Displaying 41 to 45 of 60 blog entries
- 04/08/09 - Clarks and the Amazon - today's press release;
Responsible management of Clarks' leather supply chain
Clarks regards climate change as a most significant issue and we are working hard across our global business to reduce our overall environmental impact, as part of our commitment to sustainable business practices in our own operations and our supply chain.
A recent report by Greenpeace highlighted the environmental impact of the increasing level of deforestation in the Amazon rainforests. Clarks shares the concerns expressed by Greenpeace and others regarding the environmental impact of the leather industry on the Amazon rainforest and the subsequent effect on biodiversity and climate change.
Clarks is committed to encouraging leather suppliers to take a proactive stance in supporting effective measures that help tackle climate change and protect the environment. Accordingly, Clarks' policy is that we will not use leather in products produced from cattle raised in the Amazon Biome.
We will require all suppliers of Brazilian leather to certify formally that they are supplying leather for Clarks' products not from recently deforested areas. They have until July 1st 2010 to create a properly traceable and transparent system to provide credible assurances in this regard.
We will review these suppliers' progress in establishing such a system but if, after July 1st 2010, suppliers are unable to provide credible assurances that leather used for Clarks products is not from cattle raised in recently deforested areas, Clarks will consider further measures to implement this policy.
To this end Clarks commits to the principles of what is known as the 'Commit or Cancel' policy and will work with NGOs, the Leather Working Group and specialist agencies with the ultimate aim of ensuring zero deforestation in the rainforest.
- 31/07/09 - One per cent? Really much more....
We are continuously told that the non-mainstream raw materials for leather only constitute 1% of the total leather produced in the world and should be ignored. Mainstream material includes bovine, sheep, goat and pig. Buffalo is occasionally added into the bovine figures. This leaves all the rest which includes such areas as:
These are not areas to be ignored. Increasingly we will need them to add volume, quality and character to our leather industry. It has been apparent for some time that land and other environmental issues will slow the growth of our basic supplies.I personally do not believe the one per cent figure but whatever it is it is set to grow and it asks a lot of questions of the industry that many have been trying to avoid.
New technologies will needed to advance our processing skills in new materials. We already have some excellent tanneries working on each of these raw types and we can find some world class reptile material via Hermes and Ostrich from South Africa. Also the skills applied on possum skins in New Zealand have created a world class fur, damaged only by a poor brand image for the raw material.
And this is the key point. Good marketing is going to be needed, and it cannot just be defensive. These materials cannot neatly fall into the hidey hole that tanners use that leather is a by-product of meat and dairy businesses, and a sustainable one at that. Possum from New Zealand is quite a valid raw material but it not a by-product of anything other than man's historical carelessness - and we would really like to terminate them in New Zealand if we could. So sustainable possum skins - no thanks. The tanners will have to come out above the parapet and promote proper codes of animal welfare (not animal rights), correct protection of the species and the environment and actual stand proudly behind leather as a versatile quality material for a wide variety of end uses. Not too much to ask, is it?
- 20/07/09 - The first ever Emeritus Professor at the University of Northampton
a. retired, but retaining honorary office; n. (pl. -ti) such as professor, etc.
It is a rather special moment when Leather Science (or Technology) provides the first ever Emeritus Professor at a University. Yet that is what Professor Tony Covington has achieved at Northampton and on the 9th of July he gave a full lecture theatre the first experience of what an Inaugural Lecture of an Emeritus Professor of Leather Science would be like.
With his new book just out the publishers missed a trick by not having any there on sale and for Tony to sign. I am still busy reading my copy and will review it shortly, but it is very well written and much more in the line of Procter and Heidemann than the leather workers' handbook.
Tony's lecture was fascinating in a self-celebratory sort of way as he entertained us to a detail of his career complete with photos. I'm not the one to talk about such photos and details of key life events as I lived in fear while with FootJoy that my wife would give some old photos to the company to be used at one of the sales meetings. The present is tough enough to deal with. Yet it was educational to see how Tony had moved into the leather industry and through to his current senior role and a top industry researcher as well as to be reminded of some fine old colleagues sadly no longer with us.
In his talk he toured the world with the leather industry identifying conferences and University liaisons from China through the US to Brazil. For those not used to leather industry travel this was enlightening but it did remind one or two in the audience who are involved in leather manufacturing that they do this sort of lifetime travel each year as a routine - working one day with an Asian manufacturers and the next meeting with the controlling brand in the USA. "The international aspect of the leather industry is one of its joys."
Also so many of Tony's major international contacts are now vital in the line up of relationships which the BSLT has drawn up to create synergy and system in the teaching and research of leather worldwide.
Tony discussed his work on enzymes, showing how difficult it is to translate University research into profitable commercial business, and his finale was one detail of technology in which he explained the Link-Lock theory where the basic shrinkage temperature moves to around 85 degrees Centigrade with the introduction of basic tanning molecules which attach to the collagen chains but do not cross link them. They "get in the way of separation" and then in some instances these molecules link with each other and move the shrinkage temperature towards passing the boil test if we so wish. Sounds too easy, but then so does all good science. "If it simple and more elegant it is almost certainly true". Great way to end.
Monday, 13 July 2009
- 14/07/09 - Pigs in the world
There are a lot of pigs in the world and they are more important in the leather chain than we think, especially since we have to take seriously the land use issues which are implied in the complaints by Greenpeace that tanners are in part responsible for the damage of the Amazon rain forest. The Chinese have even postponed some re-forestation since they want to reserve land for crops for people (not for animal feed or energy).
