UN SDGs

 

Leather Working Group & the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The Leather Working Group (LWG)  is committed to improving environmental stewardship within the leather manufacturing industry.


 



Goal 3: Good Health & Well-Being

  • Goal Target: By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination.

The Leather Working Group (LWG) provides an environmental audit protocol, designed to assess the facilities of leather manufacturers. The audit protocol considers the following areas related to health and well-being:

  • the storage, usage and disposal of potentially hazardous chemicals

  • the provision and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in tanneries

  • the installation of detectors for potentially hazardous gases (e.g. H2S)

  • the level of housekeeping in a tannery, including clearly marked access routes, storage areas, etc.

As part of its remit of environmental stewardship, LWG assesses the chemical management of leather manufacturers, both via the Environmental Audit Protocol (EAP) and the Chemical Management Module (CMM). LWG aims to make sure leather manufacturers are able to understand, manage and implement chemical management systems, to ensure restricted substance lists are adhered to and ensure chemicals are disposed of in an appropriate manner to reduce pollution and contamination in the air, water and soil. LWG’s CMM will become integrated into the EAP in 2019/20 and aligns with the guidelines of the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) organisation. LWG contributed to and endorse the ZDHC Manufacturing Restricted Substance List (MRSL) for leather.

 


 



Goal 6: Clean Water & Sanitation

  • Goal Target: By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals & materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling & safe reuse globally
  • Goal Target: By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity

As an advocate for environmental stewardship, the Leather Working Group (LWG) assesses water-use efficiency and promotes best practice in the treatment of wastewater, as well as the use, storage and disposal of hazardous chemicals.

The LWG Environmental Audit Protocol (EAP), assesses leather manufacturers according to the amount of wastewater they discharge and they are required to provide evidence of operating permits and discharge data for their effluent discharge system. Tanneries must also adhere to specific wastewater limits to achieve LWG medal-rated status and these limits will be lowered even further in the next version of the audit protocol in 2019/20. LWG are working collaboratively with the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) programme on their wastewater guidelines and aim to align as closely as possible on leather parameters. In terms of water efficiency, LWG has seen an average 35% reduction in water consumption by its rated tanneries, representing an estimated 12 billion litres of water saved each year.

In addition, LWG assesses the chemical management of leather manufacturers, both via the Environmental Audit Protocol (EAP) and the Chemical Management Module (CMM). The CMM will become integrated into the main audit protocol in 2019/20 and endorses the ZDHC Manufacturing Restricted Substance List (MRSL) for leather. LWG aims to make sure leather manufacturers are able to understand, manage and implement chemical management systems, to ensure restricted substance lists are adhered to and that chemicals are disposed of in an appropriate manner, to reduce water pollution and contamination.


 

Goal 12: Responsible Production & Consumption

  • Goal Target: By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment.

  • Goal Target: Encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle.

The Leather Working Group (LWG) is a multi-stakeholder group, comprising leather manufacturers, chemical and machine suppliers, brands and retailers, traders of material and technical experts. The group is committed to environmental stewardship throughout the leather supply chain, including many large and transnational companies.

Through the development of the LWG Environmental Audit Protocol (EAP), tanneries are encouraged to efficiently manage their chemical, waste and energy usage to reduce their environmental impact, ultimately reducing pollution or contamination of air, water and soil. Brands and retailers are encouraged to source their materials responsibly and to promote LWG compliance throughout their own supply chain.

Whether promoting efficient water treatment, reducing energy consumption, minimising the potential risks of using hazardous chemicals, or encouraging traceability at every stage of production, LWG’s priority is ensuring leather is produced and consumed as responsibly and efficiently as possible.


 

Goal 13: Climate Action

  • Goal Target: Improve […] institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning.

A cornerstone of the Leather Working Group (LWG) Environmental Audit Protocol (EAP) is the assessment of energy consumption by leather manufacturers. LWG continues to drive improvement in sustainable resource consumption by raising the bar for tanneries wishing to achieve LWG certification. LWG has seen an average reduction in energy usage of up to 48%, saving an estimated 775 Megawatts of electricity annually, thereby reducing emissions and their impact on the environment.


