The European Union’s Deforestation Regulation became law on the 30th of June this year and will become effective from January 2025. The regulation has been developed in response to the alarming rate of global deforestation and forest degradation and will apply to products sourced from regions affected by either legal or illegal deforestation.
The regulation is intended to strengthen the European Union’s contribution to halting deforestation and to ensure that relevant products of deforestation are not placed on the market in - or exported from- the EU. It will have significant implications for leather.
The regulation applies to seven commodities, including cattle and soy, and to a list of relevant products made from or fed with those commodities. The list includes raw hides and bovine leather. At this time, it does not apply to leather products, meaning that leather products imported into the EU will not be subject to the same scrutiny.
Suppliers of raw hides and leather, to be placed on the market in or exported from the EU, will have to complete a statement of due diligence, confirming that there has been no deforestation associated with their supply chain and showing full traceability for the individual hide back to the farm the animal was reared on.
It will also be necessary to show that the livestock from which hides are sourced have not been fed with soy produced on deforested land. The obligation to report will lie with the operator or trader in the EU but clearly, responsibility for providing the necessary information will extend along the whole upstream supply chain.
Countries and regions will be classified as low, medium or high risk for deforestation and the requirements on producers will vary with that risk. However, the requirement for full supply chain transparency will apply to all, regardless of risk classification.
In short, hides suppliers and leather manufacturers in the EU, or those wishing to place hides and leather on the EU market will be required to demonstrate a degree of transparency that, to date, has been largely impossible to achieve.
The leather industry has long called for greater transparency in its supply chain but this cannot be done without the support of regulatory authorities and the meat sector. The legal chain of custody that applies to meat and allows for traceability, is broken when the hide is removed at the abattoir, meaning that the leather sector rarely has the necessary information to trace a hide to the individual animal. At this time, no indication has been given on the support that the European authorities will provide to support the hide and leather to achieve this.
Leather UK will continue to monitor and report on developments in this area. As hides and leather are by-products of meat production that have been shown not to drive the rearing of livestock, we will also continue to lobby for the removal of leather from the scope of the regulation when it is reviewed. However, anyone likely to be affected by the regulation should assess what information is available in their supply chain and what is not.