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Supply Chain
Global Fashion Houses, NGOs Call on Industry to Commit to Deforestation-Free Leather

The Deforestation-Free Call to Action for Leather calls on brands and retailers to ensure sourcing of bovine leather from deforestation-free supply chains by 2030 or earlier.

In an effort to rally global industry support of sustainable practices within the leather industry, nonprofit organizations Textile Exchange and Leather Working Group (LWG) have joined forces to launch a Deforestation-Free Call to Action for Leather. This initiative aims to create transparent and equitable supply chains, protecting our natural ecosystems.

Leather's destructive legacy

Cattle rearing is one of the main drivers of deforestation around the world — along with other commodities such as soy and palm oil; a recent Guardian investigation found the cattle industry alone has cut down 800 million trees in the Amazon in the past six years. It also contributes to the conversion of natural ecosystems such as grasslands and savannahs to farmland. While beef production is what drives cattle farming, the leather industry has an opportunity to influence change.

Industries are at varying stages of tackling deforestation and conversion in their supply chains. For brands and retailers that are using leather, they have the task of transforming long, complex, and often opaque supply chains to be able to address the issue directly and drive positive change at the source.

The Deforestation-Free Call to Action for Leather

Textile Exchange, Leather Working Group and their 16 initial signatories are calling on the fashion industry and retailers to commit to sourcing all of their bovine leather from deforestation-free supply chains by 2030 or earlier. The guidelines were developed in consultation with WWF, the National Wildlife Federation and the Accountability Framework initiative. The initiative sets clear expectations for brands, providing them with tools and guidance to support them on the journey.

Initial signatories include luxury fashion groups Capri Holdings (parent company of Versace, Jimmy Choo and Michael Kors), Kering (owner of Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Gucci, Alexander McQueen and YSL) and Tapestry (home to Coach, Kate Spade and Stuart Weitzman); along with BMW Group and fashion giants adidas, American Eagle Outfitters, AllSaints, Arezzo&Co, H&M Group, Icebug, Mango, Marks & Spencer (M&S), PUMA, bag and luggage brand Range Revolution, Reformation, Roots, and boot brand R.M.Williams.

“With growing concerns about climate change, the loss of biodiversity and plastic pollution, our world is facing an environmental crisis. At Puma, we are ready to act and contribute to solutions,” a brand representative said in a statement. “Puma aims to reduce its impact on biodiversity, so we commit to sourcing all the bovine leather used in our products from verified deforestation-free supply chains by 2030. Puma aims to end deforestation to protect wildlife habitat and biodiversity and preserve carbon stocks to mitigate climate change for bovine leather (from cattle, primarily raised for beef production).”

Leather plays a major role in many of the signatories’ offerings; and while more and more major apparel brands are beginning to incorporate plant-based and non-bovine leather alternatives, uptake is not nearly fast enough to upset global demand for bovine leather. As Yahoo! Finance pointed out, many signatories had already established targets to ensure ethical and sustainable leather sourcing before this call to action — with many already sourcing the majority of their leather from LWG-certified facilities: adidas claims to source 99 percent of its leather from LWG-certified facilities, as well as American Eagle (100 percent), Capri (91 percent), Coach (70 percent for leather goods, 99 percent for footwear), Icebug (100 percent), M&S (90 percent), Puma (100 percent, for footwear), Range Revolution (100 percent, for luggage) and Reformation (100 percent).

Objectives of the Call to Action

The call to action for deforestation-free leather has outlined several key objectives aimed at transforming the leather industry and promoting sustainability. It seeks to catalyze change within the entire leather value chain though collective action. By aligning their actions and directing their buying power, brands can help drive sustainable practices at a greater scale.

The initiative emphasizes the need for a more equitable distribution of responsibility and investment in protecting forests and ecosystems. It encourages engagement and investment — rather than divestment — that will ideally lead to an increase the number of that are cattle farms that are verified deforestation-free and can provide a deforestation-free source of hides to the leather industry at scale.

Greater traceability, visibility and improved communication within the long and complex textile supply chains is also essential to support the aims of the initiative — working towards greater transparency will allow brands to reward and promote deforestation and conversion-free practice.

Lastly, the initiative emphasizes the importance of reporting collective progress, highlighting the positive changes being made by participating brands to foster ever-greater transparency within the industry. These objectives together form a comprehensive approach to addressing deforestation and driving sustainability in the leather sector.

Looking ahead

The launch of the Deforestation-Free Call to Action for Leather marks an important milestone in the leather industry's journey toward enforcing brand accountability regarding commitments to sustainable and responsible leather sourcing. As more brands sign on and commit to the initiative, the collective impact could be significant. The increased availability of and demand for verified deforestation-free leather will contribute to a more sustainable and transparent industry — fostering collaboration and inspiring further innovation, and helping to safeguard the health of global ecosystems going forward.