Supplies and Transparency

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COTANCE and ETUF:TCL kick off an ambitious joint project on transparency of the origin of hides & skins and traceability of raw materials for European tanners

The European Social Partners of the Leather industry, COTANCE and ETUF:TCL, represented by their respective chief executives, Mr. Gustavo Gonzalez-Quijano and Mr. Luc Triangle, met on Wednesday 6 July 2011 in Brussels in order to kick off their EU sponsored project on Traceability. This initiative aims at collecting relevant intelligence on the issues regarding the traceability of tanners’ raw materials and identifying the means for a greater transparency in the trade on the origin of hides and skins.

Hides and skins, the raw materials for the production of leather, are a by-product of animals slaughtered for their meat. Before they reach the tannery, they have a history of their own; they protect the animals during their lifetime, they are removed either by manual or mechanical means, they are preserved, stored and shipped. The conditions under which hides and skins are obtained escape, however, Tanners’ control, notably when these are imported into the EU from distant places, but social and environmental mismanagement in the area of their raw materials affects adversely the tanning sector’s image. European tanners, their customers and consumers are increasingly sensitive to issues regarding Socially and Environmentally responsible procurement and Animal Welfare. Better governance could eventually improve the current situation where tanners individually do not always have the means to identify the origin and history of raw materials, and this could minimise risks or negative impacts on business and employment in the leather sector.

The Social Partners of the European Leather Industry intend in a first step:

- identifying the issue regarding the adverse impact on the sector, its operators and workforce when tanning is accused of social, environmental or animal welfare mismanagement,
- assessing the awareness of the sector on these matters, and
- focusing on technical instruments that record  facts on the origin and conditions of hides & skins in order to allow the sector’s companies to respond pro-actively to adverse situations.

The project will be managed by COTANCE in full cooperation with ETUF:TCL. National Social Partners will be involved in 13 countries (DE, GR, ES, FR, IT, NL, PT, SE, UK, LT, BG, RO and PO) engaging in a “Desk Research” on the subject matter. Two different but complementary aspects will be scrutinised:

a) “Political”: publicity news in the media, assessment on the impacts on the sector, assessment of advantages gained through a traceability/transparency system;
b) “Technical”: methods for tracing hides & skins would be assessed

At the end of this one-year project, the Social Partners of the European Leather Industry will provide the sector’s operators with a joint recommendation for further action after having assessed the various possible options available and evaluated in Social Dialogue those most suitable for the industry.

Brussels, 15 July 2011