Leather and deforestation

Leather and deforestation

Leather and deforestation

Leather is made from cowhide, a by-product of the meat and dairy industries and as such does not encourage the production of more cattle. So, by definition, leather is not responsible for deforestation. That said, we as an industry can help the fight to end deforestation in the name of cattle ranching.

There are more than 200 million cattle in Brazil, and about one third of them are estimated to be raised in the Amazon biome. Only by improving traceability and general transparency in leather’s supply chain can we ensure people who want to buy leather knowing it is not produced from cattle reared on deforested land can do so easily.

The leather industry has already taken great steps to improve traceability, but it is not the easiest battle to fight. When land has been deforested illegally, often the people responsible will go to great lengths to hide the provenance of the cattle raised on it. As the hide is often unaccounted for at slaughter, things can be further complicated.

The leather industry is taking the lead to address the challenges of ensuring that consumers can buy leather that does not come from cattle raise on deforested land.  Tapestry, the parent for the leather rich brand “Coach”, announced a partnership with World Wildlife Fund (WWF), to provide a $3 million philanthropic grant to support the elimination of deforestation of Brazilian rainforests from cattle production. While the partner implementing the program has not been announced, other leather industry organizations are providing interim solutions.

The not-for-profit organization Sustainable Leather Foundation (SLF) provides audit and certification standard for organisations involved in the manufacture of leather, to measure their Environmental, Social and Governance performance, against a set of recognised standards and limits. The SLF Transparency Dashboard™ links the work of the value chain to the consumer. The Sustainable Leather Foundation (SLF) believes that through due diligence and respecting the natural balance of ecosystems, the leather industry is well positioned to be a positive driver for a sustainable cycle of production that safeguards against the exploitation of people and finite planet resources.

Non-profit organisation the Leather Working Group (LWG) is a leading audit group for the leather industry. It says: “Leather Working Group is committed to drive transparency and due diligence monitoring throughout the leather industry to achieve the collective goal of 100% deforestation and conversion free leather by 2030. LWG continue to work closely with expert NGO partners to develop the scope of the LWG’s traceability requirements.”

The leather industry is coordinating on projects that include mapping the leather supply chain, developing a traceability roadmap and quantifying the environmental footprint the clothes you wear.  These will help to inform members of the leather industry and consumers about deforestation risks and steps that the industry can do to increase traceability to meet supply chain due diligence and deliver consumer confidence.

More information on Tapestry and WWF and deforestation can be found here.

More information on SLF and deforestation can be found here.

More information on LWG and deforestation can be found here.