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Put this one in the “odd lots” folder. Corporate treatment of animals became a social issue many years ago, primarily in the clothing, food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was founded over 40 years ago to protest and fight how companies in these sectors treated animals. But the organization took an odd turn last week. According to this from The Hill, PETA sent a letter to the president of Chance Rides, the largest amusement ride manufacturer in the US, “asking him to end the production and sale of ‘animal-themed carousels that normalize the use of animals as conveyances and amusements.’”

The organization is targeting not just real animals, but also wooden and/or resin facsimiles.

“The group suggests replacing animals with vehicles, such as cars, airplanes, spaceships and bulldozers, or with whimsical designs such as rainbows, shooting stars and brooms.”

You may roll your eyes at this as I did, but this initiative can pose real reputational, social and even strategic risk to companies (and individuals) in PETA’s crosshairs. Their tactics are aggressive and disruptive, yet frequently successful in getting companies to change. No one wants to be on their naughty list. However, PETA is moving the goalposts – out of the stadium, beyond the parking lot and into the next county.

It is difficult enough to get in front of ESG issues and exposures staying within the bounds of common sense. Companies should develop general plans for managing unanticipated irrational ESG issues and risks that arise. Not an easy thing to do, but it is worth having a basic framework in place.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile