May 02, 2010
Prominent leather buyers have developed a new traceability system to ensure that leather products from Brazil don't result in deforestation, reports the National Wildlife Federation, an NGO working to improve the environmental performance of the cattle industry in the Amazon.
The Leather Working Group, a buyers group that includes Clarks International Ltd, New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc, Nike Inc, Puma, The Timberland Company, and other stakeholders, have now agreed to an environmental stewardship protocol that will "ultimately ensure that the origin of the materials within their supply chain is known and traceable back to the meat packing plant where the hides originated," according to a statement from the group.
Under the terms of the protocol, meat packers must certify that all their direct suppliers have registered their farms — providing GPS coordinates of their holdings — by November 2010. Packers who fail to meet the criteria will be unable to sell leather to members of the Leather Working Group.
The initiative comes less than a year after a report from Greenpeace virtually shut down the cattle industry in the Brazilian Amazon. The report, Slaughtering the Amazon, linked cattle products used in top consumer brands to destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Beef and leather buyers shortly thereafter announced they would no longer buy cattle products unless the industry could prove it was cleaning up its act. By the end of 2009, Brazil's largest slaughterhouses and beef traders had announced moratoria on deforestation.
Improving the traceability of beef and leather is significant because cattle ranching is the single largest driver of Amazon destruction: 80 percent of deforested land ends up as cattle pasture. Ranching is also Brazil's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.