Calvert News & Commentary

Calvert pressures on-line retailer to stop selling whale meat, ivory

Engages Rakuten and its major financiers


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Calvert strongly supports efforts to prevent the sale of products derived from endangered and protected species, such as whales and elephants. We were recently disturbed to learn from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) that the online retailer, Rakuten, was selling ivory. The company also sells meat from whales, porpoises and dolphins (known collectively as "cetaceans") in hundreds of offerings on its website. As an investor, Calvert recognizes that companies selling such items contribute to the decline of threatened species; these companies also weaken their own reputational value – inviting protests from consumers and organizations concerned with conservation and animal welfare – and potentially exposing consumers to unsafe products.

The EIA has been critical to researching these cases and pressuring companies like Rakuten to stop selling such products. In 2012 and 2013, for example, the EIA successfully campaigned to stop Amazon Japan from selling cetacean products and ivory on its website, in violation of the company's own policies for the protection of endangered species. It is no coincidence that Ratuken is also a Japanese company (though it recently purchased Buy.Com and has a US presence). The Japanese Government and Japanese retailers have resisted calls for ending whale hunting, employing a loophole in the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) that allows for culling whales for "scientific purposes." They have also been more lax about the sale of ivory.

The EIA report, Blood E-Commerce also found that some of the meat products from whales and dolphins were up to twenty times over the allowable limits for mercury set by Japanese regulators.

Calvert wrote to Rakuten in March 2014, as well as to major investment banks supporting the company, including J.P. Morgan Chase and State Street Corporation, asking what measures they were taking to prevent their companies from selling goods derived from endangered and protected species. Within days of sending our letters, the UN International Court of Justice ruled that Japan may no longer hunt whales in the Antarctic, noting that there was no evidence that the whale hunts were actually for scientific purposes. In fact, Japan has killed over 14,000 whales in the name of science.

Just days after the elimination of the whaling loophole, Ratuken announced it was banning ads for whale meat products. While this is a very positive development, Ratuken continues to sell ivory products. Calvert will continue to engage Ratuken and its major financiers until the company amends its policies to forbid the sale of ivory.

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