With sustainability now widely accepted as critical for the future of the leather industry, Michael Costello, Director of Sustainability at global chemical supplier Stahl, believes the need to share information on sustainability practices will only grow. “Sustainability can be hard to grasp at times and our partners are increasingly asking for clarity on environment, social and governance topics,” says Costello. “These seminars can provide that clarity. We use our expertise to update the leather manufacturing supply chain on the latest industry initiatives and how they may affect tanneries, with special attention given to chemicals and their impact.

Sustainability topics
One of the key topics discussed at these seminars is chemical compliance. There are many restricted substance initiatives on the market and it can be dizzying for tanneries to understand the differences between them, so at the seminars we try to have open an informative discussions about specific substances and how they are being eliminated or substituted. Indeed, Stahl believes that the broad acceptance of these initiatives has raised the bar of transparency and this is helping consumers to better understand the realities of using chemicals in leather manufacturing. This in turn allows for better decisions to be made about reducing environmental impact in the supply chain.

An excellent example of this positive transparency momentum is the ZDHC Gateway – Chemical Module, which has gone from being an interesting idea a few years ago to an effective buying tool today. At the seminars we explain how ZDHC Gateway works, who the third party certifiers are, and how the testing/sampling is done. We also make the link between ZDHC conformance and other industry stakeholders, like Reach, TSCA, the Higg Index, or the Leather Working Group for example. Indeed, the new LWG audit protocol 7.0 requires tanneries to demonstrate compliance to the ZDHC MRSL, so in the seminar we can log on to the ZDHC Gateway portal and show how chemical conformance is already reported, either by chemical supplier or by product. Other topics like Generation Z views on sustainability and leather always generate lively discussion at these seminars, but we also discuss less emotive but equally important themes like Life Cycle Assessment, Responsible Chemistry and the concept of Renewable Carbon.

Sustainability Seminars in China, India, Pakistan & Bangladesh
In November 2019 Stahl hosted a sustainability seminar for its leather supply chain partners in China. This training, led by Costello, included over 50 participants from 23 companies who came together with a common goal of reducing the environmental impact of the leather supply chain. Stahl has also hosted similar events in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh which included presentations from UNIDO, the Leather Working Group, Solidaridad and CLRI, and attracted an average of over 300 visitors per event. “We have always received such positive feedback from the participants of these seminars that we are committed to continuing them into the future,” says Costello. “The seminars are a key element of our strategy to drive environmental best practices and transparency throughout the leather industry.”

*This article is an advertorial provided by Stahl.