 

Goal 14: Life Below Water

  • Goal Target: By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution.

The Leather Working Group’s remit of environmental stewardship promotes sustainable best practice throughout the leather supply chain, primarily through the assessment of leather manufacturers by its Environmental Audit Protocol (EAP). The protocol assesses the use and discharge of hazardous chemicals and wastewater to reduce their environmental impact.

LWG assess leather manufacturers on their use of hazardous chemicals and offers the Chemical Management Module (CMM), which endorses the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) programme’s Manufacturing Restricted Substance List (MRSL) for leather. By ensuring tanneries comply with chemical management best practice, the potential impact of hazardous chemicals on marine environments will be reduced.

Similarly, the audit also considers the amount, chemical composition, and final discharge location of a facility’s wastewater – ultimately reducing the discharge of potentially polluting or contaminating products into marine environments.


 

Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals

  • Goal Target: Enhance the global partnership for sustainable development, complemented by multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources, to support the achievement of the sustainable development goals in all countries, in particular developing countries.

The Leather Working Group (LWG) itself is a collaboration between many global stakeholders across different sectors of the leather industry. The group is comprises leather manufacturers, chemical and machine suppliers, brands and retailers, traders of material and technical experts which have joined together to develop an Environmental Audit Protocol (EAP) to promote environmentally responsible and sustainable practices within the leather manufacturing industry.

LWG collaborates with a range of organisations on different issues with relevance to the purpose of the group and the needs of its members, including:

Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC)
The SAC operates the Material Sustainability Index (MSI), an assessment designed to identify the environmental impact of various manufacturing materials. LWG is currently collaborating with the SAC on the identification of LWG Audit Certification as a metric by which manufacturers may reduce their environmental impact score, which may help to meet the aims of Goal 6, Clean Water & Sanitation, and Goal 12, Responsible Production & Consumption.

Social & Labor Convergence Project (SLCP)
The SLCP aims to provide a converged assessment framework to support efforts to improve working conditions in the global apparel and footwear supply chain, working towards the aim of Goal 8, Decent Work & Economic Growth. LWG currently signposts its members to SLCP on all social and labour related issues within the leather industry.

Textile Exchange
Textile Exchange operates the Responsible Leather Round Table (RLRT), a platform driving the development of the Responsible Leather Assessment (RLA) tool. The tool will identify existing standards, programmes and tools which assess the environmental and social impact, animal welfare, and economic viability of practices across the leather value chain. LWG and Textile Exchange have agreed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and both parties will collaborate on the RLA, with a focus on leather manufacturing, including the provision of information and education relating to environmental compliance of tanneries. This collaboration works towards the aims of Goal 6, Clean Water & Sanitation, and Goal 12, Responsible Production & Consumption.

United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)
UNIDO provides educational and training materials topics such as effluent treatment and H2S protection, working towards aims of Goal 4, Quality Education. LWG collaborates with UNIDO on the provision of these educational materials to members of the leather industry, including the LWG auditors and tanneries.

Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC)
The ZDHC programme aims to reduce or eliminate specific chemicals in the textile, leather and footwear supply chains, to reduce their impact on people and the environment. Following the creation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two organisations, LWG have provided industry-specific feedback on the ZDHC Manufacturing Restricted Substance List (MRSL) for leather and also on their Wastewater Guidelines. Where possible, LWG aims to align with ZDHC regarding its own wastewater limits and the LWG Chemical Management Module (CMM). LWG has been asked to provide expert input and knowledge to ZDHC for their new development work on air emissions and will continue to collaborate on shared objectives. The collaboration between the two organisation works towards meeting some aims of Goal 3, Good Health & Well-Being; Goal 6, Clean Water & Sanitation, and Goal 12, Responsible Production & Consumption.

Collaborations with NGOs
The Leather Working Group also consults with a range of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) on topics of mutual interest and benefit, such as traceability and animal welfare, including: