ACTIVIST INVESTOR

In the name of animal rights, PETA bought a stake in luxury leather brand Louis Vuitton

Obsession
Fashion
Obsession
Fashion

A new shareholder wants to change things up at LVMH, the world’s largest luxury conglomerate and parent company of renowned fashion and leather-goods brands such as Louis Vuitton, Loewe, and Céline.

Animal-rights group PETA revealed in a blog post yesterday that it is now a shareholder in LVMH on the Euronext Paris. A PETA spokesperson confirmed to Quartz that the group bought just a single share, but it’s enough to grants PETA shareholder rights, which the group says it will use “to put pressure on the company to stop selling exotic skins merchandise.”

PETA has specifically targeted LVMH’s use of crocodile skins for bags, shoes, and belts. Recently it published a video exposé on crocodile farms in Vietnam that it says supply skins to the luxury company. Filmed in March and April 2016, the video shows crocodiles skinned while still alive, left to suffer for hours until they finally die.

LVMH says it has not purchased crocodile skins from any Vietnamese farms since 2014. “The information that PETA has been sending out about the LVMH group’s relations with crocodile farms in Vietnam is incorrect,” a spokesperson for LVMH said in a statement, adding that PETA was informed of this before publishing its video. “Moreover, the practices described are in total contradiction to the principles and rules of the LVMH group.”

PETA’s single share in LVMH gives it a platform to pressure the company in other ways, entitling it to attend annual shareholder meeting, for instance. “Every shareholder, regardless of the amount of shares owned, has the opportunity to take part in important decisions by voting at the Shareholders’ General Meeting,” the company says in its shareholders guide (pdf). The meeting will put PETA members face-to-face with LVMH management.

Last June, PETA used the tactic to confront luxury brand Hermès over its own use of exotic skins. At the meeting, in front of press and hundreds of shareholders, a PETA France spokeswoman read out allegations of cruelty to animals to Hermès CEO Axel Dumas. “Will Hermès some day stop using exotic skins?” she asked Dumas and other board members. The group has had success turning up at shareholder meetings in the past, as when it pressured Gap’s CEO to agree to stop using angora wool from rabbits.

LVMH’s next meeting of shareholders is in April (pdf), and PETA plans to attend. “We intend to question LVMH executives about why the company continues to use exotic-animal skins for its bags, even though they know of the extreme suffering this causes,” says a PETA spokesperson. “We will also call on the company to stop selling these leather bags, which represent sensitive animals’ short, miserable lives, and violent deaths.”

PETA has its work cut out for it, given that exotic skins can be big sellers for LVMH brands, and the company argues PETA is wrong about its supply chain.

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