Fashion and auto giants collaborate to end deforestation in leather supply chains

Coordinated by the non-profits Textile Exchange and the Leather Working Group, the new ‘Deforestation-Free Call to Action for Leather’ aims to scale the sourcing of verified alternatives to leather linked to deforestation.

Within six months of supporting the call to action, brands are expected to have made a public commitment to end the procurement of bovine leather from deforested or converted lands. This commitment should cover all levels of farming and the supply chain. Additionally, the commitment should cover the protection of human rights.

Businesses will need to bolster this commitment with a full supply chain mapping plan and an investment plan. Initial investments will need to be made in the first year.

The call to action is cross-sector and several major brands have shown their support already. In the fashion sector, supporters include Adidas, America Eagle, Kering, Mango, Marks & Spencer (M&S), Puma, Reformation, H&M, Allsaints, Icebug, Tapestry and Capri Holdings, which owns designer lines including Michael Kors.

Shoe manufacturers RM Williams and Arezzo&Co have also signed up, as have automakers BMW Group and Roots Industries.

Supporting the call to action are WWF, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and the Accountability Framework Initiative (Afi).

In a statement, these organisations said that actors across the private sector are “at varying stages of tackling deforestation and conversion”, and that much more “immediate action” is needed to tackle these issues in complex leather supply chains.

WWF believes that cattle production is the largest driver of deforestation globally. Although the leather industry argues that it is simply benefitting from a beef industry by-product, leather buyers are still implicated in deforestation risk. Leather is often described as a ‘co-product’. Part of the reason for the call to action existing is to support more equal sharing of the responsibility for forest and ecosystem protection across the supply chain.

Going forward, businesses supporting the call to action will need to report on progress annually through Textile Exchange’s Materials Benchmark platform.

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