In the last 24 hours, the Veganverse and news media have been announcing the publicly traded jacket company, Canada Goose, is ending all use of fur on its jackets. This is simply incorrect. Is it poor reporting? Poor reading skills? I don’t know. I’m not surprised. I’m used to looking things up myself and have the obvious actual story stare back at me. This one feels especially egregious because nowhere on its site does the company say this. And it’s not new news either. And there’s an update too! See below.
Fur is there to stay – it’ll just be repurposed
In its Sustainable Impact Strategy 2020 (dated 19 Nov. 2020), the company says:
In 2020, we publicly announced our decision to shift to reclaimed coyote fur… Reclaimed materials are returned to a condition where they can be reused for their original intended purpose – in this case, fur brims on Canada Goose jackets. At Canada Goose, we love to explore uncharted territory, and reclaimed fur is just that. To meet our goal of ending the purchase of new fur by 2022 and introducing reclaimed fur into our supply chain, we could not simply switch suppliers – we have to chart our own course …Page 28 of the Sustainability Report 2020 (emphasis added)
What’s the buy back program?
What’s the special course they’re charting? A fur buy-back program. “Through this program, you will be able to return your new or used Canada Goose fur and receive a credit to use towards any future purchase at Canada Goose.”
So, does this mean they’ll only use the fur from old Canada Goose jackets? Other furs, say from old coats, will be very difficult to impossible to adapt to a new use.
In their FAQs they clarify they “will repurpose existing materials when and where we can, including our introduction of reclaimed fur. Our ultimate goal is to end the purchasing of new fur for the creation of Canada Goose products by 2022″ (you’ll see this under “What is Canada Goose’s Fur Buy Back Program?”).
Did you notice the “when and where we can”? That’s called risk mitigation language. Remember, they’re a public company and this type of language is something I have over a couple of decades of experience with. Its shareholders bought the shares in a company manufacturing jackets made with wool, down and fur. So the company has to make sure they’ll be able to continue doing what they told their shareholders they’d do.
The “when and where we can” means they’ll be able to source fur from wherever it will be available should they be unable to find sufficient existing materials. If they can’t source existing materials, do you think they’re going to stop manufacturing jackets with fur trim? If they can’t meet the 2022 goal, do you think they’ll close up shop?
What’s Reclaimed Fur mean?
In the same FAQ, they also explain what “Reclaimed Fur” means:
We remain committed to the functionality and sustainability of real fur, however we are challenging ourselves to do it better [oh good. happy fur!], reusing what already exists. In the North, sustainability is a way of life and people there have been working with reclaimed fur for centuries [appealing to traditions now… when in their sustainability report they said they were charting their own course]. This initiative draws inspiration from that resourcefulness. It’s the right decision for our business, our customers and most importantly, our future.
“Reclaimed” is different from “recycled.” Recycled materials are broken down through processes like melting or shredding before they’re used to make a different product. Reclaimed materials are returned to a condition where they can be reused for their original intended purpose – in this case, Fur Trims on Canada Goose jackets.
When did they announce all this?
It was sometime in 2019, but we were all busy worrying about COVID19. In a sustainability statement they said:
So even at this time of this announcement, there was no statement of fur free, at all. I have no idea why this story has been making the rounds – and incorrectly so – for the last 24 hours. Maybe it’s a slow news day. In any event, they’re getting alot of buzz for a new greenwashing initiative.
UPDATE: The press release that started this story is here and is dated 24 June 2021. It states the Company “will end the use of all fur in its products. This announcement is driven by its focus on its purpose-based platform, HUMANATURE, relentless innovation, and expanding lifestyle relevance. Through a phased approach, Canada Goose will end the purchase of fur by the end of 2021 and cease manufacturing with fur no later than the end of 2022.” This is the bit all the press has focused on. The press hasn’t asked what phased means or what’s the meaning of the link to the Humanature platform at the end of the press release. The video refers to the reclaimed fur program. Humanature is also the title of the 2020 sustainability report and has all the details about the Humanature platform. I link to that report above. There is no mention of the end of the buy-back program in the press release. The buy-back program and all its related information is still up on the site. So, my position hasn’t changed yet and I wish the media had done a better job rather than just take the first few lines of the press release and get a few canned quotes from the CEO.
Why are we so focused on fur?
I get it. Fur is so different from our skin that it stands out even more than leather, wool, down or silk. And it’s less ubiquitous than those other materials and most of us have never used it. So it grabs you on a visceral level. Morally, there is no difference between any of these materials. None of them belong to us.
These jackets will still contain down feathers from live waterfowl for whom those feathers are indispensable. And that such feathers come from well-treated waterfowl doesn’t really make taking something that’s not ours any better (of course it’s better for the animal suffering this fate, no doubt!). For more thoughts on this topic see the Luxury Hotel thought experiment in our book Think Like a Vegan.
The company will continue to use down, wool, leather and fur too. Nothing has changed really. Just a shiny new marketing scheme. There is no story here. I’m puzzled completely about people getting excited about this. And even if they did change the one thing: why do we celebrate companies who make a minimal change in basic decency? Would we celebrate a company which decides to pay women the same as men? Or what about a company which only pays women the same as men if the men “sell back” some of their holiday allowance?
Bottom line, animals deserve basic fairness. Let’s keep driving this message instead of driving marketing for companies which really don’t need help in that department.