Dr Mike Redwood

Corporate Social Responsibility and Leather

Redwood Comment
Published:  17 October, 2018

I find great satisfaction in the simplicity of Carroll’s pyramid of Corporate Social Responsibility. It is simple and easy to understand. It is not a rule, but like so many good business management tools it is a framework that serves as a guide to help both understand and uncover what is going on.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Every worker is entitled to a safe workplace

Redwood Comment
Published:  10 October, 2018

If you have a moment you should check out https://oiraproject.eu/en/oira-tools and search for leather and tannery. OiRA stands for Online Interactive Risk Assessment and is a tool to guide the tanner through worker risks in the tannery. Luc Triangle, the head of the IndustriALL trade union organisation that partnered with Cotance (Confederation of National Associations of Tanners and Dressers of the European Community) on this EU funded project over the past five years, concluded the final conference on completion simply summing up by saying that “every worker is entitled to go to a safe workplace every day”.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Noisy about leather

Redwood Comment
Published:  03 October, 2018

Everyone has heard the story of the boiling frog where it sits in a pan of water without recognising that it was slowly getting warmer and stays complacent until the water is too hot, and it is too late. I often wonder about the leather industry at the start of the 20th century when technological changes such as the use of electricity, the internal combustion engine and the arrival of chrome tanning were all happening at once.

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Martin Ricker

Lineapelle observations

Editorial Comment
Published:  02 October, 2018

In the raw materials part of the leather supply chain last week, all the discussions which took place in Milan were downbeat and all hide suppliers who expressed an opinion expect raw materials prices to go lower in the coming weeks and months, with the exception of some demanded selections which are heavier or top grades.

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Dr Mike Redwood

A world that never learns

Redwood Comment
Published:  26 September, 2018

Anyone who observes modern politics know how little we seem to learn from history. Be it economics, warfare, taxation or trade we have developed an approach to life that excels in repeating our mistakes. The problem in the modern communicative, globalised world is that these errors have much greater impact, much faster than ever before. Just think about the 2008 financial crash.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Innovation is more than a fancy new product

Redwood Comment
Published:  19 September, 2018

It was good to see the famous leather name of Colomer being bought by Chanel a few days ago, even though I am not quite clear from all the announcements what has actually been purchased.

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Redwood Comment

Service Economy breathes life into products

Redwood Comment
Published:  12 September, 2018

I have today bought a new outdoor jacket capable of allowing me to withstand the rain and cold that comes with the UK hills and mountains. For the first time, I was looking for a Páramo brand item to do the job. I have watched Páramo for a while as it is totally PFC (perfluorinated compounds) free and highly ethical.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Getting the name right

Redwood Comment
Published:  05 September, 2018

At the recent All China Leather Exhibition (ACLE) in Shanghai a speaker at the Shanghai Shake-Up Conference argued that the time had come for the leather industry to wake up to reality and to work alongside some of the new competitive materials, while not being too precious about the term “leather”.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Convergence, collaboration and consolidation

Redwood Comment
Published:  28 August, 2018

Anyone who is interested in business-to-business marketing knows that in most sectors there was huge consolidation in nearly all industries between 1965 and the 1990s. Industry after industry moved from being highly competitive to an oligopoly, where three or four businesses held around two thirds of the global market and a long tail of little companies chased along behind with the crumbs.

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Mike Redwood

A thoughtful Fashion Week would headline leather as the best modern material

Redwood comment
Published:  22 August, 2018

England grew wealthy in the Middle Ages because of wool. With the merino breed not yet created English wool was sought after as among the finest available; for hundreds of years after the Norman Conquest exports of wool were a cornerstone of the economy. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Leather is real

The Redwood comment
Published:  15 August, 2018

There was a time after the Internet got going when our global society was comprised of analogues, digital converts and digital natives. This was a time when the older generation did not like the demands of e-mail, being forced into the world of Microsoft Office and were suspicious about transferring a lifetime of knowledge into an over-weight laptop.

