Embedded deforestation and leather supply chain between Brazil and Italy

Analysing discourses, traceability models and changing environmental governance on the way to zero deforestation.

Parallel developments in agro-food trade and forest governance in terms of globalization, shift towards informational and multi-actor governance and growing acknowledgement of private sector responsibilities have changed the focus of global deforestation rhetoric as well. Producers of four big forest-risk commodities, namely soy, palm oil, timber and cattle have gained increasing public scrutiny and are expected to put forward deforestation related commitments. Thus, increasing number of producers turn to information gathering and traceability as a risk mitigation strategy to respond to allegations or make certain claims about sustainability of their production systems.
Being the second most valuable product of cattle, bovine leather is considered a commodity with a risk of embedded deforestation in the supply chain. At a general industry level, it is a challenging task to trace bovine hides till the farm level due to over complexity of the supply chain, transactional costs and negotiation power interplays along the meat and leather supply chains. With a specific focus on the Italian leather production and Brazilian Amazonian deforestation, this research aims to explore existing traceability models within the leather sector, identify factors driving traceability requirements along the chain and offer the most suitable traceability solution for the Italian leather sector in general based on existing practices. However, the considerations over traceability, will also be linked back to broader and much holistic questions around environmental governance. More specifically: "If the aim is to provide deforestation-free leather, is full traceability the only pathway?" "What are the underlining assumptions and what kind of sustainability claims could be maintained with it?" "What is the role and responsibility of other actors involved in environmental governance of leather supply chain?"  "Could government policies and interventions prove more suitable than market based traceability solutions?"
Based on in-depth interviews, document /literature review and non-participant observations an additional focus will be put on discourses surrounding the issue of leather as a (non)forest risk commodity to understand the dominant storylines, their implications and excluded/marginalized parties.  The research will conclude with looking at feasibility of sector-wide acceptance and implementation of zero-deforestation commitments.