A man in shades a fur coat lots of jewellery and a designer bag - The Million Dollar Ethical Dilemma

The Million Dollar Ethical Dilemma

An ethical dilemma behind a million dollar bag

I’m just learning of Louis Vuitton making headlines last year by unveiling their most expensive handbag ever – a $1 million crocodile leather Speedy bag first revealed at Fashion Week in June 2023. At first glance, the exorbitant price tag seems the most shocking aspect. But look closer, and there’s an even bigger issue – the glaring ethical conflict is a contradiction between LV’s stated values and this product.

LV's Claimed Priorities

LV claimsOur priorities are to preserve resources and the climate, respect animal welfare…” Yet this ultra-exclusive bag made from exotic crocodile leather raises serious questions about those proclaimed priorities. This is a prime example of an ethical dilemma.

The Issue with Exotic Leather

I have no issue with leather goods when the leather is a byproduct of animals raised for meat. But it’s difficult to comprehend harming endangered species like crocodiles solely for their skins. LV’s bag uses crocodilian leather deemed so “exotic” that it makes up only 1% of the world’s leather supply.

There’s an inherent contradiction in sourcing leather from threatened animals classified as “exotic” while claiming to respect animal welfare. How can breeding crocodiles to order, solely to kill them for skins, align with any reasonable welfare standards?  This can be an indication of prioritises and lip service resulting in an ethical dilemma and public backlash.

Prioritising Ultra-Luxury Over Ethics

LV seems to prioritise creating an ultra-luxury product line (and FOMO) for the uber-wealthy over consistency with their stated ethics on sustainability and animal protection. It’s a million-dollar case study in ethical dissonance.
Perhaps they think their clientele’s wealth places them above following the same rules. But ethics aren’t flexible based on income. Brands are in the position to educate, not enable harmful consumption, regardless of a consumer’s means. It’s not wealth that grants ethical high ground.

You don't have to have a million dollar dollar bag to have an ethical dilemma to review your current practices.

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A Missed Opportunity

Louis Vuitton had an opportunity to create a more ethically sourced ultra-luxury line using sustainable materials and methods. Instead, they chose to double down on an “exotic” and increasingly outdated product sourced from threatened species in an abhorrent manner. While not alone in using such materials, few luxury rivals are so brazenly inconsistent with their stated values.
Could it be that other fashion houses and designers are more aware and sensitive to the ethical dilemma of some of their products and therefore choose not to draw attention to it.

Credibility Lost

Conscientious consumers will think twice about brands whose products so blatantly contradict their ethical statements. However, the real issue may be how much attention is paid to the invitation-only production process. LV created a million-dollar bag, but lost something priceless – credibility.

Align Your Practices With Your Principles

Does your company struggle with ethical conflicts like this? This LV example shows that inconsistencies between corporate policies and actual practices can severely undermine brand trust and credibility.

A comprehensive policy audit from CAS Ltd can identify gaps between your stated values and real-world operations. With the framework of HouseRules, we will work closely to bring policies, procedures and corporate culture into full alignment therefore avoiding public ethical dilemmas.

Don’t let your company’s principles become empty marketing hacks – ensure you uphold your values across the entire business. Visit the Services page to learn how to get the right policy audit for your business to strengthen ethical integrity.

Want to talk more about how we can work together to elevate your company through the implementation of your HouseRules? Be sure to connect and secure your complimentary Sip & Chat session

I’m Cas Johnson, The Ethical Strategist working with business leaders who envision a business of interdependency.

Serving you in business to get your house in order with HouseRules

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