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The Origin of Hides and Skins & Traceability

Supplies and Transparency

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Coordinated by COTANCE in partnership with ETUF:TCL, the EU-sponsored project on Traceability 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. The initiative was kicked off in July 2011 and will extend until the end of June 2012

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 obtained in the slaughterhouses either by manual or mechanical means, they are preserved, stored and shipped. The conditions under which animals are bred and hides and skins are obtained largely escape tanners’ control, notably when hides or skins are imported into the EU from distant places. Social and environmental bad practice in the area of 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 of consumer distrust and negative impacts on business and employment in the leather sector.

The Social Partners of the European Leather Industry:

- identified the issue regarding the adverse impact on the sector, its operators and workforce when tanning is accused of social, environmental or animal welfare bad practice,
- assessed the awareness of the sector on these matters, and
- focused 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.

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