Exotic Leather Blog

Ethics and Sustainability of the Reptile Skin Trade: Business for Social Responsibility

Posted by PanAm Leathers on Feb 5, 2020 12:00:00 PM

Institutions like IUCN and CITES have formed the regulatory framework for sustainability and ethics. But increasingly, companies (and people) are looking for ways to be more sustainable above and beyond what the law currently requires. For both virtuous and business reasons, companies want to maintain ethical standards ensuring people and animals are treated fairly and sustainability standards ensuring specie populations and their natural habitats are conserved, all while keeping their customers, suppliers, employees and investors happy. This is no small task. Operating at high ethical and sustainable standards requires costly changes to supply chains and operations. It requires heavy investment, training and retraining, all while staying on production timelines and budgets so companies can deliver on-time in the quality and price points to which their customers are accustomed.

There are a number organizations that exist to help companies navigate these complex challenges. Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) is one of the leaders in this area. BSR helps its 250+ member companies integrate sustainability into its strategy and operations to “create and deliver products and services in a way that treats people fairly, meet individuals’ needs and aspirations within the boundaries of our planet, and encourage market and policy frameworks that enable a sustainable future.”

BSR dates back to the Social Venture Network (SVN), founded by socially-minded entrepreneurs in the late 1980’s. In 1991, SVN spun off BSR with 51 member companies to influence policy formation in Washington D.C.  However, by 1994, BSR’s mission had shifted from influencing public policy to working with companies to integrate social and environmental considerations into their core business. As their focus transitioned from government to corporate, BSR moved their headquarters from Washington D.C. to San Francisco. Between 1994 and 1999, they broadened their focus areas from just environment to:

  1. environment;
  2. human rights;
  3. community economic development; and
  4. governance and accountability.

In 2001 and 2002, BSR opened offices in Hong Kong and Paris, respectively, followed by offices in Copenhagen, Guangzhou, New York, Shanghai and Tokyo. This geographical breadth gave BSR the opportunity to understand the diverse global sustainability challenges.

Throughout the years of consulting engagements, research and collaborations, BSR has undertaken projects in an effort to achieve these 17 goals:

  1. no poverty;
  2. zero hunger
  3. good health and well-being;
  4. quality education;
  5. gender equality;
  6. clean water and sanitation;
  7. affordable and clean energy;
  8. decent work and economic growth;
  9. industry, innovation and infrastructure;
  10. reduced inequalities;
  11. sustainable cities and communities;
  12. responsible consumption and production;
  13. climate action;
  14. life below water;
  15. life on land;
  16. peace, justice and strong institutions;
  17. partnerships for the goals.

BSR collaborates with hundreds of organizations and initiatives which align around the one or more of the goals above. The Southeast Asian Reptile Conservation Alliance (SARCA) is one of these initiatives. We will learn all about SARCA in the next blog post.


Read More

Topics: Ethics, Sustainability

Ethics and Sustainability of the Reptile Skin Trade: CITES

Posted by PanAm Leathers on Jan 29, 2020 12:00:00 PM
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora ( CITES) is the most recognizable organization in the management of the exotic skin trade. CITES is an international agreement between the governments of nearly 200 member countries aiming to ensure that international trade in specimens and plants does not threaten their survival. The CITES resolution was adopted at the 1963 IUCN meeting and entered into force on July 1, 1975 in response to the steep decline of populations of various animal species due to trade.

CITES, based in Switzerland, works by subjecting trade in CITES-listed species to certain protections, a combination of licenses, permits, quotas and other rules designed to conserve the species’ survival in their various circumstances. One or more authority is responsible for managing the set of rules that apply to each specie (for example, a country’s wildlife agency) and one or more scientific authority is responsible for designing the policies that protect those species (for example, IUCN). CITES sets the minimum standard for the trade of each specie and then each member country can layer its own rules on top of that to protect their own priorities and account for its limitations.