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Dr Mike Redwood

The significance of plastics

Redwood Comment
Published:  08 August, 2018

I first began to understand the significance of plastic in 1966. Three of us, one each from the three British Leather Schools in London, Leeds and Northampton, had won a Kids Tanner prize for a three-week trip visiting the leather industry in the Netherlands and Germany.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Think of the animals and be surprised

Redwood Comment
Published:  01 August, 2018

When I go for a walk from my home, built some 250 years ago in the English countryside, I have two choices. One way I can walk for many kilometres over arable land, where almost every area has been taken to grow a wide variety of constantly rotating crops. In the other direction, a long walk towards the coast over land which is largely at sea level or below; I go through long term grassland and light scrub, lightly grazed by sheep or, far more frequently, cattle.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Ignore the logic and appeal to the emotions

Redwood Comment
Published:  25 July, 2018

Do not throw anything to do with your company history away. It is your history. It is what proves your authenticity. It is your backstory.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Big data concepts

Redwood Comment
Published:  18 July, 2018

One of the concepts behind industry 4.0 involves holding, using and sharing large quantities of data to facilitate the speed and efficiency of supply networks. This allows direct contact with a supplier when key inputs, needles for a sewing machine for example, require replenishing. An extreme example would be a Rolls Royce aero engine in a large passenger jet sending diagnostic data during a transatlantic flight to their headquarters in real time.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Imperfection is essential

Redwood Comment
Published:  10 July, 2018

Once upon a time when Lineapelle was held in Bologna I travelled into Florence on that interminably slow train from the station next to the fairground. My companion was a major manufacturer of leather goods whose primary factory was in China. We discussed the attitude of the brands to having articles made in China.

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Dr Mike Redwood

A new proposition is needed for leather

Redwood Comment
Published:  04 July, 2018

When Procter & Gamble bought Gillette for US$57 billion in 2005, it created the world's largest consumer brand business with combined sales at the time of above US$60 billion a year. They had 21 brands that each boasted annual sales of more than US$1 billion; five of Gillette's brands and 16 of P&G's.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Diligent journalists get to the real facts

Redwood Comment
Published:  27 June, 2018

The past five years has involved relentless pushing back against entrenched anti-livestock and anti-leather opinions, forcibly argued. A lot of this was trying to correct errors in the science being presented by NGOs, which had the danger of being widely accepted since they are respected bodies. It was also felt that whereas an animal rights group, PETA or any other, is absolutist in its thinking and is not interested in anything that cannot be manipulated to support their case, NGOs, however, should be more open to reason.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Millennials in charge

Redwood Comment
Published:  20 June, 2018

Spending by the millennial generation, globally, has long since swept past that of the boomer generation and is accelerating fast. Maybe it does “suck to have been born between 1980 and 2000” as Malcolm Harris, author of Kids These Days suggests, but this is the group that is now leading consumer spending and relentlessly moving into positions of power in industry and politics.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Leather is as organic as can be

Redwood Comment
Published:  13 June, 2018

If something is to be called organic, it should contain carbon and (in terms of the dictionary definitions) be related to or derived from living matter. So, if you are a consumer who wants to wear natural, organic materials you should be buying leather. There is not an argument here; this is just a fact.

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Dr Mike Redwood

There are two models for the circular economy

Redwood Comment
Published:  06 June, 2018

When ‘Cradle-to-Cradle: Remaking the way we make things’ was first published by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, their approach to a circular economy was promoted as a major breakthrough. Indeed, at the time, the jump from a linear economy based on making, using and disposing was a huge step, given that individual consumption was growing exponentially, as was the global population.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Cities are getting bigger

Redwood Comment
Published:  30 May, 2018

What is a city?  It is a question often asked and one the tanning community should have some interest in. Recent studies show that large cities in emerging markets might grow far beyond the 32 million predicted by Danny Dorling, which I discussed here back in 2014. The 2100 projections include Lagos (88.3), Kinshasa (83.5), Dar es Salaam (73.7), Mumbai (67.2), Delhi (57.3) and even Kabul (50.2). This excludes the big Chinese coastal regions such as Shanghai and Guangzhou where the metropolitan, urban and administrative areas all vary creating a number for Guangzhou, which today jumps from 12 to 44 million depending on definition.

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Dr Mike Redwood

No one talks about hides

Redwood Comment
Published:  23 May, 2018

They buried the cow at 8.30 pm. It had died in the afternoon. The vet had been working with it for three weeks but could not save it. Here on the island you bury them deep. With a four-hour sail to the mainland you have no other option. We stood and watched in silence.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Cows are a must have, not an optional extra

Redwood Comment
Published:  16 May, 2018

I’ve just spent the morning talking to some very hairy cattle. There are a lot of them about, as this is a livestock community. In fact, it demonstrates in one short journey why the concept of replacing meat with vegetables, livestock with crops will never make sense.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Walking to school, without sneakers

Redwood Comment
Published:  09 May, 2018

I was told the other day that in some of the top London departmental stores more than half the footwear sold are trainers, or more precisely, sneakers. Toffler was right when he said that the “future happens faster than you expect, and in the wrong order” as it feels only yesterday when we had leather shoes and we had plimsolls with a green flash, and little else beyond Wellington boots and work boots.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Where is that “spirit of the 80s”?

