Leading the way with ZDHC

Redwood Comment
Published:  19 October, 2016
Mike Redwood

Last week I had occasion to read leather chemical maker, Stahl’s website. One paragraph stood out: 

“Since 2011, large apparel and footwear brands such as Burberry, Benneton, Gap, H&M, Marks & Spencer, Nike and Adidas, cooperate within the ZDHC foundation to lead the industry towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020. This is fully in line with our goal to achieve a more sustainable and transparent supply chain and with our commitment to a cleaner environment and safe and secure working conditions for people. We are convinced that only by working together within the industry, this can be achieved.”

Stahl had just announced that it was joining the ZDHC Programme and was doing so at the same time as one of our leading tanners, PrimeAsia was making the same announcement. PrimeAsia’s web page on “leather and water” is well worth a read.

ZDHC stands for Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals. Members work together on a Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MSRL), on Wastewater Quality, on Auditing and Data Capture and Disclosure Procedures, among other things.

Not so long ago, the leather industry would have stayed well clear of any such initiatives, believing that the intent was only to damage the leather industry and not to drive things forward. While there have been some negative experiences with elements of the press and NGOs, the outcome of the overall lack of leather industry engagement has created more problems than if we had got involved.

In particular, there is a pseudo-scientific vocabulary being passed around about leather which bears no relationship to reality, and is unbalancing the industry while not helping the planet. The wrongful use of words like toxic and heavy metal, the assumption that anything to do with chromium is cancerous leads to false impressions in the minds of designers and bad decisions among leather buyers.

So it is heartening to see two of the leather industry’s leading companies, and strong supporters of LeatherNaturally!, getting involved in this way. Properly made leather, using good chemicals, is a great material for society to use. We have nothing to lose and a lot to gain by making sure that we do things correctly, and disclose what we do honestly. Leather is not only top in performance and elegance, it can be top in sustainability. It is a material we should all be proud of.

The founding members of ZDHC were companies such as Burberry, Benneton, Gap, H&M, Inditex, Marks & Spencer, Nike, Puma and Adidas. We want them to remain part of the leather story.

Mike Redwood

19th October 2016

mike@internationalleathermaker.com

Follow Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood

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