Consumers today want to know what they are buying, where it comes from and how it was made. Increasingly, brands and manufacturers are needing to put extra thought into the materials they're sourcing and where they're sourcing from - highlighting the importance of traceability throughout global supply chains no matter the industry.

The Leather Working Group has been active in driving traceability within the leather sector since 2008, when concerns related to deforestation and cattle ranching were raised by several notable NGOs. At the time, many global brands were challenged to review their supply chain policies with a view to reducing the level of deforestation across the world.

Traceability in the LWG Audit Standards

The LWG Leather Manufacturer Audit Standard has been developed collaboratively over the years, aiming to drive positive change incrementally, by the phasing out harmful practices and promoting progressive improvements within the leather value chain. Version 7.0 of the LWG Leather Manufacturer Audit Standard (P7) approaches traceability in three ways:

  1. Firstly, through assessing material procurement to ensure upstream suppliers are also certified and are manufacturing in a responsible way.
  2. Secondly, by assessing the incoming material traceability, including new levels to increase the ability of all actors to achieve additional levels of traceability. 
  3. Lastly, by assessing the traceability of the outgoing material, to incentivize the improvement of downstream traceability with a completely new section of the protocol. 

For the first time, we have included incoming material traceability as a scored section in the audit, and plan to progressively increase these requirements in the next iteration of the LWG Audit Standard according to our roadmap. This means that having limited traceability and exposure to deforestation will start to negatively impact medal ratings. This phased approach will ensure that all actors are fully engaged and that we will achieve our goal in a realistic and possible manner.  

LWG Traceability Working Group (TrWG)

We created the LWG Traceability Working Group (TrWG) in 2020 to strengthen our existing traceability criteria within the LWG Audit Standards, using a full industry perspective. With input from certified leather maufacturers, brands and NGOs, the TrWG will work on:

  • refining our existing definitions of traceability
  • understanding how leather can be considered traceable throughout the leather supply chain.
  • the influence of different stakeholders in the leather industry
  • regional differences in traceability systems. 

Ultimately, the new group will focus on how to facilitate a higher level of traceability and investigate the practicalities of integrating traceability into the medal rating of LWG-certified leather manufacturers.  

History of LWG & Traceability

As an environmentally focused organisation, we felt a responsibility to help where we could. Here's what we've done so far:

  • 2008: We added a new section to the LWG Leather Manufacturer Audit to assess a supplier's ability to trace their raw material back to the slaughterhouse.
  • 2016: We introduced a new audit standard for assessing leather traders, linking up actors within the leather production chain to increase the security of chain-of-custody. 
  • 2019: We added further requirements to the LWG Trader Audit Protocol, rewarding physical marking of material as it enters a facility.
  • 2020: We launched the LWG Traceability Working Group and committed to reviewing our traceability requirements in consultation with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).
  • 2021: We introduced Version 7 of the LWG Leather Manufacturer Audit Protocol (P7) which features two separate sections on traceability, driving an increase level of physically marked material and requiring additional checks and balances for sourcing from areas at high risk for deforestation. 
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