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If there is one book you need to put aside for summer reading this year it is the Italian leather industry’s 2016 Sustainability Report. Available in hardback, I was pleased to be given a copy earlier this year when Lineapelle came to London to give their seasonal trends forecast.
I particularly like the way it goes comprehensively through every item from training and social aspects to traceability and water. Like the excellent Tannery of the Future questionnaire, it provides a checklist of the areas that all tanners need to be investing in if they are to be classed as responsible global tanners. What is more, the information reflects fourteen years of data with obvious improvements in all areas, noting that efficiencies are impacted in years of reduced activity. These reinforce the point that improvements are unlikely to arise until things are measured and published. Customers do not normally demand perfection but they like to understand the direction of travel; and they demand transparency.
We need to recognise that consumption in some areas like water and energy change their significance when the water is fully recycled and the tannery is using its own renewable energy, although both still come with associated costs. This is indicative that the industry has moved from being on the defensive to being proud of what it does, and starting to realise that leather is more than “not bad” it is a positive good and we must drive that reality forward by being more and more proactive. The industry’s extensive outreach activity is a lesson to all, but impossible if the reality of the industry does not support the narrative.
The book even makes the point that many Italian companies are family owned, and discusses the difficulties involved in “passing the baton” between the generations. Worldwide industries are consolidating, and the leather industry with them, but family businesses look like they will always retain a major role in tanning. So, learning from the best, from the tanneries that have managed to make it through multiple generations, is important.
With some peripheral Italian tanneries, the impression still comes across that the rules are advisory rather than mandatory, like the traffic lights in Lahore, but the approach in this excellent book does cover the majority of the Italian industry and tells a powerful story of progress and forward thinking.
25th May 2017
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