Cotance statement on Greenpeace report8 January 2010
The Social Partners of the European Leather Industry (Cotance) addressed, in their Social Sectoral Dialogue Committee Meeting of December 15, 2009 (in Brussels), the allegations made to the leather industry in general and to certain European tanneries and their customers in particular in the Greenpeace report released over internet on the deforestation of the Amazon (http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/slaughtering-the-amazon).
They appreciate the gravity of the problem uncovered by Greenpeace and express upfront their solidarity with the objective of preserving the environment and notably the avoidance of irresponsible harm to the Amazon rainforest. The European Social Partners dissociate themselves from any form of unsustainable generation of hides and skins notably the one highlighted in the Greenpeace report.
However, Cotance and ETUF-TCL regret the distorted vision with regard to the link made in the report between the deforestation issue and the leather industry that has been further conveyed in the general press, amplifying the damage caused to the image of the leather industry and to the reputation of the people who work in the leather value chain including European tanners and their customers.
Social Partners understand that the general public deserves to know that the leather industry does not drive the demand for animal breeding and the development of herds or flocks for an increased supply of raw materials anywhere in the world and can thus not be accused of driving the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. The supply of hides and skins is independent from the demand for raw materials in the leather sector. Hides and skins are residues produced in the process of generating food for the people. If not processed to leather, the amount of hides and skins generated by the meat industry would become a significant waste disposal problem for society in general. The leather sector fulfils thus an important societal role in the management of waste and the valorisation of a residue generating wealth and employment in the process.
Besides, tanners face a real challenge in influencing up-stream operators’ policies also because of their size and relative bargaining power with regard to their suppliers. The vast majority of the European leather sector is composed of SME’s, while the suppliers of raw materials are generally large industries.
The Social Partners of the European leather industry would welcome increased transparency in the hides and skins supply chain. Cotance and ETUF-TCL are in fact the first to call for support in improving the traceability of raw materials in the supply chain for fulfilling sustainability objectives such as the one highlighted by Greenpeace, but also others, such as those related to animal welfare. Presently, companies have difficulties in obtaining information on the concrete origin of the raw hide or skin and face problems in recognising and prevent the procurement of raw materials from unsustainable sources.
Meanwhile, the Social Partners of the European Leather industry intend to go further in their sustainability agenda by developing together an appropriate Code of Conduct for their supplies of raw materials and effective instruments for transparency on the origin of hides and skins that should allow the sector’s operators to identify the origin and communicate with the animal husbandry sector on common sustainability objectives.