The leather industry has united for COP26

Redwood Comment
Published:  02 November, 2021
Sir David Attenborough in the audience at COP26

Our industry has not always been unified in the way it needs to be but getting a leather manifesto out ahead of COP26 is a great start, says Mike Redwood.

In order to get the leather industry COP26 statement out on time, one or two leather industry bodies who would have liked to have been added to the signatories may have been overlooked. That is a pity, but anyone accidentally missed in the rush will be extremely pleased that such a formidable number of leather organisations have come together to make this simple and powerful statement at such a critical moment.

The moments in history when the industry has unified have been few. The adoption of the approximately uniform definition of leather and the creation of the leather-mark might count, but neither was significantly supported and they soon slipped into the background. Both would have benefited from being maintained, promoted and occasionally updated.

Strength through unity

Over most of the last 25 years, our institutions have vacillated between the dysfunctional and the outdated with a real move towards modernisation only appearing in the last five years. Even then it appeared they were all planning to work in the same space, overlapping uncomfortably while failing to be active in areas where their skills and influence are badly needed.

The preparation and circulation of the COP26 pronouncement is an outstanding achievement for which everyone is to be congratulated. The clarity of the content makes it perfect to put into the hands of influencers and politicians throughout the world. Let us hope a few Presidents and Premiers get to see it.

Certainly, more than one Member of Parliament in the southwest of England has already had a copy and been reminded of the current employment in their area in different sectors of a diverse leather network. Few areas of the world are without links to leather. It is a wake-up call to such people, in particular if as individuals we take responsibility for getting this message circulated.

Our organisations may have the contacts in government, press and NGOs but, in matters like this, the individual can add exceptional weight through leveraging friends and contacts. Remember that a social media message that upsets PETA gets a reply from them, but the real impact is the 10,000 plus sent out by their supporters. I know this well from personal experience.

Too many myths about leather have been allowed to gain ground, clouding its history, chemistry, employees and origins. Let this COP26 statement be the start of changing that. There may be imperfect things in our past and present that we should acknowledge and correct, but fewer than detractors say.

Plans not aspirations

COP26 is about making detailed plans, rather than agreeing aspirations, which was the purpose of Paris. It will be hard as we have better knowledge of the science, and a clearer view of the implications. Hence the leaders from Russia, China and Saudi Arabia are absent to avoid being pressed to move faster away from fossil fuels on the path to net-zero.

Methane is likely to be pushed towards the first item on the agenda, opening the door to those with an irrational determination to attack leather and livestock, and to build whatever narrative they can to do so. Belching cows create easy sound bites.

This time we have got our arguments out early. We have earned the right to be heard, to be at the table. If all of our institutions, companies and as many employees and friends as possible get the COP26 message out and maintain the pressure in the months to come, we will give industry leaders the right and access to be involved before incorrect decisions are made. Let leather play a continuing role in positively helping society.

Mike Redwood

mike@internationalleathermaker.com

Follow Dr Mike Redwood on Twitter: @michaelredwood

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