RESP Takes Firm Steps Towards Transforming Reptile Skins Industry

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The RESP International Working Group on Reptile Skins (IWG-RS) held its 4th meeting on 6 and 7 of November, hosted by the Italian Corpo Forestale dello Stato (CITES Enforcement Authority) in their regional headquarters in Florence.

Topics on the agenda included traceability, production systems, animal welfare and the establishment of the RESP framework for integrating sustainability into design and product development practice.

A number of important decisions emanated from the meeting that have the potential to transform the reptile skin industry by improving its sustainability performance and business practices. The meeting marked an important step for RESP in its path towards generating change in the global trade systems of the fashion, cosmetics and jewellery industries to create positive impacts through sustainable use of biodiversity and natural resources.

During the months prior to the meeting, RESP worked with its technical partners and authorities in Mexico, South Africa, Indonesia and Italy, on the development of an identification carrier able to withstand the tannery chemical and mechanical operations. At the moment, no such carrier exists that can ensure the integrity of traceability at this crucial point in the supply chain and for this reason, the IWG-RS committed to overcome this crucial challenge as its first priority.

Members of the IWG-RS were presented with two main identification carrier solutions, which in the initial assessment phase proved to be able to uniquely identify thousands of skins and withstand the tannery operations.

After analysing both proposals against a pre-defined set of criteria, the IWG-RS agreed that one of the solutions – based on biometric systems – presented itself to be the most conclusive in terms of mobility, applicability, costs, infrastructure requirements, reliability, and efficiency and its potential to revolutionise the reptile skin trade. The members of the working group mandated the RESP Secretariat to further assess the ability of this solution to uniquely identify a much larger number of skins from different reptile species. The system under development might, after proper research, also be applicable and extended to other sectors.

Animal welfare issues also figured prominently in the discussions and a firm decision was taken by the working group to advance work in support of policy making towards the abolishment of globally recognised inhumane euthanasia techniques for reptiles. This was seen as a first step towards advancing the broader work programme aiming at identifying internationally accepted best-practices and supporting their application, enforcement and integrating into the international production system charters that RESP is developing.

In reference to the development of the international charters, members of the working group agreed on structuring their content using a production life-cycle approach, and defined the scope of the charters to include all processes of the production systems from the handling of eggs or live animals, up to the conservation and handling of skins before they are converted to leather.

Finally, the IWG-RS took stock of the progress made in the development of the “Design for Biodiversity Platform (DfB)”, which will enhance the integration of sustainability elements into the product design and development phases.