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First published in the Nov/Dec edition of ILM print and digital. ILM hosted the “Tannery 2030” conference in Shanghai on August 28, 2018 to try and look into the future. Following the presentation sessions there was a four-person panel discussion on the topic. One of the panellists was Egbert Dikkers, Chairman of the Steering Committee, Leather Naturally who prepared a personal vision of what the leather value chain could be in the future. ILM publishes an unedited, positive and possibly utopian view of what the leather supply chain could be like by 2030. It may be aspirational, but it is achievable if the whole industry works together.
The future imagined
Egbert Dikkers: “I will share my ambitious view on the ideal world in 2030.
In 2030, leather will be a material that is very much appreciated and valued by consumers in the major consumer markets.
Consumers prefer leather in their products, because it offers a nice look and feel, it can be applied to all kinds of day-to-day articles, offering high tech characteristics. Leather stays nice over time, it brings joy and pride and can be repaired when necessary.
Consumers will buy leather goods with an assurance stamp telling them that it is okay to use the material as it is approved by recognised and valued auditing schemes. These labels and auditing schemes are set up in close collaboration with critical NGO’s and consumer groups. Transparency as such is truly visible and accountable, moving the value chain forwards while consumers are willing to pay a decent price for their leather goods.
Fashion brands and their designers favour leather over other materials because of the product characteristics and the fact that it hardly leaves a footprint on our planet.
Sustainability no longer a problem
We do not talk about sustainability as a problem any longer. Instead, it is appreciated by consumers that leather manufacturers use the by-product of the meat industry to turn it into a beautiful material. Imperfections are an added value and the leather industry stopped trying to make leather look like plastic. This is true sustainability!
There are no concerns about the way the animal lived because the meat and dairy industry has taken further steps in reducing the CO2 footprint, and animals are being treated decently, with a full traceability throughout their lives.
Leather and leather goods are mainly produced by companies that use bio-based, renewable chemicals and renewable side products.
Emissions do not exist and the only chemicals that can be bought on the market are the ones that are safe and end up in the leather, adding value.
Water being a scarce resource, is used in small quantities and used over and over again. Effluent treatment plants are well organised although their use will diminish through the years. Solar and wind renewable power are the major sources for energy. Chemical companies are responsible partners in the supply chain and catalyse this development in partnership.
Even safer places to work
People working in the leather industry are proud members of the supply chain, they can work safely, earn a decent living and can develop themselves personally.
In short, the value chain is fully optimised with limited transportation.
Consumers do not worry about the end-of-life of their leather. Leather goods can be repaired easily and is, thus, creating new jobs, but it also has self-repairing characteristics. Used or worn out leather goods can be brought back to specialised companies in the local vicinity, where you can choose and purchase a design to re-use your own leather for a second life as a newly designed article.
In 2030, there is only room for responsible value chain members working on true cost value chain models, be it farmers, slaughterhouses, chemical companies, leather manufacturers, leather goods manufacturers or retailers.
This ideal world can only exist when all parties in the leather value chain collaborate and look at the true cost of leather products manufacturing and jointly promote leather as a beautiful, versatile and sustainable material.”
Chairman Steering Committee,
About the author
As well as his role with Leather Naturally, Egbert Dikkers day job is Global Director Sustainability, Smit & zoon based in the Netherlands.
Egbert has been working in the leather industry at Smit & zoon for over 25 years. He started in Smit & zoon in Sales of wet-end specialty chemicals and has had various management positions since then. In his current role Egbert is making use of his wide industry experience and is leading Smit & zoon in making the leather value chain more sustainable. He was one of the founding persons of the ‘Tannery of the Future’ and is currently a board member.