Redwood Comment
Published:  01 May, 2018

When the inventor and entrepreneur James Dyson, of bagless cleaner fame, wrote that marketing begins deep inside the organisation, with the product, I cheered. One of the delights of being a marketer in the leather sector, initially trained and employed as a leather technician, is that I have always been involved in new product development.

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Dr Mike Redwood

What is a disruptive technology?

Redwood Comment
Published:  25 April, 2018

“After 10,000 years of doing everything in an aqueous solution, do you think that the leather industry is really culturally able to discard water and replace it with plastic balls?” This was my final question to Vik Pratap of Xeros on April 21.

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Dr Mike Redwood

The leather industry has a lot to shout about

Redwood Comment
Published:  17 April, 2018

Every day we get another message about a material using the name of leather either inappropriately or illegally. Thankfully, many regional and national associations have taken up the challenge of fighting the misuse of nomenclature. In the past, they have often been unwilling to get entangled in such battles but this mentality now appears to have changed.

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Dr Mike Redwood

The China Price – Part Two

Redwood Comment
Published:  11 April, 2018

When the leather industry met for the World Leather Congress in Shanghai last year, it was made very clear by Stephen Sothmann, the President of the U.S. Hide, Skin and Leather Association (USHSLA), that no one in the U.S. leather industry value chain, from cattle to retail, wanted to get involved in tariffs.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Does anyone remember driving gloves?

Redwood Comment
Published:  04 April, 2018

In an entertaining little article in the Financial Times, design guru Stephen Bayley asked a simple question: “Does anyone remember driving gloves?”

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Dr Mike Redwood

Be watchful not to get caught out

Redwood Comment
Published:  29 March, 2018

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” Charles Dickens has got it about right for the leather industry as we head into Easter and the heart of 2018. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

A Minister at APLF

Redwood Comment
Published:  21 March, 2018

Tanners do not get to meet government ministers very often. When they do, they often find the politicians to be arrogant or ignorant, quite often both. By comparison, meeting His Excellency Dr. Arkebe Oqubay was a delight for all those who attended his press conference or his talk at APLF Hong Kong. He spoke with clarity about the business situation in Ethiopia, clearly understanding the global leather industry, and stepped forward afterwards happy to meet and talk to any interested individuals who wanted more information.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Innovations are needed fast

Redwood Comment
Published:  14 March, 2018

When the essay The Cathedral and the Bazaar appeared online back in the 1990s, Microsoft developers stopped work to read and absorb it. Top down, Microsoft style design was being compared with bottom up Linux design and being found wanting. It made it clear that the closed, “skunk works in a basement”, type of product innovation would lose its dominance.   

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Dr Mike Redwood

APLF 2018 is an important moment

Redwood Comment
Published:  07 March, 2018

With the trade fair season well under way, many in the industry are preparing to depart for Hong Kong to the sudden life or death, or something in between, three-day trade show that is APLF Leather & Materials+.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Telling a positive story

Redwood Comment
Published:  28 February, 2018

Two weeks ago, I was very impressed with the clarity of thought that came across from a group of students at the University of Northampton in the UK. Their understanding of what we were saying about responsible tanning and sustainability was apparent, as was their concern that in much of the world the leather industry had more to do to correct matters than we were suggesting.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Leather in cities

Redwood Comment
Published:  22 February, 2018

When John Waterer wrote his famous little book Leather in Life, Art and Industry, his choice of title emphasised the central role leather had played in the evolution of society up to well into the twentieth century. Leather was such a perfect ‘natural wrapper’ for liquids, human bodies, valuables, that it was to be found in every aspect of the evolution of civilisation, ancient and modern.

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Dr Mike Redwood

You never stop learning

Redwood Comment
Published:  14 February, 2018

They say that you never stop learning, and judging from a series of meetings I had last week it is very true. I have been fortunate to have visited tanneries far and wide around the world, of all types from quite primitive to very modern, over many years. What I sometimes fail to remind myself is that in recent years I have only been visiting some of the most modern and well managed plants. It is easy to come away with a view that the industry is uniformly excellent.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Tanners need to rethink their processing approach

Redwood Comment
Published:  08 February, 2018

After a year of stock market calm, it is hard to ignore the sudden volatility of the past few days. It is a volatility heightened by the wide use of computerisation to take instant buy and sell decisions.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Talking about currency

