By Jaina Kelly
Lacoste, the French clothing brand, has introduced a special edition series of polos that feature ten endangered species in place of the usual crocodile logo. These limited-edition shirts were launched as part of the “Save our Species” campaign which launched during Paris Fashion Week on March 1st. The shirts have already sold out entirely, as only 1775 shirts were available for purchase. Each polo was sold for one hundred and fifty Euros each, which comes out to $183 USD. Perhaps an element that contributed to the campaign’s success is the fact that Lacoste has not made any alterations to their crocodile logo since the brand was founded in 1936 – that’s 85 years. It’s easy to see why a temporary logo change would have consumers going nuts. The original crocodile logo is an homage to the brand’s founder, René Lacoste, whose nickname was “The Crocodile” due to his infamous intensity on the tennis court.
The number of shirts made for the collection corresponded directly to the number of each individual species left alive. The Vaquita, a porpoise that lives on the Gulf of California, accounted for thirty. The Burmese Roofed Turtle? Forty. The Javan Rhino? Sixty-seven. The Northern Sportive Lemur? Fifty. The Cao-Vit Gibbon ? One hundred and fifty. The Kakapo Parrot? One hundred and fifty-seven. The California Condor (vulture)? Two hundred and thirty-one. The Saola, a forest-dwelling bovine from Vietnam and Laos? Two hundred and fifty. The Sumatran Tiger? Three hundred and fifty. And finally, the Anegada Ground Iguana comes in at the highest number: four hundred and fifty.
The collection is part of a three-year joint project between Lacoste and The International Union for the Conservation of Nature. A spokesperson for the Conservation Union stated, “Together these rare reptiles, birds and mammals champion the plight of all known threatened species.” It has been circulated on social media with the hashtag #SaveOurSpecies. Wildlife expert, Jeff Corwin, applauded Lacoste for bringing awareness to the issue of endangered species. He claimed that a big part of resolving environmental issues lies in educating the public about their urgency; without education and awareness, action is not prioritized.
As we continue to see the devastating consequences of climate change, it’s clear that we need to do more to protect our planet’s natural resources. Finite in nature, we risk the reality of losing far too many valuable and unique animals to ongoing pollution and environmental degradation. Recently, CNN reported that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has placed a whopping 1459 animals on their threatened and endangered list.
This campaign has been successful in terms of Lacoste’s marketing efforts: their Instagram video advertising the polos has garnered 72,000+ likes. However, a lot of people online have been clapping back at the company, criticizing their participation in Save Our Species as “greenwashing.” Greenwashing refers to the act of a corporate entity performing or promoting an environmentally conscious behavior, while simultaneously engaging in unsustainable business practices. These practices can mean failing to build a policy that outlines company-specific environmental protection efforts or failing to use sustainable and/or renewable resources in their products. A website called “RankABrand.org” which ranks companies based on their environmental policies and sustainability practices, has assigned Lacoste an “E” rating. This is the lowest rating a company can have. They base the rating on evidence that Lacoste has never solidified any policy pertaining to the environment.
One critic of the campaign asked, “Aren’t their facilities dumping deadly toxins in SouthEast Asian rivers?” This question references a piece published by The Guardian in 2011 that outlined an investigation spearheaded by Greenpeace. The investigation followed reports of a textiles factory, partnered with Adidas, Lacoste, Nike and Puma, that appeared to be dumping toxic waste into the Yangtze River and The Pearl River Delta in China. They reported that the contaminants released into the waterways, were leading to a toxic accumulation of chemicals that are not able to properly break down in nature. The companies denied their involvement in the “industrial wet processes” at the textile factory, claiming that their partnership only involved sewing practices without the use of chemical products. Regardless of the companies’ PR statements, the Greenpeace investigation remains a poignant example of the way that outsourcing labour can lead to undocumented and deadly results for Mother Earth.
While the proceeds of the Lacoste polo campaign will go to the Conservation Union, it remains to be seen whether the brand plans to unveil any environmentally friendly policies in the next few years. Here’s to hoping that this partnership is more than just a trendy marketing ploy.