At the moment pigs make up just over ten per cent of the leather making raw material. Remember that this means about 2.5 billion square feet. Pigs breed quite quickly but generally the guess is that there are about 700,000 million in the world and they produce about 1.2 billion skins a year. Of course we eat a lot of them and the skins are not removed from the carcases. Back in the 1960s and 1970s when we were worried that demand for leather would grow much faster than it did some companies such as the Booth Group had serious long term projects with pigs. I remember Jim Jackman who ran Booth's central technical services working with Walls on ways to remove at least the bulk of the skin to make it available for tanning, as there process of scalding lost the skin to the leather trade.
Of course pig skin is very difficult to process and Wolverine did an excellent job to make a business out of it, essentially based on a suede product. Their US pig tannery closed earlier this year and so now most production is in China. It is hard to know what is happening in the Central and Eastern European countries which used to have both big supplies and leading technology as it appears the structured slaughter system they had has disintegrated and I have been unable to get much data about the tanning side.
Before the Wolverine suede pig was popular in leathergoods and gloves, known as peccary, with a preference for wild pig, boar and carpincho.
La peau de porc
Talking recently with a French leathergoods maker we were reminded that when we were young "there were beautiful leathergoods articles made from it. Bags, wallets, etc. Most of the skins came from the east countries (Poland, etc.) and the best was the "British pig skin". There is still a leather-goods retail shop in Paris called "La peau de porc", specialized in pig skin articles. I remember the decline started in 1980 and I do not know really why. Later, some pigskin -grain or split- was still used for lining and also for garments ("velours" suede tanned and soft) but it was a limited use. My idea is that it is related to the way pork are slaughtered and eaten: we French people eat the skin so that it is not available for leathergoods."
These old leather goods covered all things from shoe horns to brief cases and were in a very distinct tan colour. Many of those I remember were the dust gathering corporate gifts given to my father by the then very rich leather chemicals industry. But the brief cases and the gloves had a lot of character. Would it not be good to see this market develop again?
- 02/07/09 - Leather Demand Damages Amazon Rain Forest
Western beef & leather demand leading to intensified deforestation in the Amazon: http://bit.ly/3PtVi
The big issue which is dominating the leather discussion of the moment is the recent report by Greenpeace on ranching in the Amazon. See (http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/slaughtering-the-amazon)
Its arrival was accompanied by a good PR promotion which included very good articles in the Financial Times and the Guardian and enormous email campaign to companies throughout the world. The Greenpeace web site says as I write this:
"The story also got huge coverage in Brazil. The issue has shot to prominence in the country, and on the day our report was released a Brazilian federal prosecutor filed a billion dollar lawsuit against the cattle ranching industry! He wrote to major slaughterhouse companies including Bertin, as well as 69 companies purchasing cattle products implicated in deforestation including Carrefour and Wal-Mart, threatening them with fines if they do not stop buying from farms acting illegally.
Outside of Brazil, we have generated a buzz in the shoe sector - a major purchaser of Amazon leather. A Greenpeace protest outside shoe company Geox's headquarters in Milan has kept the pressure on, and we are seeking meetings with all the shoe companies that are named in the report."
I have mixed views on this as I have been writing about the shortage of land for breeding cattle for some years highlighting peer reviewed papers on the Amazon such Caviglia-Harris (2005) and Chinese Xinhua News Agency reports on Chinese moves to keep land available for human food crops. These were mostly received in silence, but a few people argued that this was just the old argument of the 1970s and 80s that we would run out of raw material for leather. They did not take the bigger point that we are now short of land and water on the planet and the leather industry has to consider its environmental responsibilities seriously. Now they do.
Reuters report said: The report presented satellite analysis it said showed that meat exported by Brazil's big meatpackers to make everything from Italian shoes and U.S. dog chews to U.K. ready-to-eat meals often comes from ranches with recent illegal deforestation.
The major meatpackers, such as JBS, Marfrig and Bertin, ship the beef or hides thousands of miles south for further processing before export, it said.
"In effect, criminal or "dirty" supplies of cattle are laundered through the supply chain to an unwitting global market," it said. "Expansion by these groups is effectively a 'joint venture' with the Brazilian government."
The report also identified a string of major companies including Adidas, Nike, BMW, Honda, Gucci, Tesco and Wal-Mart that it said used "Amazon-contaminated" supplies.
It said companies often are unaware of the Amazon link because they buy "blindly" from Brazil and they cannot see the connections back to the rain forest, but it insisted they are real. "Everything is connected to the Amazon," said Greenpeace campaigner Andre Muggiati."
From where I sit I have to say the complaints are true and that the leather industry does have to move to clean up its act. It is just a shame that the industry has spent so many decades establishing a low profile culture and claiming that its sole role in life is managing a bi-product. Had this not been so the industry would have been better prepared when things like this happened, would have the lines of communications in place to answer back with properly researched material, and more than likely would have done something well in advance to stop the industry being involved in such errors.
Back in 2007 I remember being told that my comments on the Amazon were too hysterical and not of true value to the industry. I know a few companies who should have taken my comments seriously.
And note that the title of this piece is a Tweet posted on Twitter by a writer with a Ph.D. in environmenttal engineering - now science/environmental/political writer from the USA called Sarah Emily Labance. News gets around quickly.