Protocol 7.0 will replace the existing Protocol 6.7 from 22 August, becoming mandatory across all audits of leather manufacturing facilities

Protocol 7.0 will replace the existing Protocol 6.7 from 22 August, becoming mandatory across all audits of leather manufacturing facilities

The Leather Working Group's flagship environmental certification is evolving, with the release of an updated auditing standard for leather manufacturers, featuring more robust criteria and new social, traceability and chemical management requirements.

Covering about 25% of global finished leather production, and with over 680 leather manufacturers under LWG-certification already, the Leather Working Group claims to represent the largest network of environmentally audited tanneries across the globe, providing brands with a responsible global supply chain.

With the publication of the LWG Leather Manufacturer Audit Protocol 7.0 (P7), the group builds on its foundation of robust environmental criteria and adds new requirements for social responsibility, material traceability, and chemical management.

After a six-month period, Protocol 7.0 will replace the existing Protocol 6.7 from 22 August, becoming mandatory across all audits of leather manufacturing facilities.

"With increasing demands on the leather industry, we felt it was our responsibility to continue to drive change and promote a higher level of excellence," says Christina Trautmann, operations manager at the Leather Working Group. "When we started working on P7, we set out to address some of the key challenges across the industry, as well as anticipate changes on the horizon. With our increased scope and updated requirements, we hope to provide brands with a more secure, end-to-end supply chain, and reassure consumers they are supporting responsible business."

Some of the major changes in Protocol 7.0 include:

  • Chemical management: The LWG Chemical Management Module, previously a standalone assessment, has been fully integrated into the main audit protocol. Requirements are fully aligned with AFIRM's risk-based RSL for leather. Additionally, all LWG certified members have been granted free access to the ZDHC Gateway, which they will be able to use during an audit to demonstrate their MRSL compliance.
  • Traceability: The existing traceability section has undergone significant revision and now becomes an integrated scored section, with additional due diligence measures to tackle deforestation risk. This has been developed in collaboration with the National Wildlife Federation. LWG has also included additional levels of traceability to start assessing a broader scope for leather traceability. With the formation of the Traceability Working Group, and continued collaboration with NGOs, LWG plans to develop these requirements even further in future versions of the protocol.
  • Social responsibility: For the first time, LWG will recognise third-party social audit certifications as a scored element in the protocol. It recognises this is a critical element of responsible sourcing and will now be covering both the environment and social responsibility with the LWG audit. As this is a new requirement, LWG will be gradually increasing the level of importance within the audit, to become more critical in P8, planned for release 12 months after P7.
  • Effluent treatment: Management of all waste and discharges to the environment are a critical part of the LWG assessment as they impact the environment directly. LWG therefore strives to ensure a very high standard is met by all tanners, independent of the country they're in. For P7, it has introduced stricter requirements for the treatment of effluent and differentiate its criteria between direct discharge from on-site effluent treatment plants and indirect discharge from central and municipal effluent treatment plants.

Ian Scher, vice president of procurement at PrimeAsia Leather Corporation and chairman of the LWG executive committee adds: "Over the years, our Protocols have constantly expanded in conjunction with the demands of our industry and those who consume our industry's products. This new Protocol represents the most important and major evolution in our certification requirements to date. Protocol 7 will set a unique and unmatched bar in terms of providing an all-encompassing surety of supply for those who source from accredited leather manufacturers under our programme."

Certified members of LWG will be able to start to prepare for their P7 audit by downloading a copy of the protocol once logged in to the LWG website using their membership registration details.

LWG will also host duplicate webinar sessions on 24 and 25 February to provide further details on the new protocol.