Being proud of leather
By Egbert Dikkers
I am proud to be part of the leather industry, an industry that has been making a huge progress to manufacture a sustainable material, bringing comfort, luxury and joy to consumers. Personally, I feel less and less need to go into the defense when leather is debated in comparison to alternative materials. After all, most of the alternative materials do not have a better impact story, or the ‘arguments used’ are far from neither transparent, nor sustainable with often plastics involved.
I also notice a trend that more and more leather value chain members stand up, show pride about their activities they fulfill in the value chain or about the leather product they market, like for example Longchamp did in an interview with Le Figaro. The industry is improving from within, through industry initiatives like the Leather Working Group and ZDHC that have a huge positive impact to a big and fast growing part of the industry embracing the ambition to improve our leather industry.
Bad practical examples can be found in any industry, including ours. You cannot avoid the negative messages, and it is our duty to proof the opposite. What is needed to convert all the stakeholders in our industry to commit to making the leather industry more sustainable? How many wake-up calls do you need to take matters into your own hands?
I am a proud member of the Smit & Zoon team, a 7th generation family owned company with a history of almost 200 years. In all these years, we encountered many wake-up calls and improved our social and environmental footprint. Each wake- up call made us stronger and more future proof! In 2014 we got a wake-up call, when we were, unknowingly, part of a Dutch documentary, about the working circumstances in Turkish tanneries. Instead of denying this message, we decided to embrace this wake-up call and ever since our main focus is to create a socially and environmentally sustainable leather value chain. We focus on ‘the future of leather’, and we know that a drop makes a difference!
I am more than interested to learn what your wake-up call was or could be and invite you to contact me if you want to learn from ours.
The LIFE Biopol project aims to provide answers to the most relevant issues of European policies for the leather industry: in particular the reduction of hazardous chemicals as well as their environmental footprint and impacts.
In 2013, Smit & zoon Wet-end introduced the Simplicity concept. Simplicity means: shorter tannery processes providing attractive, high-quality leather while saving water and energy. Although each tannery uses different processes, the Simplicity approach can be used in any tannery and tailored to its operating methods.
Education and promotion of leather
Leather Naturally is the global leather industry’s initiative to educate and promote leather to designers, brands and consumers. Leather Naturally as an association has doubled membership since last year and is eagerly welcoming new companies in the leather industry as a member.