Earlier this year, ILM launched its inaugural Green Innovator Survey, where we asked the supply chain about its sustainability priorities.

In the first question of the survey, we asked respondents: “Do you think the tanning industry has become greener (more sustainable or environmentally conscious) over the past year?”

What seems like a fairly obvious question becomes more nuanced the more you think about it, revealing some of the difficulty behind assessing sustainability in the leather industry and tackling sustainability improvements themselves. Sustainability itself is a bit of a buzzword and often crosses over into greenwashing territory, being an umbrella term for a very wide and varied range of areas that include carbon footprints, social responsibility, environmental impact and more.

However, particularly when concerned with environmental impacts, the leather industry has seen a greater drive over the past few years than ever before, motivated simultaneously by the growing list of regulations and the efforts of industry organisations such as the Leather Working Group and others to help tanners meet these requirements locally and in export markets.

A vast majority of respondents at 84% said that they believe the industry has become more sustainable or environmentally conscious in the last year, with 4% saying “no” and 12% believing there has been no change. For the largest companies in the industry, who have been making improvements for years, change is now incremental and slow, but it is hard to argue that it does not continue. New products are developed and included in production to meet restrictions, emissions are lowered to hit targets and policies are updated as expectations evolve. Sustainability is a continually moving goalpost and, it seems, always demands progress.

To see the full results of the 2024 ILM Green Innovator Survey as well as the companies and products nominated as ILM Green Innovators, subscribe to ILM today and read the March/April 2024 issue, available in a new digital format.