Investigation by non-profit Earthsight claims firms such as BMW and Jaguar Land Rover have been sourcing leather from Paraguay linked to illegal land clearances
BMW and Jaguar Land Rover have been accused of sourcing leather linked to the destruction of a protected South American forest inhabited by "one of the world's last uncontacted tribes", in a new report released today by non-profit campaign group Earthsight.
The report claims cattle ranchers in the Chaco region of Paraguay illegally cleared land for their operations inhabited by the Ayoreo Totobiegosode indigenous community. Slaughterhouses buying cattle from these ranches have then been found to sell cow hides on to tanneries, which are in turn used to supply some of Europe's biggest car companies, it explains.
"No car owner is going to feel comfortable in their plush leather seat knowing that the last forest refuge of an uncontacted tribe was illegally cleared to make it," said Sam Lawson, director at Earthsight. "This simply should not be allowed to happen. And this is far from an isolated case. Europe is awash with the products of deforestation and human rights abuses. Corporations have utterly failed to do the right thing. It is high time governments made them."
Both Jaguar Land Rover and BMW purchase their leather from Italian tannery giant Pasubio, a leading global supplier of leather to the automotive industry and the world's biggest consumer of Paraguayan leather, which Earthsight accuses of sourcing cowhides from ranchers in on illegally cleared land.
The findings are the result of an 18-month investigation involving undercover meetings with tanneries, visits to remote ranches, scrutiny of thousands of records, and interviews with government whistleblowers and indigenous activists, according to Earthsight.
However, responding to the report Jaguar Land Rover said it had tracked the supply chain that Earthsight references back to the slaughterhouse but had "not as yet found evidence to verify Earthsight's claim that the individual ranch has been illegally cleared, nor that its hides are in our supply chain" .
"At Jaguar Land Rover we continuously strive to do business in the right way; fairly, with honesty and transparency," the firm said in a statement. "The integrity of our actions and those of the people we do business with is vital for our continued success."
Also responding in a statement, BMW said the tanneries used by its supplier in Paraguay have either been certified as gold-rated by The Leather Working Group or have been secured by the Paraguayan Ministry of Industry and Trade. Nevertheless, in the medium term, the company said it plans to dispense with such leather from the region and restructure its supply chains accordingly. "As a result, raw leather goods from South America will no longer be included in our supply chains," it said.
But BMW also said it had not been able to verify the claims made in Earthsight's report. "As the BMW Group does not tolerate violations of its sustainability standards by its supplier network, we asked Earthsight to provide us with any evidence they may have and explained that we then could activate our special response team in order to find out more information. Unfortunately, we have not yet received a response from them," it said.
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