Leather – signifies our members’ high aspiration towards sustainable production.
There are tanneries and the corresponding upstream and downstream sectors in both Germany and the EU. It is just that no one can imagine that these factories actually exist. The media show pictures that have nothing to do with reality.
A few large companies emerged from the many tanneries that existed everywhere, hardly being noticed. This meant that there were fewer and fewer people working in the tanning industry. The media, usually not very interested in good news, started to report less and less on domestic tanneries, more on factories somewhere or other in the world that were causing damage to the environment and health.
Leather is increasingly discussed in connection with animal welfare, the use of chemicals and working conditions. The tanners, who rarely sell directly to the consumer, but to the shoe, furniture, car, leather goods and fashion industries, do not have an easy time getting their “good deeds” across to the consumer.
The natural product, leather, has always been held in high esteem by consumers. For as long as humans have existed, hides and skins have been refined into leather as renewable raw materials. The functions that the hide has on the animal, such as protection from heat and cold, protection of the organs from injury, are also present when it has been processed into leather; durability, with limited stretch, high tensile strength, longevity. Not to mention water vapour permeability and the ability to store water. In other words, this is a material that is comfortable to wear and practical.
The highest product quality is a matter of course for our members. Added to this, is maximum ecological quality.
- energy-efficient and resource-saving manufacturing processes
- environmentally friendly production processes
- substitution of substances hazardous to health
- socially acceptable working conditions and highest levels of occupational health and safety
- consistent avoidance of waste
Our members have thus developed into globally recognized, ecological pioneers, with a comprehensive and trend-setting know-how on environmentally friendly leather production.
Preference is given to hides and skins from farm animals from the surrounding area. Since animal welfare is regulated by law in Europe, animal-friendly husbandry is thus ensured. The processing of cooled or salt-preserved hides makes it possible to dispense with additional preservatives.
In short: use of naturally occurring products.
Chemical processes are necessary for tanning and for subsequent leather finishing if the perishable hide is to be turned into durable leather that can be used by the consumer.
The development of optimized tanning processes (see also our brochure: Ecological Aspects of Important Tanning Processes) and consistent measures for production-integrated environmental protection have led to changes and a reduction in the use of chemicals, as well as to reduced water consumption (see also SER Social- and Environmental Report 2020).
The waste water from German leather factories is only discharged into a body of water once, with the help of the company’s own sewage treatment plant or with the support of a municipal sewage treatment plant, it has been returned to the quality it had when it was taken from the body of water.
The German leather industry is making great efforts to further develop the targeted recycling economy, i.e. the environmentally compatible recovery of unavoidable waste in the form of secondary raw materials. For example, all waste, except for one part, the sewage sludge produced during wastewater treatment, is already recycled energetically or biologically.
The workplace in the tanning industry
The 2020 social and environmental report has shown that employees like to remain in the sector (long tenure). In addition, the figures published by the employers’ liability insurance association reveal good levels of safety (low numbers of accidents at work, occupational diseases) that are comparable to those in other industries.
Research and development work for sustainable leather production
In close cooperation with the chemical auxiliaries industry, our members are continuously striving towards further progress in the field of leather production.
As a member of the Forschungsgemeinschaft Leder e.V., we promote joint pre-competitive research projects and studies to further develop the use of leather and production-integrated environmental protection.