200 years of making a difference

Smit & Zoon may be a well-known pioneer for sustainability in the leather industry today, but it started out in a completely different industry. Let’s have a look at the rich history of the company, together with Marc Smit, a direct descendant of the founder of the company, and also today’s owner and board member.

How it all started…
“In 1821, it was my great-grandfather Albert Smit who started our company. Originally, it was a trading company in crude fish oil, based in Amsterdam. At the time, the main activities consisted of trading crude oils, stockfish and the production of cod liver oil. My grandfather, Anton Smit, then continued the business and expanded it, with animal and vegetable oils and proteins. My father Joost Smit, in turn, decided to concentrate on specialist chemistry for the leather industry. He actually established the foundation of what Smit & Zoon is today: a leading producer of chemical specialties for the leather processing industry.”

Catalyst for change
“The leather industry is not a simple field of work. All of us are trying to do our job under the pressure of constantly changing fashion trends, cheap imitations, challenges in the production process, existing prejudice and ignorance.

However, instead of lamenting this constant state of pressure, it inspires us to always try and do better. By researching sustainable alternatives to petrochemical-based re-tanning agents, for instance. By launching new products, such as Zeology, to disrupt the chrome-dominated tanning industry. And by making sure all of our plants and brands meet the highest ISO and LWG standards achievable, to name but a few of our latest achievements in the field of sustainability. One of the things we are also invested in is educating the industry and the public about leather. For example, most people are unaware that leather is a by-product of the food industry; it uses material that would otherwise be thrown away. Hardly any other industry uses existing raw materials for its main end product and does not extract raw materials from the earth. Our involvement and initiatives in various global organisations illustrate our ambition to educate all involved to make the leather chain more sustainable.

We want to be the catalyst for making the leather industry more sustainable. I take pride in knowing that today, the industry views us that way.”

Looking ahead
“We have come a long way, from trading crude fish oil to being a catalyst for sustainable change in the leather industry. However, there is still work to be done! At Smit & Zoon, we are taking the necessary steps to achieve a sustainable leather value chain. And we urge others to do the same. All initiatives together lead to improved processes, within our companies, but also within the industry.

As a 7th generation business owner, I will keep on innovating, together with the current generation of employees, to make the entire production chain in the leather industry more sustainable. I sincerely hope that Smit & Zoon continues to make a difference, for the leather value chain, and for future generations. Whether or not there will be an 8th generation Smit heading the company, I would love for our heritage to exist for at least another 200 years.”

*This article is an advertorial provided by Smit & Zoon.