Articles have been written in recent years depicting leather tanneries as dirty pollutants that discharge toxic waste and damage the environment, which is far from the truth. Automotive leather manufacturing must comply with comprehensive regulations, which are essential for ensuring the process is done in a safe and sustainable manner. Leather regulations dictate the quality standards, processes, and safety measures that must be met in the production of leather goods.

Depending on the tannery location, the local environmental agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the European Environment Agency (EEA), and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), all have laws in place that regulate emissions, pollutants, and disposal of wastes. If these rigid standards are not met, and tanneries are seen to be breaking the rules, these local agencies have the power to close down tanneries immediately.

As well as the local agencies, there are many ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) standards that leather manufacturers comply with to ensure their products are manufactured in a safe and sustainable way and meet the quality required by their customers. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) – have an agreement on the Technical Barriers to Trade designed to ensure certain standards are met when leather is exported, imported, or traded between countries.

Further, leather industry certification schemes such as Leather Working Group (LWG), Sustainable Leather Foundation (SLF), Italian Certification Institute for Leather (ICEC), OEKO-TEX, and others are now an important factor in leather manufacturing and automotive OEMs are requiring tanneries to achieve high-level certificates from one or more of these schemes to be considered as a possible supplier.

As well as the local agencies, there are many ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) standards that leather manufacturers comply with to ensure their products are manufactured in a safe and sustainable way and meet the quality required by their customers

A brief overview (we will produce a more in-depth article shortly) on the areas these Industry schemes review are as follows:

Chemicals

  • Chemical management
  • Restricted Substances, Compliance, and Chromium VI (CrVI) Management

Environment

  • Environment Management Systems (EMS)
  • Air & Noise emissions
  • Water usage
  • Waste management
  • Effluent treatment

People

  • Social audits
  • Working hours/wages
  • Occupational Health and Safety
  • Staff training and development

Ethical & Traceability

  • Animal welfare
  • Deforestation
  • Incoming material traceability
  • Outgoing material traceability

Operations

  • Operations management
  • Operating permits
  • Production data
  • Subcontracted operations

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