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Global Leather Coordinating Committee meets in Shanghai

A meeting of the Global Leather Coordinating Committee (GLCC) took place in Shanghai during the All China Leather Exhibition.

There were 15 representatives at the meeting, five from each of the three global leather industry bodies: the International Council of Hides Skins and Leather Traders Associations (ICHSLTA), the International Council of Tanners (ICT), and the International Union of Leather Technologists and Chemists Societies (IULTCS). All regions of the world were represented at what was truly a global meeting.

Agenda items included ongoing topics of common interest and a general discussion on the increasing demands being placed on the leather supply chain.  

ICT received positive feedback following the successful World Leather Congress in Shanghai on August 29, which attracted an impressive attendance of over 700 delegates. This highlighted the importance of working together to tackle issues that affect the industry globally, the meeting heard, and confirmed the ethos behind the GLCC that there are “times to compete and times to cooperate”.

Much of the GLCC meeting focused on what measures can be put in place to reinforce positive initiatives that are already in place in the leather industry and the best practice that is widely demonstrated. Representatives agreed that it is all too easy for the small number of organisations and individuals that are against the leather industry to achieve a disproportionate amount of media coverage, particularly via the many social media channels available.

The GLCC, those at the meeting concluded, is focused on those areas where the different parts of the leather manufacturing sector can best work together to defend leather as a material and find opportunities to promote its value. They said the GLCC must be “intent on highlighting the strengths of our industry” and on promoting a sustainable product through education, scientific accuracy and dispelling the myths that sometimes appear in the mainstream media. Topics such as transparency, traceability, environmental standards, chemical management, corporate social responsibility and animal welfare all need to be included in discussions about the leather industry.

Those present expressed support for a statement on veterinary practice proposed by ICHSLTA. The statement says: “The GLCC believes the export and import requirements promulgated by national governments for animal products and by-products, including hides, skins and leather, should be produced in accordance with the recommendations of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and supported by sound science. According to the OIE, hides and skins that have undergone a tanning process, including wet blue, wet white, crust and finished leather, do not require health certificates for export or import.”

The differences between leather as a three-dimensional structure compared to two-dimensional textiles was also discussed as this leads to much confusion in the leather supply chain when inappropriate requirements are set, particularly when looking at chemical management.
In the light of the ever-increasing development of alternatives to leather – including synthetic, hybrid and lab-grown materials – it was agreed that the industry as a whole should continue to press for accurate and ethical labelling and marketing of materials that look like leather. A separate statement has been prepared on this topic which will be posted on GLCC partner organisations’ websites.

Following recent media coverage of chromium-tanned leather, all sectors agreed that while some customers were requesting chromium-free leathers, there was no overall diminution in demand for chromium-tanned leather. Tanning with chromium sulphate provides the performance characteristics necessary for many applications of leather and, if the tanning process is carried out correctly, there are no health or environmental problems associated with chromium-tanned leather.

A working group comprising individuals from all three GLCC partner organisations will build on the relationships that already exist with industry initiatives and external groups to see how best the GLCC can support them and push back against those that wish to harm the industry.

The next GLCC meeting will be organized by the ICHSLTA in March 2018 to coincide with APLF.

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