Ethical Leather Goods - LWG Gold Certification

Yukon Bags was born out of our founder’s love for adventure. Exploring uncharted parts of the wilderness requires reliable gear. Yukon was founded out of a need for rugged, reliable, yet stylish backpacks and bags for trailblazers, serious explorers, and everyday adventurers, alike. At Yukon, we employ skilled artisans and utilize only the best materials to craft our merchandise. Each piece is built to last - trip after trip, time after time.

Enjoying the scenery also requires protecting it. We take environmental consciousness and sustainability seriously – that is why we proudly support the environmentally and socially responsible practices promoted by the worldwide L.W.G. (Leather Working Group) organization. We only work with tanneries and suppliers that are L.W.G. Gold Certified – which means that environmental sustainability, ethical treatment of workers, and humane treatment of animals is built into our process from the very start (purchasing the hides) to the finished product.

We are passionate about protecting not only the environment but also worker’s rights and humane treatment of animals. The only way to guarantee that a product is 100% ethically produced means working exclusively with other ethical, humane, environmentally conscious businesses when creating our products. We never purchase mass-produced hides from large suppliers that keep the cows in substandard conditions or overcrowded pens. By purchasing only from L.W.G. Gold Certified tanneries we can guarantee complete and honest transparency up the supply chain. To earn the L.W.G. Gold certification, a business must pass a series of rigorous inspections and audits. L.W.G.’s comprehensive audit protocol covers every part of the product’s creation, from the raw materials to the finished goods. When you purchase your leather goods from Yukon Bags, you can be assured that the hide came from a humanely treated cow – we purchase our raw materials exclusively from L.W.G. Gold Certified tanneries.

What does the L.W.G. Gold Certification mean to you, the consumer? It is your guarantee that the product you’re investing in was made ethically – this certification is solely awarded to tanneries and manufacturers who have passed each audit and have a proven track record for consistently using the best, most humane, and environmentally sound practices in the industry. In a nutshell - the certification covers auditing the supply chain, taking social and environmental responsibility, and providing clear and honest traceability. L.W.G. certification is awarded to tanneries that demonstrate environmental best practices and performance in all areas of leather production. This extensive audit includes responsible water management, banning chemicals that are toxic to the environment, generating clean energy usage, avoiding harmful greenhouse gas emissions, proper waste management, and transparency in cowhide traceability.

ABOUT THE L.W.G.

The L.W.G. is a non-profit organization responsible for the world's leading environmental certification for the leather manufacturing industry.  It serves as a platform to promote ethical, responsible, and sustainable practices within the industry. Through a transparent approach involving the brands, suppliers, retailers, and leading technical experts, the L.W.G. members are challenged to continuously improve their practices. The L.W.G. audit protocol is recognized worldwide.  This protocol is used to assess the environmental performance of leather manufacturers, all the way up the supply chain. The scoring is a comprehensive system in which several topics are rated. To become Gold certified, a business must pass the audits and prove that they operate utilizing the best practices in the leather industry. The L.W.G. audits take place onsite. The auditing procedure and inspections can take several days to complete and require a full 2 years of data to be included in each report. To remain certified, a business must be audited every 24 months.

The L.W.G. awards four types of certifications. From highest-ranking down to merely passing the audit, these are:

  • Gold.
  • Silver.
  • Bronze.
  • Audited.

The L.W.G. audit covers the environmental best practices and performance in all areas of leather production, from chemical and water management to energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, waste management, and hide traceability. Hide traceability is a vital part of the audit – to earn certification a tannery must prove that the cows are treated in a humane and environmentally sustainable manner. Tanneries that force the cows to live in stressful, overcrowded conditions cannot pass the audit. L.W.G. has several protocols built into the audit process to guarantee traceability throughout the supply chain – this is to ensure that each hide can be traced back to the farm it originated from. This also ensures zero waste – the hides must come from cows that are used for food (steaks, burgers, etc.). To raise animals simply for the hides creates waste – not only the waste of meat but the waste of raw, natural resources like energy and water that are needed to raise cattle. Yukon strongly believes that all animals deserve to be treated humanely – we adhere to the L.W.G. policies and the tanneries that we work with are Gold Certified members of the L.W.G.

