Deforestation reduction through traceability

Deforestation continues to remain a key focus area for Leather Working Group (LWG) and its members. At LWG, we are actively working on several projects to secure our vision for the future: 100% deforestation and conversion-free (DCF) leather. 

LWG value the expert advice from our partner organizations NWF & WWF to help drive this change, both of which we have welcomed into membership in 2021.  


Our aim: Deforestation and conversion-free (DCF) leather  


LWG is currently developing a detailed traceability roadmap that will map out our targets and goals and is planned to be published in early 2022. We continue to work closely with both our NGO partners, NWF & WWF, and LWG Traceability Working Group to develop our requirements and define the roadmap. Some elements of the roadmap will cover further due diligence requirements related to deforestation, as well as new requirements to drive supply chains to trace their material prior to the slaughterhouse stage to the farm level. 

Issues related to deforestation are complex, and the journey to address these will take time and need both realistic and achievable goals with cross-sector collaboration. To further this agenda, LWG has agreed new projects with NWF and WWF to further develop transparency and traceability on the ground. We are also in discussions with the Consumer Goods Forum beef working group with the intention to collaborate and share data between the sectors to augment the LWG’s existing data and further industry progress to enforce deforestation commitments. 

LWG works in partnership with brands who are encouraged to maintain and implement their own due diligence and risk assessments of their supply chain partners to assess what level of certification has been achieved. LWG certification is proof of comprehensive auditing at the leather manufacturing stage. We provide specific guidance on what claims can be made related to the meaning of LWG membership for brands and the level of commitment this demonstrates in improving the social and environmental impacts of leather production.

Further to this, we are also now working to develop chain of custody requirements beyond the leather manufacturing stage. This will enable additional supply chain transparency, which will allow for due diligence measures where any risk is identified. This will be developed in line with the LWG Traceability Roadmap, which will be published in early 2022.

We are engaged with stakeholders across the leather and beef sector with a particular focus on South America, working in partnership to develop deforestation and conversion-free certification as a crucial incremental step for the leather industry. LWG values collaborations and open dialogue with all stakeholders that share these objectives to work to eradicate all forms of deforestation.  


Leather Working Group ESG certification 


Leather Working Group ESG certification is the most credible and comprehensive audit of leather manufacturers available today. The audit has been developed over 15 years in collaboration with brands, leather manufacturers, and NGOs, and covers critical areas of leather manufacturing to drive compliance with appropriate environmental stewardship and governance. 

The scope of the audit covers operating permits, sub-contracted operations, upstream leather manufacturing suppliers, environmental management systems, chemical management, restricted substance management, water and energy consumption targets, air and noise emissions, solid waste management, effluent treatment, health and safety, social compliance, and traceability. These are all crucial aspects to ensure the protection for both the environment and the people involved in the production of leather. 


Improving traceability within the global leather supply chain 


In terms of traceability and deforestation, LWG has been working on improving traceability since its inception in 2005. LWG formalized this work in collaboration with Greenpeace and NWF in 2007/8 to improve traceability within the Brazilian sector agreeing on specific requirements that were added to the audit standard at that time. This requirement enabled brands to identify suppliers in Brazil that could define the exact location of slaughterhouses, and the date of slaughter, enabling direct farms to be identified. A major objective of this program was to raise awareness of the concerns about deforestation within the leather supply chain in Brazil. 

Improving traceability is a key priority of LWG and the latest audit standard, P7, published in 2021, contains expanded requirements for traceability. There are 3 sections that address traceability: the assessment of the continuity of certification between manufacturers to incentivize improvements and adoption of LWG certification, as well as the assessment of both incoming and outgoing traceability. 

In the Incoming Traceability section, the LWG audit scores manufacturers on their ability to trace their hides/skins, either physically or through documentation, to the slaughterhouse stage. With an additional regional level recently being included to consider areas where informal slaughter is prevalent. 

There are also additional due diligence requirements for hides that are sourced from Brazil and Paraguay. These work to ensure that suppliers are not involved in deforestation, invasion of indigenous lands, and/or protected areas of the Amazon biome and Paraguayan Chaco biome. To achieve a score for this section, as a minimum, certified sites must provide a declaration of compliance. However, compliance through additional evidence, such as an IBAMA report and/or copy of evidence of compliance from the meatpacker’s in-house monitoring system, and/or copy of report from a 3rd party monitoring service provider, is incentivized through the protocol scoring system. The scope of these traceability requirements has been developed and agreed with WWF and NWF, both of whom have significant projects and experience on the ground in Brazil, working to reduce deforestation over the past 15 years. 


Driving change through evolution  


The LWG audit is constantly evolving, with incremental changes being made that ensure requirements are realistic and achievable for the majority. The same is true for the newly developed traceability requirements. With the 2-year audit cycle, these will take time to be adopted by all, with the next stage of requirements being adopted in-line with the future version of the LWG Audit Standard, P8. In this way, we drive continuous improvement, and maintain the engagement of the LWG certified leather manufacturers. 

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