The subject surfaced again in discussions on the edge of the recent APLF trade show in Hong Kong. While we want the leather industry around the world to continue to play its part in pulling people out of poverty and raising GDP in emerging economies we cannot accept that year after year this should involve damage to the health of workers and of the environment.

The concept of best available technology has been around for some time, but what we need is an absolute minimum set of standards that governments and local authorities will actually enforce, and national leather industry associations will buy into and support. The days of workers on fleshing machines in plastic flip-flops rather than protective footwear and emptying drums without aprons and gloves must come to an end at once.

So many countries around the world have perfectly adequate legislation, sometimes even too tight, but appear unable or unwilling to enforce it. Often they allow units, which are too small to get into the tax system to go without inspection. Whatever the reason might be the time has passed when these activities are acceptable. The world is a better educated place now and we know that all workers deserve fair treatment; and that a planet with 7 billion people can no longer recover from our careless behaviour.

Most of what goes on is done in the full knowledge that it is wrong. It is mostly deliberate and cannot be condoned. Where it occurs we soon start to see counterfeit leather chemicals (even vegetable extracts are being copied these days) and counterfeit branded leather goods on the market.

There is some urgency in this now as at the level of “Brand Leather” the product that gives everyone in the enlarged leather sector a decent income is being damaged. 

Mike Redwood

Follow Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood

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