THE AUDITS:

The Leather Working Group (LWG) audit protocol is a tool to assess the environmental performance of leather manufacturers all over the world. The audit protocols are designed to cover all areas going up the leather supply chain, from the raw, natural materials to the finished product.  There is a tailored auditing approach for each different type of operation

The L.W.G. Leather Manufacturer Audit Standard was launched in 2005. This flagship audit certification assesses the environmental performance and compliance of leather manufacturing facilities (also known as tanneries).) The scoring is a comprehensive system in which several topics are rated against best practices in the industry. Our leather standard audits tanneries on the following aspects of their production practice:

  • Water & Energy Usage: W.G. members must actively work towards reducing the amounts of natural resources being used - resources such as energy, water, and chrome, etc. Raw materials that cannot be recycled, such as heat energy from oils or solvents, must be recovered. Materials that can be reused for the same purpose (such as pallets) must be reused to help reduce the amount of waste. All incoming and outgoing sources of water are measured for wastewater contaminants and are included in the final score.
    • Solid Waste & Effluent Management: Reuse items that can be reused (pallets, wastewater, etc.), and recycle any materials that cannot be reused into other products. As much as possible, avoid materials that cannot be reused or recycled. Disposables must be handled and disposed of safely and legally. Any waste disposal must comply with all local laws. A register of all waste must be maintained. If waste is burned onsite, gaseous emissions and contaminants must be monitored. Excess salt recovered from salted or brined hides must be disposed of properly – there is a penalty if it is stored on-site and an automatic Fail score if the disposal is not controlled. Penalties are imposed if the salt discharge is above the allowance. There is increased testing for 5 key wastewater contaminants – to earn an L.W.G. third-party testing of the wastewater used for irrigation must be included in the final score.
    • Air & Noise Emissions: An air emissions inventory to identify all sources of air emissions must be maintained. Each type of emission must be identified or quantified. Functioning emissions control devices must be installed to earn an L.W.G. Gold certification. The medal thresholds that are specified for V.O.C. emissions (Volatile Organic Compounds) are ranked by the following chart (per medal):
      • Gold <45 g/m2
      • Silver <60 g/m2
      • Bronze <75 g/m2      
  • Traceability: Consumers today want to know what they are buying, where it comes from, and how it was made. The Leather Working Group has been active in driving traceability within the leather sector since 2008 when concerns related to deforestation and cattle ranching were raised by several notable N.G.O.s (non-governmental organization (non-profit)). At the time, many global brands were challenged to review their supply chain policies to reduce the level of deforestation across the world. Traceability begins with the slaughterhouse – they must operate in an environmentally conscious, socially conscious, ethical, and humane way. Traceability holds every person and business involved in the leather supply chain (including subcontractors) accountable.
  • Health & Safety: Employees must receive fair wages and work in a safe environment. Some of the topics that are covered in the audit include ensuring that correct P.P.E. (personal protective equipment) is available and is continuously used by the staff. Correct incident response equipment must be available wherever it is needed. Annual assessments for worker’s exposure to health hazards such as V.O.C. and risk of exposure to H.S. are required. Procedures must be in place to cover all possible emergencies. We value our employee’s health and welfare as highly as we value producing leather goods in a humane and environmentally sustainable fashion.
  • Chemical Management: In 2017, the L.W.G. Chemical Management Module (C.M.M.) was launched. This module is designed to assess a leather manufacturer’s use, management, and disposal of chemicals within their facility. All input material must be M.R.S.L. (Manufacturing Restricted Substances List) This list protects consumers, workers, and the environment. M.R.S.L. testing identifies the amount of each restricted chemical used in manufacturing raw materials. R.S.L. (Restricted Substances List) testing is required for all finished products and must be aligned with A.F.I.R.M. (Apparel and Footwear International RSL Management). All incoming materials and chemicals must be R.S.L. compliant. All chemicals must be stored correctly and safely.
  • Restricted Substances, Compliance & Chromium VI (CrVI) Management: Chromium VI (CrVI) is a compound that is usually produced during the manufacturing process. It is a known carcinogenic and can cause respiratory, skin, liver, kidney, and eye problems. The limit for CrVI is 3ppm or lower – if the testing shows higher levels, it is an automatic Fail. To pass the audit, a minimum of 0.1 batches against R.S.L. must be tested and corrective action must be taken when necessary. To earn a Gold Certification, all outgoing part-processed and finished leather must be tested against a matrix of requirements. All tanned leather must be tested a minimum of 4 times each year. Yukon is proud to support L.W.G.’s efforts in producing leather goods in a humane, ethical, and environmentally conscientious fashion.

WHO BELONGS TO THE L.W.G.?

The Leather Working Group is the Number 1 globally recognized brand representing responsible leather sourcing to the industry and the consumers. Since the organization was founded, L.W.G- rated leather manufacturers have managed to save an average of 775 Megawatts of energy each year. As a multi-stakeholder group, L.W.G. boasts over 1000 members from across the leather supply chain. This membership roster includes:

  • Brands and retailers that sell leather products to consumers. 
  • Manufacturers of leather (aka, tanneries). 
  • Traders of part-processed and finished leather. 
  • Manufacturers of leather garments, footwear, and furniture.
  • Suppliers of chemicals, machinery, and testing for the leather industry.
  • Associations within and related to the leather industry.

L.W.G. certified tanneries use and manage natural resources such as energy and water responsibly. We actively work to reduce gaseous emissions and to protect the environment, raw natural resources, worker’s rights, and humane and ethical treatment of animals. By supporting the Leather Working Group, Yukon is helping to push the leather industry into a more environmentally sustainable direction.

