Using Responsible Chemistry to reach UN sustainability goals

Netherlands
Published:  19 November, 2019

With sustainability a top priority for the leather industry, Stahl has identified what it calls ‘Responsible Chemistry’ as a critical element in the company’s strategy to reach the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Here, Michael Costello, Director of Sustainability at Stahl, offers a peek at what this involves.

“Stahl has always sought to cater to the evolving needs of our stakeholders. With sustainability a growing issue for a number of years, it is already very much at the core of everything we do. However, we wanted to take a next step, so we recently defined Responsible Chemistry within our sustainability strategy in order to guide us and make sure we are working on the right projects,” explains Costello.

This decision has led Stahl to define three sub-categories of sustainability under the Responsible Chemistry umbrella:

- Low-impact manufacturing chemicals;
- Biotechnology and bio-content;
- Circularity and eliminating waste.

Low-impact manufacturing chemicals
The starting point for this sub-category is to be ahead of chemical legislation and voluntary manufacturing restricted substances lists, such as the ZDHC MRSL. Costello: “At Stahl, we have our own Manufacturing Restricted Substances List - more stringent than the ZDHC MRSL – which ensures that all new products developed will not contain any of the substances on the list. On top of this, our Stahl Neo® portfolio for wet-end and leather finishing chemicals offers leather manufacturers an easy route to compliance by using low-impact products without compromising on the quality of their leathers.”

Biotechnology and bio-content
The biotechnology category focuses on replacing the use of scarce, finite resources with renewable resources. A key example is the Proviera® - Probiotics for Leather™ portfolio, which helps tanners to reduce water and chemical usage significantly by replacing traditional beamhouse chemicals with biobased and biodegradable Proviera® alternatives. Other examples that fit in this category are chemicals that improve the performance of substrates made from lab-grown protein, biomass, residual agricultural, fungal, mycelium or bacterial materials.

Circularity and eliminating waste
“We are committed to encouraging the restoration and regeneration of resources,” Costello says by way of explaining the third category. “We want to take an active role in accelerating the transition to a circular economy. So, we develop products that repair, maintain and upgrade end-products and therefore prolong their lifecycle. Composting and biodegradation are also high on our priority list as we develop technologies that contribute to the successful composting of substrate materials.”

Transparency and cooperation in the supply chain
Stahl’s stance is that the only way the industry can become sustainable is through transparency and cooperation in the supply chain. “We believe there still is a lot that needs to be done before the leather industry can be truly sustainable," Costello notes. “By acting in line with our Responsible Chemistry principles, we, Stahl, can play a positive role in this transition.”

*This article is an advertorial provided by Stahl.