Skip to content

30 September 2022

Inspiring the leather supply chain toward meaningful change 

The 2022 Leather Working Group Member Conference, sponsored by Piper & Skye, came at a crucial time in the leather sustainability dialogue, just over a week after the European Parliament voted in their first round for stricter controls to address deforestation which will drive further change in the leather industry.  

Building a more sustainable future with responsibly made leather is no easy task. By utilizing the Leather Working Group platform to bring leather manufacturers, brands, industry suppliers, and NGOs into one space, the conference themes grew organically from the continued dialogue. As a leader in the global leather industry, we want to empower our members to address four critical areas for change; continuous improvement, traceability and chain of custody, environmental impact, and responsible chemistry.  

Speaking the language of engagement 

We are proud to have had delegates attend from over 30 countries, which shows us that businesses around the world are taking the future of responsibly made leather, seriously. Our carefully curated speakers showcased real insights and actionable strategies to help address the climate crisis we all now face. 

Session 1: Continuous Improvement – Opened by Ian Scher, VP Procurement of PrimeAsia and the Chair of the LWG Executive Committee, this session took a deeper dive into Leather Working Group’s global movement for change through promoting best practices, continuously raising standards, and driven a collective effort. Guido Zilli, Sustainability & HSE Manager at Gruppo Mastrotto, delved into the impact of LWG Global Audit Standard on business strategy and operational activities, promoting innovation and better KPI monitoring in areas such as water and energy consumption. Finally, Stuart Cranfield, Head of Operations at Leather Working Group, showcased plans to develop the LWG Global Audit Standards, and highlighted the launch of the LWG Supplier Scorecard, a digital tool that is designed to increase transparency through improved access to information on a leather manufacturer’s audit performance. The session concluded with a panel discussion facilitated by Christina Trautmann, Head of Leather Working Group.  

Session 2: Traceability in Focus - Opened by Austin Davidsen, Director of Footwear Material Sustainability at adidas, this session highlighted different perspectives, challenges, and opportunities for leather traceability. Austin presented the adidas approach to sustainability, focussing on traceability and deforestation due diligence, as well as motivating businesses to address climate change and their own resource consumption to meet sustainability goals. Lisa Rausch, Associate Researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-M), explored the existing cattle agreements in Brazil, which are aligned with the components of a robust deforestation due diligence plan. Building on this, UW-M has been working with Leather Working Group (LWG), National Wildlife Federation (NWF), and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on risk mapping across Brazil. Hillary Fenrich, Manager of Tropical Forests & Agriculture at the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), presented NWF’s market-based approach to strengthening sustainable sourcing practices in agricultural supply chains. Hillary highlighted global pending legislation to tackle land-use change and requirements for traceability, as well as the complexity in addressing these asks and the collaborative opportunities for the sector. Ivens Domingos, Sustainability Manager at Durli Leathers explained efforts to progress their traceability work across Brazil and Paraguay, including new monitoring and traceability systems, shifting sourcing practices to align with a new Raw Materials Responsible Sourcing Policy, and using Geo monitoring results to minimize risk exposure. And finally, Vanesa Brain, Traceability Manager at Leather Working Group, presented the LWG Traceability Roadmap, showcasing plans to drive transparency toward LWG’s aim for a deforestation and conversion-free (DCF) leather supply chain by 2030. This session was closed with a lively Q&A panel discussion, facilitated by Tim Wilson of 3P Strategy. 

Session 3: Chain of Custody - Opened by Tim Wilson, Director of 3P Strategy, this session featured the launch of the LWG Chain of Custody project; the development of a framework to enable credible product claims for the LWG leather supply chain. Tim outlined how LWG is aiming to work collaboratively with key stakeholders to review existing chain of custody systems, develop requirements and a data standard, then pilot the approach to provide a mechanism for assurance of LWG leather, and verified product claims. The session closed with Q&A facilitated by Vanessa Brain, Traceability Manager at Leather Working Group. 

Session 4: Responsible Chemistry – Opened by Dr. Leticia Millward, Standards Manager at Leather Working Group, this session focused on the responsible use of chemistry in manufacturing and how it is considered within the LWG Global Audit Standard. Dr. Millward provided an overview of how LWG assesses a leather manufacturer’s ability to procure, use, store, and dispose of chemicals in a safe, responsible manner. Giving an update on the regulatory activities impacting the European leather industry, Andreas Bayer, Senior Manager for Chemicals Policy at TEGEWA, detailed ongoing efforts to restrict the use of skin-sensitizing chemicals, glutaraldehyde, and bisphenols. Andreas then outlined the potential impacts anticipated as part of the European Union’s Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation. Finally, Elisa Gavazza, the Director for Southern Europe at ZDHC, spoke on the recent work of the ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Programme to facilitate sustainable chemical management and improve wastewater practices, including the upcoming launch of version 3.0 of the ZDHC Manufacturing Restricted Substance List (MRSL) and version 2.0 of the Conformance Guidance document. Dietrich Tegtmeyer, Global Head for Business Development and Industry Relations at TFL facilitated the panel discussion. 

Session 5: Environmental Impact - Opened by Dr. Leticia Millward, the final session showcased initiatives to measure, quantify, and reduce the environmental impact of leather and leather products. Dr. Millward spoke on LWG’s sustainability initiatives to help drive environmental impact reduction in the leather industry, including the LWG Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) project and plans to introduce a carbon footprint measurement tool to the LWG Global Audit Standard. Federico Brugnoli, CEO of Milan-based consultancy SPIN 360, provided further insight into the LWG Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) project, and the importance of LCAs for businesses to have data-driven conclusions and take evidence-based action to substantiate their sustainability claims. Rosie Wollacott Phillips, Head of Group Sustainability at Mulberry, spoke about the Mulberry Made To Last programme, explaining how Mulberry champions sustainability and circularity at every stage of a product’s life, which is only possible due to the durability and repairability of leather. Kim Sena, Sustainability Manager at JBS Couros, showcased their learnings from detailed quantitative impact assessments and the development of action plans to mitigate impact. Kim highlighted JBS’s aim to achieve net zero by 2040, through conducting multiple LCA studies across various products and facilities, to help them identify impact “hot spots” and act. The final talk was delivered by Andreas Meyer, Managing Director of VDL/German Leather Federation, who highlighted the ECO2L tool, designed to quantify the carbon footprint of leather and benchmark the energy consumption of a single tannery site against the Best Energy Efficiency for Tanning (BEET). Kim Sena facilitated the final panel discussion of the day and Ian Scher delivered the closing remarks. 

Motivated for positive action; let’s get to work 

Implementing change can be daunting, however, the 2022 LWG Member Conference provided a shared learning environment, that has given delegates a sense of confidence and direction, with an essence of ‘how to’ create a future with responsibly made leather. As a global movement for change, we at Leather Working Group are calling on our members to help us build this future, one step at a time. We are proud of our close dialogue with our community, and we encourage continued participation in our working groups to effect change by delivering positive impact projects.  

The leather industry is changing, and through Leather Working Group, you can be part of that change