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:
  • Appendix I contains species threatened with extinction under which trade is only acceptable under extraordinary circumstances.
  • Appendix II species are not as in danger but must be trade-controlled to prevent exploitation. This category includes about 1,400 animal species and 25,000 plant species.
  • Appendix III fauna and flora are protected in at least one country, and so CITES countries participate in controlling its trade. There are about 270 animal species and 30 plant species listed under Appendix III.
Exporting products containing specimens from Appendix I and II requires an export permit. For Appendix III species, an export permit is needed if the species is originating from the country that listed it as Appendix III.

CITES also issues re-export licenses for certain species under Appendix II and III. A re-export permit is needed if exporting specimens that were previously imported, whether as skins or finished goods. An example of this would be if skins are exported from USA to Italy, goods are manufactured from the skins in Italy and then those finished goods are re-exported to USA to be sold in stores.

To see how CITES regulations are applied in your country, you can consult your local management authority. For information specific to the US application of CITES rules, you can check out our previous blog posts on this topic.


Read More

Topics: CITES, Ethics, Sustainability

Ethics of the Reptile Skin Trade: IUCN and CSG

Posted by PanAm Leathers on Jan 22, 2020 12:00:00 PM

Modern-day sustainability practices were born out of international organizations dating back to the mid-20th century. The sustainable trade of alligator skin, caiman skin, crocodile skin, python skin, lizard skin and other exotic skins has been the result of an incredible and nearly unprecedented international collaboration between public and private enterprises across research, implementation and enforcement functions. We will study the most important ones for the exotic skin trade in the next few blog posts. The focus of this post however, is the the godfather of all of these organizations: the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN).  

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

The IUCN is the original sustainable trade organization. It was founded in France in 1948 and is now based in Switzerland. It is focused on research, advocacy and education on the sustainable use of natural resources with over 1,300 members (both government and private organizations), 15,000 contributing experts and activities in over 160 countries. The main themes of IUCN work tackle conservation, environmental and ecological issues, spread across six commissions:

  1. Commission on Education and Communication (CEC) distributes, educates and trains the conservation community on IUCN findings;
  2. Commission of Ecosystem Management (CEM) provides guidance and support to maintain healthy ecosystems and biodiversity;
  3. Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP) generates and disseminates knowledge on how to balance the conservation of nature with humans' social, cultural, environmental and economic needs;
  4. Species Survival Commission (SSC) provides information to the IUCN on how species and their ecosystems depend on each other and how they support human livelihoods;
  5. World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL) provides legal support for environmental conservation and sustainable development globally;
  6. World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) develops policy advice on topics of protected areas.

Crocodile Specialist Group

The Crocodile Specialist Group (CSG) is one of more than 120 species specialist groups within IUCN’s Species Survival Commission. It was formed in 1971 and has since become one of the most influential organizations in the trade of alligator skin, crocodile skin and other exotic leathers with around 600 members. Its main mission is to help the IUCN and SSC to meet their missions with regards to the conservation, management and sustainable use of crocodile species. Its stated goals as they pertain to crocodile species are specifically:

  • To provide expert opinion and advice on conservation, management and sustainable use of crocodiles for the various industry participants;
  • To encourage and assist in capacity-building in order to achieve the mission;
  • To balance human uses and benefits with those of the animals and their habitats, as per widely adopted standards;
  • To identify problems in crocodilian conservation, design, implement and test solutions and adapt those solutions over time;

CSG pioneered the concept of conservation through sustainable use, responsible for the exploding populations of several exotic species worldwide (many from near extinction in the 1970s). CSG experts perform research, draw conclusions and advise and train governments, wildlife management agencies and other industry participants on the conservation needs of crocodilian populations.

The CSG works closely with CITES, another international organization born from the IUCN, to promote sustainable legal trade of these species. We will learn more about CITES in the next blog post.

Read More

Topics: CITES, Ethics, Sustainability