HUMANE AND ETHICAL TREATMENT OF ANIMALS:

Yukon Bags exclusively purchases hides from L.W.G. Gold Certified tanneries. This is our guarantee, and yours, that each hide comes from a cow that was raised in an ethical, responsible, humane fashion.

The industry’s desire to mass-produce cattle has led to sad conditions for many animals. Large farms incorporate mutilations that are painful –like castration, dehorning, and branding, without any type of pain relief. The cows live in cramped barns, spending their lives inside feedlots before being sent to slaughter. At the feedlots, the cows are forced to live crammed together in dirty conditions while standing on slatted concrete floors or muddy dry lots. Cattle need to digest forage (such as grass) to be healthy – the “mass-produced” cattle are fattened with a diet of grain. A grain-based diet creates internal stress and disease in cows, as their digestive systems are not adapted to digest the grains and corn that they are force-fed.

Humanely raised cattle spend most of their time outdoors, where they can graze naturally. They are allowed to stay in their bonded groups and enjoy eating the food that they prefer in their natural manner – grazing. The cow’s mental welfare is as important as the physical welfare.

Animal welfare is extremely important to Yukon. All our hides come from L.W.G. Gold Certified tanneries – we do not accept hides from animals that were not raised humanely, or from cows that were slaughtered exclusively for their hides. We believe that every animal has the right to live a comfortable life. We define “humane treatment” as the internationally recognized Five Freedoms: (developed by Britain’s Farm Animal Welfare Council and adapted by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, the World Organization for Animal Health, and the Animal Humane Society):

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst. Animals should have ready access to fresh water and a healthy diet (specific to each animal).
  • Freedom from discomfort. An appropriate environment that includes shelter and a resting area must be provided. Soft bedding and appropriate temperature, noise levels, and access to natural light must be provided. Outdoor animals must be provided with shelter from the elements.
  • Freedom from pain, injury, or disease. This includes vaccinations, monitoring, medical diagnosis, treating injuries, and providing appropriate medications and medical care.
  • Freedom to express normal behavior. This means providing sufficient space for the animal to engage in natural habits (such as grazing), proper facilities, and the company of the animal’s own kind to interact with. The animals must have the space to be able to run, play, and stretch out every part of their body, from nose to tail.
  • Freedom from fear and distress. The mental health of an animal is just as important as its physical health. Good mental health for a cow means avoiding overcrowded conditions, providing sufficient enrichment, and safe hiding spaces. The cow needs to have the freedom to wander, graze, and interact with other cattle.

At Yukon, we are committed to improving animal welfare – which is why we only purchase hides from L.W.G. Gold Certified tanneries.

WHAT DOES L.W.G. GOLD CERTIFIED MEAN FOR YOU – THE CONSUMER?

Your purchases contribute on an individual and a global level towards protecting the environment, sustaining precious natural resources, providing safe and ethical working conditions, and providing humane treatment for animals. Brands that support L.W.G. continuously strive to follow the best practices in leather manufacturing. By supporting these brands, you are participating in making our planet a better place.

Yukon Bags goes above and beyond to support the L.W.G. standards. We value our employees, our planet, and our planet’s natural resources. Our dedication to producing ethical products begins with the first step in creating our fine collection of unique leather goods when we purchase raw, natural hides. We handpick our raw leather from humane, responsible tanneries who are L.W.G. Gold Certified. We never buy leather from traders that don’t treat their animals humanely. By supporting tanneries that are L.W.G. certified, we are all working together to create products in the most environmentally conscious, socially conscious, and humane manner possible.

L.W.G. utilizes a transparent approach to promote sustainable practices within the leather industry. The Leather Working Group (LWG) audit protocol is a tool to assess the environmental performance of leather manufacturers all over the world. The scoring is a comprehensive system in which several topics are rated. The Gold Certification is only awarded to those brands who consistently not only meet but exceed all expectations. The standards are based on environmental best practices and performance in the industry. Members are challenged to continuously improve their practices. L.W.G. certification is awarded to tanneries that demonstrate environmental best practices and performance in all areas of leather production, from chemical and water management to energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, waste management and hide traceability.

When you purchase your leather goods from Yukon, you can be assured of the following: the leather is tanned responsibly, we offer complete traceability up the supply chain, we provide responsible use of resources, safe and ethical working conditions, and environmentally friendly treatment of waste and effluents. The hides are sourced from ethical, L.W.G. Gold Certified tanneries – our guarantee, and yours, that the cows were raised humanely.

Our planet is full of beautiful, natural places to explore and enjoy. You can help to preserve this natural beauty by supporting brands that are active members of the L.W.G. Consumers cast a vote every time they open their wallets – responsible consumption is the best way to encourage other manufacturers to practice humane, ethical, and environmentally safe production.


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