Resources on Traceability

Ethical and deforestation-free leather

Ethical and deforestation-free leather

Addressing the impact of supply chains is a challenging task due to the intricate

connection of issues involved. The supply chain of the leather industry exemplifies this

complexity. While it is essential to acknowledge that leather serves as a durable coproduct of

the food industry, preventing a significant amount of waste annually (1), it is critical to confront

concerns within cattle farming. Some of these concerns regard regions like South America,

where industry practices have been at instances associated with deforestation (2), modern

slavery (3), animal cruelty (4), and potential water source contamination stemming from leather

tanning processes (5).

These challenges are met with the economic impact of leather production, a subject that

cannot be underestimated. The industry employs around half a million individuals globally,

influencing sectors such as footwear, garments, furniture, automotive, and aviation. This

influence consequently elevates the significance of the economics of associated industries (6).

In this scenario, the importance of leather within the fashion industry might easily be

considered neglectable. However, many brands heavily rely on leather products as their key

creations, prompting questions of correlated socio-environmental impact.

In the same vein, recent research indicates an ongoing change in consumer patterns

where transparency of a brand's impact on communities and the environment is the desired

direction forward (7). Thus, the traceability of the supply chain of leather products is not only

a step that brands are taking to improve their reputation, identify risks, improve performance,

and comply with regulations but also a measure consumers desire. Considering these factors

and recognizing that complex problems require an equally elaborate set of solutions, tech

platforms can work as catalysts of good practices, engaging different actors in the supply chain

of leather.

Tackling risks: Traceability Systems

Traceability systems can assist farmers in identifying animals*, tracing acquisitions,

sales, registering sanitary measures, and processes of direct and indirect suppliers in the supply

chain of leather. The information provided by farmers is submitted to different kinds of cross-

verifications and registered in the blockchain, providing an elevated standard of reliability and

security throughout the entire process. These systems also integrate animal welfare protocols

enforced by law in different countries in South America, allowing for specific indicators.

Understanding that this process unqualifies certain farmers, platforms can offer support by

identifying means of readjustment, and according to the type of problem presented, farmers

can achieve the required standards for compliance.

When it comes to water resources, certifications play an important role by providing

third-party verification and certifying sustainable practices in the production of leather (8).

These certifications are also registered and linked to the evidence generated by the different

actors in this supply chain. In addition to environmental destruction, food production, and by

extension the leather supply chain, can be linked with illegal practices such as modern slavery.

Another important concern is the invasion of indigenous and Quilombola communities' lands

in Brazil for agriculture. In this case, systematic cross-verifications can be conducted through

private and public databases. These verifications ensure environmental, social, and human

rights compliance indicators providing a comprehensive overview of compliant actors in the

supply chain of leather.

The initial challenge of such platforms is to address the concern with data privacy by

stakeholders. This issue is tackled by blockchain systems that protect the information, allowing

them to provide and request information by demand. This challenge highlights the difficulty to

associate such initiatives as allies for encouraging good practices or tools that can offer means

of readjustment, in case of irregularities.

Finally, robust traceability systems handle a massive volume of information, often

integrating public databases and corporate platforms. Consequently, effective systems are

required to seamlessly integrate or display relevant information allowing stakeholders to easily

assess the issues involved in their agricultural supply chains. Given the complexity of problems

involved, technological systems are the first step to embark into deep and concerning aspects

of agricultural supply chains. Therefore, the understanding of power imbalances causing deep

inequalities, and strategies to restore the damage caused to nature, its people, and animal

welfare should be at the core of responsible sourcing initiatives.

Miriam Pavez

Conecta Platform by Safe Trace

References

* All the information related to the life of animals, including death.

(1) Is leather sustainable?

(2) Brazilian beef exports and deforestation

(3) Criação de bovinos é o setor com mais casos de trabalho análogo à escravidão

(4) Investigation: The Secret Slaughterhouses of Brazil

(5) Impacts of Tannery Effluent on Environments and Human Health: A Review Article

(6) Where does leather come from?

(7) Research: Consumers’ Sustainability Demands Are Rising

(8) Brazilian leather certification of sustainability

More traceability, for responsible fashion.