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Jack Wolfskin and SeaWorld

Feb 22

Written by:
22/02/2017 10:14  RssIcon

Should Jack Wolfskin inherit SeaWorld's boycott?

SeaWorld, which has been subject to a boycott over its mistreatment of marine animals, released its preliminary financial figures for 2016 last week.

Its visitor numbers and revenue are down, but not by as much as some might have hoped. It reported 22 million visitors, down from 22.8 million in 2015. Revenue has also slightly fallen: $1.34 billion, down from $1.37.

Image: SeaWorld

SeaWorld, photo credit: Woolennium via Flickr.  


SeaWorld runs sea life centres in the US that use whales, dolphins and other marine animals for entertainment. The 2013 documentary Blackfish propelled the boycott mainstream, with the company accused of drugging the animals, keeping them in terrible conditions and inbreeding them, resulting in myriad medical conditions. 

SeaWorld has been backpeddling, and has cancelled its theatrical whale shows and its captive orca whale breeding programme in the hope of appeasing critics. Shows in which whales jump to the demands of trainers are being replaced with “an all new orca experience focused on the natural environment”. 

However, many, such as PETA, argue that despite the changes, the essentials remain unchanged and that the centres are still highly abusive. 



You may have heard about SeaWorld in other press. The thing that you probably won't have heard is that SeaWorld is owned by the US private equity group Blackstone: one of the largest real estate, private equity, and alternative asset managers in the world. 

Private equity firms buy to sell. They take over companies that they think are undervalued and then sell them again, usually after a period of two to six years. 

While most traditional companies have a core industry and integrate all their operations to an extent, private equity firms often have holdings in entirely unrelated companies.

Thus as well as owning Seaworld, Blackstone also owns the outdoor gear shop Jack Wolfskin, the camera company Kodak, the footwear company Crocs, and two energy companies, one of which is involved in oil drilling in the occupied Western Sahara. 

Should Jack Wolfskin inherit the SeaWorld boycott?

Jack Wolfskin is a German producer of outdoor gear. It has a lot going for it ethically: it is a member of the Fair Wear Foundation: a multi-stakeholder initiative working to improve workplace conditions in the garment and textile industry. It is rated by Fair Wear as a ‘Leader’.

It is only one of a handful of walking boot companies to get our best rating for supply chain management. It also only uses organic cotton.

However, at Ethical Consumer we “follow the money” - we rate the parent company, meaning that we rate Jack Wolfskin low because of the other companies owned by Blackstone. 

Should Jack Wolfskin inherit Sea World’s boycott? Ultimately, that is up to consumers. Financially, they are interrelated. As far as their business goes, they are in different worlds. 


Jack Wolfskin is rated in our ethical shopping guide to Waterproof Jackets. See how it compares to other companies. 








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