Exotic Leather Blog

Ethics and Sustainability of the Reptile Skin Trade: Rating System

Posted by PanAm Leathers on Feb 26, 2020 12:00:00 PM

rating system

It is supremely important to us that our business is sustainable and ethical. The trade of exotic skins has been around long enough now that we have had plenty of time to figure out how to do good and well at the same time. We want to make sure that the net result of our trade is that people, animals and places are better off. If animals are going to be sacrificed, it needs to be for a greater good.

For some people, no amount of “greater good” justifies the sacrifice of an animal. This is a disconnect between people who live in cities in the developed world and people who live in more remote and less developed areas where they need to protect their loved ones, lands and livelihoods from the threats posed by animals. Animal rights are important. But so are human rights.

To date, we have been proactive about implementing ethics and sustainability standards in our supply chain, but we have not been as good about communicating on it with our customers. When we sell, we communicate about our quality, selection and service; and our customers have always made their buying decisions accordingly. But it is becoming increasingly important to our customers that we deliver on sustainability and ethics as well.

To address this, we have come up with a Sustainability and Ethics Rating System, based on the factors outlined below. Over the coming weeks, we will grade each of product that we offer and place that grade on the product page of our website, so that our customers can factor that into their buying decisions. We hope this is useful for you and we welcome any feedback or questions.

Sustainability and Ethics Ratings

Animal welfare is graded 0-2. Are there scientifically backed standards for how the animals are treated and are they enforced as effectively as possible?

0: There are no standards in place, nor any effort underway to develop standards;

1: Standards and enforcement are being developed;

2: Standards and enforcement are already in effect.


Biodiversity is graded 0-2. Are these animals captive or wild bred? Closed-circuit farms (where animals are bred on the farms) do a lot of good for conservation, preservation of land and economic fairness. But wild-bred animal programs have all the same benefits, plus they have a more direct positive effect on biodiversity. Hunting and egg collection programs are government programs scientifically designed to maintain healthy population levels, so that other species and land preyed on by the species being hunted are protected. Grading is as follows:

0: Captive-bred species from farms that we have not personally visited and are not certified by an organization like ICFA or SARCA;

1: Captive-bred species from farms we have personally visited or are otherwise certified Good farms personally inspected by us or that are certified get 1;

2: Wild-bred species.


Conservation is graded 1-4. It is important that wild populations flourish. Nearly 6,000 species of animals and 30,000 species of plants are protected by CITES. Depending on the degree of protection they need, CITES species are broken into three categories and we grade them based on these appendices:

1: Appendix I contains species threatened with extinction under which trade is only acceptable under extraordinary circumstances. We do not grade this a 0 because the problem has been recognized and steps are being taken to address it;

2: Appendix II species are not as in danger but must be trade-controlled to prevent exploitation.;

3: Appendix III fauna and flora are protected in at least one country, and so CITES countries participate in controlling its trade;

4: Non-appendix species do not require CITES control because there is no credible threat to their survival.


Use of meat is graded 0-2. Reptiles and exotic species are a source of protein for over 2 billion people worldwide. With that said, not all meat is suitable for human consumption for health reasons. In other cases, when governments start nuisance programs for species that have become a problem in their area, there isn’t always a market for the meat to start. This takes some time to develop. So the grading system is as follows:

0: Meat isn't used for human consumption for no good reason;

1: Meat isn’t used for human consumption for one of the reasons described above;

2: Meat is used for human consumption.


We don’t grade for veg-tan versus chrome tanning. Yes, veg-tanned leathers are generally biodegradable but they also don’t last as long as chrome-tanned leathers, so they are more likely to be discarded. Chemicals are bad. But so is waste. So in our book, this is a wash. 

We don’t deal in any species that get a 0 in any of the above criteria. Even if they score perfectly in all other criteria, if they score a 0 in one, we don’t work with them. The best possible score is a 10. You will see the ratings begin to appear on our website product pages in the coming weeks.

This grading system may evolve over time as we learn more and receive feedback from our customers and the broader community. Meanwhile, we hope this will give you some relevant insight. Feel free to contact us with any questions or comments.

Topics: Ethics, Sustainability