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Leather industry initiatives

Highlighting some of the positive initiatives currently running in the global leather manufacturing sector.

by Christine Anscombe

Image © Egomezta |

SATRA’s main role is to support member companies through the daily technical challenges they face and help with ensuring that they also meet legislative requirements. However, we also report on issues that affect the sector as a whole, some of which will be highlighted in this article.

Accolades for tanneries

A number of tanneries have built the principles of corporate social responsibility into their way of working. These companies have declared themselves to be 100 per cent committed to corporate social responsibility, working as hard as they can to help the communities with which they share energy, water and other resources, in addition to making the least impact they possibly can on the environment. They are also sound businesses operating on stable and sustainable financial platforms and, as such, are examples of best practice in the leather industry.

This has been recognised via the ‘Tannery of the Year’ award which, in 2013, was presented to PrimeAsia China. Previous winners have been the Ethiopian Tannery Share Company (2010) and Heller-Leder from Germany in 2011.

Leather Working Group

SATRA has been a member of the Leather Working Group (LWG) for a number of years. This is a collection of brands, retailers, product manufacturers, audited leather manufacturers, chemical suppliers and technical experts that work together to develop an environmental stewardship protocol specifically for the leather manufacturing industry. The protocol assesses the compliance and environmental performance of tanners and promotes sustainable and appropriate environmental business practices within the leather industry.

Testing specimens to differenciate between chromium III and chromium VI

The LWG seeks to improve the tanning industry by creating alignment on environmental priorities, bringing visibility to best practices and providing suggested guidelines for continual improvement. It is the group's objective to work transparently, involving brands, suppliers, retailers, leading technical experts within the leather industry, campaigning groups and other stakeholder organisations.

The LWG’s Executive Committee consists of representative parties that provides oversight and direction for the group. The LWG meets twice each year in various locations around the world, depending on the timings of fairs and topical industry events but tending to rotate between Asia, Europe and the USA. The meetings are open to all LWG members.

Leather Naturally!

The ‘Leather Naturally!’ initiative was launched during the Asia Pacific Leather Fair in 2010. This event was attended by representatives of industry associations, tanners, finished products manufacturers and the trade press. The initiative has been designed to create engagement and dialogue with stakeholders regarding how leather does, and can, fit into the modern world – from the perspective of consumers and back through the supply chain to the raw material. The concept was outlined by the initiative’s main spokesperson – Professor Mike Redwood – who has considerable experience in both tanning and footwear manufacturing, and is a specialist consultant for the leather industry. Currently, this initiative is driven by a small number of interested parties in the industry.

The objectives of Leather Naturally! include highlighting the leather experience from an aesthetic point of view. It plans to educate the buying public, fashion designers and finished product manufacturers about the use, beauty, versatility and sustainability of leather, in addition to the differences between leather and synthetic materials. Leather Naturally! also aims to defend the leather industry against the criticism levelled against the use of animal skins and the alleged dangers caused by cattle ranching and tanning industry to the environment.

The Leather Naturally! initiative will provide information on the versatility and beauty of leather

Future plans include holding discussions to find a suitable organisation, which is interested in and capable of being the catalyst for this initiative. Other remits are to include handling funds and activating the public relations campaign necessary to get the message across to designers, retailers and the final consumer.

Global Leather Coordinating Committee (GLCC)

Three international organisations that operate within the leather and hides industries have agreed to cooperate in order to present a unified position on key industry issues. The Global Leather Coordinating Committee (GLCC) consists of key representatives of the International Council of Tanners (ICT), the International Council of Hide Skin & Leather Traders Associations (ICHSLTA) and the International Union of Leather Technologists and Chemists Societies (IULTCS). A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by the presidents of these bodies during the first World Leather Congress in Rio de Janeiro in 2011, and the GLCC now meets during global industry events.

The MoU document outlines the need for cooperation within the leather industry and recognises some of the issues and challenges it faces. This document makes a general call for all in the leather value chain to work together to enhance the value of leather as a component material in the marketplace.

Progress has now been made in determining several projects of importance to the industry. The assignments that are currently underway include providing further clarification of the differences between chromium III and chromium VI for the general public. A document is also being developed which contains guidelines for tannery use and shows how chromium III can be used in a safe and practical way to prevent chromium VI from forming in leather. In addition, a project is being set up that relates to the identity of leather. The first phase of this involves collecting and sharing national, regional and international rules and regulations on definitions, labelling and marking of leather. A draft list of critical substances in leather is also being compiled.

For future activities, proposals are now in place to generate leather carbon footprint inventory data from individual tanneries. This will be conducted according to the system boundaries recommended by the 2012 UNIDO technical report and endorsed last year by the GLCC. Some tanneries have already committed to this project, and additional volunteer tanning facilities are welcome to participate in the project.

How can we help?

Please email for further information on these initiatives.

Publishing Data

This article was originally published on page 46 of the September 2013 issue of SATRA Bulletin.

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