizenship” in order to gain a better and positive reputation.
Despite of the issues that Hermès might be dealing with in association to the issues being discussed in this report, Hermès has its own claims regarding CSR. Fondation d’entreprise Hermès , invented in April 2008, signifies Hermès determination to strengthen its policies and extension of philanthropic support. Fondation d’entreprise was invented by Hermès International, Hermès Sellier and 18 board members presented by Pierre-Alexis Dumas with Pascale Mussard and Nicolas Puech as the vice- presidents. The headquarter of Fondation d’entreprise Hermès is located in Paris that represent the birthplace of Hermès in 1837. Fondation d’entreprise Hermès reflects Hermès core values by committing generous acts of citizenship that supports humanist and cultural values as well as “philantrophy” (Fondation d’entreprise Hermes, 2017) . Fondation d’entreprise focuses on four key elements such as the promotion of traditional craft skills and expertise, creative arts, accessibility to education, trainings and external organizations as well as the preservation of environment and biodiversity.
Hermès And Sustainability
According to a sustainability report made on fashion brands, Hermès was given an E label which indicates the lowest sustainability score in contrast to other brands such as Stella McCartney, Balenciaga, Gucci, Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Alexander mcQueen which were given C and Ds. The E score that Hermès got represent how hard it is to verify with Hermès regarding policies for the environment, carbon emissions or labor concerns in low-wage countiries. As from the consumers point of view, Hermès commitment on sustainability is still uncertain despite the number of issues and protest Hermès have faced in denial.
Hermès And Its Issues
“The Birkin Croco – with a starting retail price of more than €20,000 (£14,700) – and its cousin, the Kelly, named after actress Grace Kelly, is among the most sought-after luxury goods in the world.” (Chrisafis, 2015). The extract was taken from the journal “The Guardian” and emphasizes on the idea that Hermès brand has lately been in high demand. However, Hermès has also issues that it needs to face when operating as an organization.
Hermès has encountered various problems such as the issue that involve the origin of its product. The Birkin Croco bag was quite in the spotlight since it comes in all types of materials. It was hand-made with leather from a crocodile skin to an ostrich skin as well. The demand for the product kept on increasing that it create a waiting list for the celebrities to acquire those bags such as from Victoria Beckham to the Kardashians.
Animal cruelty is divided into two categories involving a deliberate cruelty or neglect. The term “deliberate cruelty” refers to beating, shooting or stabbing the animals while neglecting to involve not giving those animals food or water, shelter as well as vet care. Moreover, Peter Singer who is an Australian moral philosopher, as well as a professor in Princeton and the University of Melbourne has carried out a utilitarianism piece that involves the concept of ethics. One of his book named “The Animal Liberation Movement. Nottingham, 1985.” could be taken as an example that outline how it was truly cruel to torture those living things. Therefore, the issues that were discovered in the Hermès organization was animal cruelty that was performed in the production of the Birkin Croco bags.
The “Hermès Vert Fonce Crocodile Birkin 40PHW” was one out of many of the Birkin Croco bag. It was made purely from the skin of a crocodile. Thus, it was found that Hermès has operated its business through animal cruelty since the crocodile was cruelly tortured and killed in order to gain its skins. A single Hermès Birkin will take skin from the bellies of about three to four crocodiles. The Hermès suppliers come from a farm that runs in Texas and Zimbabwe. Through PETA, the process-making of the bag was revealed where crocodiles were raised and killed for its well-known Hermès luxury.
The farm in Texas has alligators that were kept away from sunshine, fresh air, and clean water instead the crocodile was kept in a foul-smelling water in dank and dark sheds. Moreover, “A worker cut into the necks of more than 500 conscious alligators as they struggled to escape. Some were flailing and kicking for minutes after workers tried to kill them.” (PETA, 2017). The workers stab knifes into the backs of the conscious animals and were further thrown into a blood-filled ice tank and let it suffer. The PETA Mimi Bekhechi claims that “People pay thousands of pounds for such accessories, but the reptiles on these cruel and disgusting factory farms are paying the real price”. In addition, Peter singer piece has shown that “The question of when it is wrong to kill (painlessly) an animal is one to which we need give no precise answer. As long as we remember that we should give the same respect to the lives of animals as we give to the lives of those human beings at a similar mental level we shall not go far wrong.”
Moreover, the farm in Zimbabwe, the Padenga has also acted on killing the reptiles in the cruelest way since the alligators were seen in cramped concrete pits and are slaughtered at a very young age of three years old when in the wild, these animals can live to be up to 80 years old. Therefore, those belly skins are sent to the Hermès-tannery where Birkin Croco handbags are created and can cost about $50,000 or more.
