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Leather Working Group Outlines New Environmental Standards

The Leather Working Group’s (LWG) flagship environmental certification is evolving with the release of an updated auditing standard for leather manufacturers featuring more robust criteria and new social, traceability and chemical management requirements.

Covering approximately 25 percent of global finished leather production and with some 680 leather manufacturers under LWG-certification already, the Leather Working Group represents the largest network of environmentally audited tanneries across the world, providing brands with a responsible global supply chain.

With the publication of the LWG Leather Manufacturer Audit Protocol 7.0 (P7), the group is building on its foundation of robust environmental criteria and adding new requirements. After a six-month period, Protocol 7.0 will replace the existing Protocol 6.7 starting Aug. 22, becoming mandatory across all audits of leather manufacturing facilities.

“With increasing demands on the leather industry, we felt it was our responsibility to continue to drive change and promote a higher level of excellence,” Christina Trautmann, operations manager at the LWG, said. “When we started working on P7, we set out to address some of the key challenges across the industry, as well as anticipate changes on the horizon. With our increased scope and updated requirements, we hope to provide brands with a more secure, end-to-end supply chain and reassure consumers they are supporting responsible business.”

Some of the major changes in Protocol 7.0 are that the LWG Chemical Management Module, previously a standalone assessment, has been fully integrated into the main audit protocol. In addition, all LWG certified members have been granted free access to the ZDHC Gateway, so that they will be able to use it during an audit to demonstrate their manufacturer restricted substance list (MRSL) compliance.

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The existing traceability section has undergone significant revision and now becomes an integrated scored section, with additional due diligence measures to tackle deforestation risk. This has been developed in collaboration with the National Wildlife Federation. Additional levels of traceability are included to start assessing a broader scope for leather traceability.

For the first time, LWG will recognize third-party social audit certifications as a scored element in the protocol. Management of all waste and discharges to the environment are a critical part of the LWG assessment as they impact the environment directly. For P7, stricter requirements for the treatment of effluent and differentiate our criteria between direct discharge from on-site effluent treatment plants and indirect discharge from central and municipal effluent treatment plants have been introduced.

“Over the years, our protocols have constantly expanded in conjunction with the demands of our industry and those who consume our industry’s products,” Ian Scher, vice president of procurement at PrimeAsia Leather Corporation and chairman of the LWG executive committee, said. “This new protocol represents the most important and major evolution in our certification requirements to date. Protocol 7 will set a unique and unmatched bar in terms of providing an all-encompassing surety of supply for those who source from accredited leather manufacturers under our program.”