Redwood Comment
Published:  31 January, 2018

Standing at the edge of a football pitch talking about currency to a well known British tanner on a cold Friday January night is not something you would expect to do as a routine. This was, however, the “Glovers”; a team close to the bottom of English football’s lowest tier, Yeovil, who are affectionately known as ‘the Glovers’ since that has for centuries been the primary business in the town. In recognition of a historically important leather industry, there are other teams in England known as the 'Saddlers' and the 'Cobblers'.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Puma goes home

Redwood Comment
Published:  24 January, 2018

The move in the last few days to transfer €3.5 billion worth of Puma shares from the Luxury Group Kering into the hands of the Puma shareholders, at a stroke reducing the Kering interest from about 86% down to 16%, has passed with little comment.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Ownership of waste makes for creative thinking

Redwood Comment
Published:  17 January, 2018

In last week’s ILM comment piece, I tried to explain how I thought that the new Chinese waste disposal regulations might work to change attitudes towards solid wastes and liquid effluent by leading to investment in more modern plants. Such a concept is, after all, the basis of most such legal frameworks around the world. If you want to stop or slow something happening, tax it.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Proper effluent treatment is integral to making leather

Redwood Comment
Published:  11 January, 2018

No one should consider making leather if they are not sure that all wastes are being managed appropriately. There is enough knowledge and education for this to be quite clear. To support this around the world, environmental laws related to what can be disposed of as waste are mostly quite good. What is variable is compliance, and enforcement. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Tanners must know what they are using and all the implications

Redwood Comment
Published:  03 January, 2018

As we sign off 2017 and jump into 2018 it is appropriate to both reflect upon and to preview the past and current years. Amid a noisy backdrop of concern about raw material prices, market weakness, currency fluctuations and competitors that ignore the laws on nomenclature one theme stands out as being important in both years. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Power of words to counter false narratives

Redwood Comment
Published:  20 December, 2017

One of the most overused words of the last few years must be networking. It is one of those weasel words that is used loosely to describe connections of all sorts. I became involved when I used business networks in history as the basis of my Ph.D. and the work required to define the term for valid research purposes was immense. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Explaining history via leather artefacts

Redwood Comment
Published:  13 December, 2017

The log fire in the Oak Hall in West Dean is permanently lit. Outside, it’s been below zero for the last few days and we have a group gathered together from all over Europe, plus Canada and The Middle East, spending a week learning about Leather Conservation. We are with the staff from the Leather Conservation Centre in an ancient country estate near Chichester in the south of England, now dedicated to the teaching of traditional crafts and conservation. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Great people in the leather industry

Redwood Comment
Published:  06 December, 2017

The funeral of Philip Rothwell on December 4 was a stark reminder of the role of friendship in a relatively small, self-contained industry such as ours. George Donath, who was his first manager at Stahl GB, which he joined in late 1965, and Tim Amos who took over Stahl India from him when he retired in 2003, both spoke movingly about Philip. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Leather falls behind

Redwood Comment
Published:  29 November, 2017

At the recent Leather & Sustainability in Retail conference which ILM and BLC co-hosted in London on November 16, one of the delegates was quoted “we would like to see much greater levels of transparency from our suppliers (tanners) in terms of the chemicals used in the manufacture of leather. The industry falls behind other industries, such as the cosmetics sector for example, where there is much more openness about what is contained in each product.” 

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Dr Mike Redwood

We live in a digital world

Redwood Comment
Published:  22 November, 2017

We live in a digital world, and are reminded of this continuously. Yet we recognise that, to access most leaders of our top companies, traditional media remains vital. Board rooms still receive physical copies of the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, and many our leather trade journals remain in mostly physical form. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Innovation is complex, even in Leather

Redwood Comment
Published:  14 November, 2017

Normally these days, clever acquisitions are mostly talked about when made by the Internet giants. It feels that the regular world of market competition has been hijacked by the dominance of scale. Equally we talk interminably that innovation is only about utterly new product whereas today it is a complex subject often encompassing the old, updated and adapted for modern times. We talk of waterproof, perspiration and abrasion resistance but forget that it is in the nuances that often the greatest impact is achieved; and that it is as often about process as it is product, with the marketplace today requiring both as a routine. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

The Caledonian sleeper shows us the future

Redwood Comment
Published:  08 November, 2017

As consumers move relentlessly from buying things to paying for experiences, one thing I expect to start doing well is Sleeper trains, certainly in Europe. A couple of years ago this suggestion would have been laughable as it looked as though their time was over. Yet, I am writing this in the dining lounge of a sleeper train heading from London to the north of Scotland. After supper and a taste or two of whisky with friends, I will retire and return in the morning for breakfast as we hurry through the Scottish highland scenery as dawn is breaking. 

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