Furthermore, Hermès does not only produces handbags and watch-bands that involves crocodile skin. It also manufactured handbags that are made up of ostrich skins. One of the many is known as “Hermès Marron Fonce Birkin Ostrich bag”. PETA revealed that Hermès supplier is linked with the world largest ostrich-slaughter companies. Through the videos provided by PETA, workers forcefully push and manhandled the ostrich onto the kill floor with lots of them slipped and fell into the stun box. Those ostriches was then electrically shocked on the head and the workers began to cut their throats while knifes were stuck into its chests to let the ostrich bleed-out. Throughout the process, most of the ostriches who are next in line have to see their members being killed. Peter singer highlight the thinking of an animal liberationist that “They do not, however, think that how appealing an animal is to us has anything to do with the wrongness of making it suffer. Instead, they look to the severity of the suffering, and the numbers of animals involved.”
Hermès issues do not stay only on the origin of its products, instead, it creates an effect that deals with its customers involving the celebrities. Since the invention of the Hermès Birkin bag was previously created unexpectedly with the help of an actor and singer, Jane Birkin. Therefore, when the issue of the origin was revealed where the crocodiles were cruelly skinned and tortured alive, Jane Birkin demand her name to be removed from the Hermès well-known bag “The Birkin Croco”. Furthermore, Hermès reconcile and respond by confirming that there is indeed an irregular activity in the slaughter process at its farm in Texas and will break off its relations if it continues its unethical act.
Hermès Response To PETA’s Dead Ostrich Protest in London
A disclosure made by PETA which revealed animal cruelty practice made by Hermès at ostrich abattoirs located in South Africa which followed by a protest was one of the downfalls that occurred to Hermès . The protest which was conducted in London outside of the Hermès boutique on New Bond Street was represented by three models whom wore a sinister swan dress that was altered to portray a dead ostrich’s limp neck while carrying a handbag that stated with “Bin ostrich skin” to call upon Hermès . In response, Hermès deny any affiliation with Peta’s justification by claiming that that the farms shown in the videos released by PETA that depicted the slaughter of ostriches, do not belong to Hermès . Hermès also followed claiming that the small quantities of ostrich leather used by Hermès did not come from the farms shown in the videos rather, it came from Hermès suppliers, tanneries and farms in South Africa that are closely monitored and subjected to strict and permanent controls by institutions such as : NSPCA (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), SAVA (South African Veterinarian Association), DAFF (South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries). In addition, Hermès operates at a secondary level within the industry and is always active and vigilant when it comes to CSR. Hermès regularly conduct a systematic checks on its suppliers to make sure they strictly comply with local and international regulations and guarantees it is always at its best practices in order to improve the policies. (Gush, 2016)Furthermore, Hermès call upon PETA’s intention into attention in a way to harm Hermès reputation by releasing the videos and through a fraudulent representation of facts and deep ignorance on the commitment made by Hermès to fight against animal cruelty and other welfare concern.
Hermès Response To PETA’s Expose On Its Suppliers ‘Horror’ Alligator Farms
The following after Hermès ‘ allegation of animal cruelty against ostriches, PETA exposed a series of incident inside alligator farms located in Texas and Zimbabwe which demonstrate a gruesome massacre of alligators as well as the extent to which alligators have to suffer in a horrible living environment. These farms are allegedly Hermès ‘ suppliers that supplies alligator skin for Hermès . In response towards PETA, Hermès released a statement that specified that the skins used by Hermès are sourced from farms that follows a tight policy to preserve the optimal farming conditions that conform to international and local regulations. In addition, Hermès has established a strong network of farm partners to withhold its supply in the highest skin quality. These farms adheres to the rules created by the Washington Convention in 1972 which emphasis on the preservation and protection of specific species. (Hendriksz, 2015) In this case, the rules applies to the alligators and thereby, farms have to participate in a breeding program that contributes back to the wild. Hermès made it clear that nonconforming parties will face detrimental consequences. Despite Hermès clarification, PETA was not satisfied due to Hermès lack of action. PETA went on with the fact that regardless of the regulations Hermès have set on the protection of reptiles from gruesome slaughter, the video released by PETA showing farmers cruely hacked into the alligators exhibited contradictory significance. (Hendriksz, 2015)
Hermès Response On Jane Birkin’s Demand On Her Name Being Removed From Iconic Bag
