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Textile Exchange Launches New Platform for Responsible Leather Sourcing

In response to demand from brands and retailers to address impacts associated with leather sourcing, Textile Exchange has created the Responsible Leather Round Table (RLRT).

The platform will rely on stakeholder collaboration to reach a goal of identifying and driving best practices in the leather value chain. The RLRT builds on Textile Exchange’s benchmark animal welfare programs.

One of the primary activities of the RLRT will be the development of the Responsible Leather Assessment (RLA) tool. The tool will provide a framework for brands to evaluate the responsibility of their full leather supply chain, and allow them to recognize and leverage the many existing standards, programs and tools that address regional or single stage impacts.

In its first version, the RLA tool will be applicable only to cattle leather. Textile Exchange is working with the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef to better understand and address issues at the beginning of the supply chain.

Through the establishment of the RLRT, Textile Exchange has brought together nearly 400 stakeholders from all parts of the industry, including brands, farmers and suppliers, along with NGOs, international organizations and special interest groups. Official membership to the RLRT began in June, with several companies already signed on, including Mulberry, VF Corp., REI, H&M, Patagonia, Kathmandu and Deckers Brands.

“As we manage to trace the source of our hides and skins to the meat producer, we need to be able to determine if they share our values in their operations, with sound animal husbandry, humane animal treatment and slaughtering practices,” John Graebin, senior director of materials at Deckers Brands, said. “We decided to join the Responsible Leather Round Table as we believe this group has the right skills and it is uniquely positioned to represent the leather industry in creating a platform in which existing policies and best practices of the food industry can be organized in a unified common denominator, creating a tool that could eventually be used to verify compliance.”

The RLRT will host its first global event in Kilkenny, Ireland, on Oct. 11 and 12. This event, which overlaps with the GRSB’s Global Conference on Sustainable Beef, will be an opportunity to bring together the two industry sectors to explore the potential for shared impact.