BLC Leather Technology Centre and APLF Ltd hosted a half-day conference titled: Leather and the Environment – Sustainability in the Leather Supply Chain. The event was very well attended with 95 delegates representing the whole leather value chain from hide suppliers through to major international brands and retailers.

Representatives from BASF, Lanxess and TFL used the conference to outline the sustainability arguments for leather compared with other materials. With representatives of brands such as LVMH, Puma, H&M and Adidas attending the conference it represented an ideal opportunity to clarify the leather industry’s position. Dr Dietrich Tegtmeyer, Vice President, Product Development and Application, Leather Chemicals at Lanxess used a number of examples to show the real risk leather chemicals pose in products compared with some restricted substance lists requested by some brands. He highlighted the risk of sensitisation to chemicals such as chromium in leather and the very low risk that the product actually poses to the consumer.

Dr Gerhard Wolf of BASF, ‘Staying ahead – Creating value with sustainability, leather and chemistry outlined leathers positive image as a natural material compared with other materials and the challenges it faces against negative information put forward by some NGO’s and campaign groups. His presentation was followed by Dr Jürgen Christner of TFL who further explained why and how leather is a sustainable material.

One of the most interesting presentations at the conference was provided by Martin Manghelli of Adidas Group. Adidas are major supporters of the Leather Working Group (LWG) and he wished that such a group existed in other market segments.”Today 97% of the leather sourced by Adidas Group comes from LWG rated tanneries and we are working on the other 3% (sourced from Europe). We like to know where our leather comes from, which can be difficult with some beamhouse operations for splits sometimes, as it helps us with our own sustainabilty argument”, he said. Manghelli estimated that between 30-35% of Adidas Group footwear contains leather in some form.  

The conference was headlined by Jeff Margulies, a Lawyer representing the Californian law firm, Norton Rose Fulbright. Margulies outlined the latest ‘Hot topics in US product safety regulation, compliance and enforcement’. In his presentation he outlined some case studies in other market segments where legal action was taken against brands and retailers and what the outcomes were. There was a particular focus on Californian legislation known as Proposition 65 on consumer products and the potential impact it could have on leather containing products. 

The ‘Leather and the Environment – Sustainability in the leather supply chain’ conference was organised by BLC Leather Technology Centre and APLF Ltd. The half-day event was sponsored by BASF, Lanxess, Micro-Pak, Trumpler, National Beef, TFL and Zschimmer & Schwarz. International Leather Maker was the media partner.

The event was held at HKCEC alongside the APLF.