Upon hearing the news that some of Hermès ‘ handbags were made through barbaric farming and slaughter methods towards alligators, Jane Birkin requested for her name to be removed from Hermès ‘ iconic handbags. In response to Jane Birkin request, Hermès denied any relationship being tied with the farms shown in the videos released by PETA as well as pointing out that Jane Birkin’s comment did not affect the relationship and confidence Hermès have on Jane Birkin. (Capon, 2015)Furthermore, Hermès was “shocked” by the pictures released by PETA and further emphasis on the company’s high standard in the assurance of ethical treatment towards alligators. Hermès respected and shared Jane Birkin’s emotions and decided the company will have to abide to her plea despite of their contract terms. (Sowray, 2015)
Hermès Response on General Public
The respondents involved in this analytical research based on how the public is responding on the issue regarding animal cruelty on the fashion brand can be called as ‘HERMÈS’. The primary data were analyzed and finalized using a percent of the response. In the recent researches, it was proven that the brand ‘HERMÈS’ was linked to various unethical issues regarding the living creatures. “Hermès deplores the relentless attacks by PETA aiming to harm its reputation through a dishonest representation of the facts and a complete ignorance of the deep ethical commitment of Hermès to the fight against animal cruelty, as well as any other welfare concerns.” (gush, 2016) a freelance writer expressing their thoughts on the recent news of a company so called as ‘PETA’ that reportedly bought some shares from ‘HERMÈS’ to speak out on this issue against animal cruelty
· BELOW ARE SOME PICTURES OF HOW PEOPLE RESPONDED TO THE ISSUE
These are some researched that show the rage on the public, expressing their thoughts on the luxurious and expensive handbags created by ‘Hermès’. The comments made by ICYMI includes the involvement of PETA’s recent investigation on Hermès where it was proven where those bags and watchbands actually came from. Those animals were still conscious, flailing and kicking the minute they were killed. Hermès, animals are #NotOurs2Wear. #Killed4Hermès” (savage, 2015) These are some comments made by a writer that works at the company named after ‘PETA’.
Another evidence of additional research that was linked to the movements made by “PETA” was during last summer, the animal rights group People for Ethical Treatment of Animal (PETA) released some horrendous details regarding the investigation made towards the farms which involve the killing of crocodiles and alligators while living following by skinning those precious skins alive. Further researches show a PETA investigator working undercover at the Lone Star Alligator Farm in Winnie, Texas, between October and November last year. While other research mentioned, “two undercover Peta investigators at Zimbabwe were able to get a tour of Padenga, one of the largest suppliers of crocodiles and alligators for the skin. Something in common of both farms is that they both supply tanneries used by Hermès to provide skins for their bags and other products.
“Yesterday (May 31), PETA showed exactly how it is putting those shares to use.” (Thompson, 2015)PETA representatives attended the Hermès annual shareholders’ meeting in Paris, and from recent research found that the the animal right groups had grabbed the opportunity to publicly in front of hundreds of investors and shareholders to claim the rights towards animal, a PETA France spokeswoman, Isabelle Goetz, had read out the allegations of cruelty to animals where it states her question towards Hermès and other board members if they would someday stop using exotic skins, according to AFP.” (Bain, 2016)
Another celebrity named as Lady Gaga reportedly commented on allegations made towards her actions of wearing a fur coat. ” In these statements, Gaga did not apologize for her actions; instead she attempts to paint herself as someone with nuanced beliefs involving fashion and animal cruelty.” (Davisson) She states her love for the beauty of the animal in fashion as she is not strictly vegan and requested the fans and media to respect her views and beliefs. (Davisson)
According to PETA, the issue regarding animal cruelty has yet to place some negative outcomes on the sales of Hermès as the brand continues to soar. “The thought of purposely breeding and killing crocodiles for an outdated, overprices handbag should make any fashionista’s skin crawl where If Hermès really aims to lead the fashion industry, it should stop killing animals for cold-blooded vanity and use animal cruelty-free mock croc and fake snake instead,” (Flavell, 2009) PETA Senior Vice President Dan Mathews .
Recommendation And Conclusion
Hermès continue to deny any allegations regarding animal cruelty despite all the pressures from external groups and stakeholders. Hermès , being associated with animal cruelty and unethical business practices, may jeopardize Hermès reputation. Hermès option for real animal skins and materials in order to enhance and boost the status and brand image of Hermès as a luxury fashion brand rather than going for synthetic skins and materials that could have avoid any problems and issues regarding ethical practices.
Therefore, if Hermès were to adopt a more sustainable and ethical approach, it would be beneficial to the company in the long term. Although the fashion industry revolves around a tight competition in design, quality and cost, it would be a huge unique selling point for Hermès if it would be the first fashion industry that makes a leap in its poor business practices into adopting an ethical business practices.
As more individuals embraces the idea that animal cruelty in unacceptable, Hermès should avoid any more disputes in order to avoid controversies. No matter if the allegations made by PETA or other pressure groups are relevant or false, Hermès should avoid any actions that will raise suspicion and hence, shun away from problems.