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Leather Supply Chain Mapping Project Tackles Deforestation

A new mapping project will be the first to thoroughly evaluate the leather industry and its impacts on deforestation.

The project, a collaboration between the National Wildlife Federation, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Leather Working Group (LWG) and the Gibbs Land Use and Environment Lab (GLUE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will tackle deforestation and its links to leather supply chains. It follows last week’s call at COP 26 for the global community to end deforestation.

The group said it is united in the goal to support the leather industry to achieve deforestation-free and conversion-free (DCF) supply chains by providing support for companies to shift to DCF leather supply chains through strengthening and building on existing commitments. The collaboration will also provide assistance for companies to engage their supply chain partners to foster a shared vision, including making time-bound commitments aligned with the Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) and following through with tangible implementation.

“We are facing a climate crisis on top of a biodiversity crisis and deforestation is at the center of both,” Simon Hall, director of the Tropical Forests and Agriculture Program at the National Wildlife Federation, said. “Implementing deforestation-free production and sourcing practices is a critical part of the solution and it will take collective action from companies up and down the value chain to achieve this goal. We are very excited to collaborate on this project and look forward to continuing to support companies who want to step up and demonstrate leadership on these critical issues.”

The project will engage the expertise of the team from GLUE to map and assess the latest data related to deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado, and Paraguayan Chaco. The broader group will then develop a framework to enable stakeholders to interpret the mapped data and utilize a due diligence assessment tool for deforestation risk management that LWG will create.

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LWG aims to facilitate improved traceability and transparency in the leather supply chain through the LWG Leather Manufacturer Audit and engagement of stakeholders. A key priority for the LWG is working toward fully DCF leather supply chains through the due diligence measures that are required as part of the LWG Audit.  LWG’s latest audit protocol has strengthened requirements where skins or hides originate from areas at high risk of deforestation. These are part of incremental requirements that will be driven forward as LWG develops its Traceability Roadmap, which it plans to publish this in early 2022.

The collaboration aims to bring further transparency to the regions in focus and serve as an open invitation to encourage all stakeholders, from brands and leather manufacturers to meatpackers, to engage more on collective solutions that can help secure deforestation-free sourcing of leather.

“The LWG is committed to support its members to understand and address deforestation in leather supply chains,” Christina Trautmann, program manager for the LWG, said. “It is crucial that we do this in an inclusive way that provides accurate data and tools to leverage positive change. By prioritizing our traceability work and working in partnership with expert partners such as the National Wildlife Federation and WWF, the LWG is forging a path for the leather sector to address the rallying call of the climate crisis.”

The LWG is a membership organization composed of more than 1,300 members across the leather value chain, including leather manufacturers, brands, suppliers, traders and associations. The group develops audit certification standards to assess the environmental performance of leather manufacturing facilities and promotes responsible practices in the leather supply chain.