With Proposed EU Due Diligence Law, India Can Take Global Lead in Sustainable & Responsible Leather

Ambar Bhattacharya, Takmaa News, Kolkata, 5th Dec 2023 : Solidaridad, an international civil society organisation dedicated to fostering sustainable development, conducted a workshop on ‘European Union Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (EU CSDDD) and Its Significance for the Leather Sector in India’, in Kolkata on Tuesday.

The workshop, which saw participation of key industry voices from the leather sector in India as well as EU representatives, focused on raising awareness around the proposed EU legislation and how it could lead to a global shift towards sustainable and ethically produced leather.

India is the fourth-largest exporter of leather goods globally, and the Indian leather industry employs more than 4 million people. With its focus on enforcing stringent environmental and social governance standards, the proposed EU legislation can mark a potential turning point for India’s leather sector. To that end, the discussions in the workshop outlined how regulatory frameworks can drive substantial progress in sustainable practices, positioning India as a potential pioneer in environmentally and socially responsible leather production.

Speaking at the event, Laurent Le Danois, Team Leader – Cooperation Section, Delegation of EU to India and Bhutan said, “I am proud of the support the European Union is providing to the Kolkata leather cluster, along with Team Europe members from the Netherlands and Italy. This EU-India partnership, spearheaded by Solidaridad, PISIE, Dugros, Stahl and the Calcutta Leather Complex Tanners’ Association, is promoting, testing and implementing resource efficient, pollution reducing and cost saving technical solutions that make sense for the tannery industry, its workers, the planet, and people at large.”

Today, on behalf of the European Union, I inaugurated the Centre of Sustainability of the Bantala Leather Complex, in the outskirts of Kolkata. This is a first of its kind such centre which enables all tannery owners, managers and workers to come and see and understand the purpose of each of the new technologies displayed, and currently utilised in several factories. This is a centre we should all be proud of.

The CSDDD, which is still in the drafting stage, will require large companies in the EU to identify and mitigate negative social and environmental impacts of their operations and those of their suppliers. The directive addresses a wide range of concerns, from human rights abuses to environmental issues like biodiversity, mercury use, and hazardous waste management. This implies that Indian leather goods suppliers will have to meet certain standards under the EUCSDDD to continue exporting to Europe.

There are multiple benefits for Indian suppliers in taking a proactive approach on compliance.

First, complying with the CSDDD helps Indian tanneries show their dedication to sustainability and ethical practices. This can greatly enhance their reputation among eco-conscious European consumers and businesses, leading to increased demand and brand recognition.

Second, European financial institutions are focusing more on sustainability investments. Being compliant with the CSDDD makes Indian tanneries more appealing to these investors, essential for upgrading facilities and expanding operations.

Third, adhering to the CSDDD opens up new opportunities, like collaborations with European brands committed to sustainable leather. These partnerships can provide access to new markets, technologies, and expertise.

“Solidaridad firmly believes in turning challenges into opportunities. The CSDDD compliance is not a burden but a golden chance to stand out in the EU market. By proactively adopting sustainability and ethical practices, we can position ourselves as industry leaders, attracting new customers, securing investments, and expanding our reach worldwide,” said Shatadru Chattopadhyay, Managing Director, Solidaridad Asia.

Globally, consumers are demanding ethically sourced and environment-positive products, and the proposed EU legislation is a reflection of that. “The European market is critical for our business. With consumers in export markets, and now increasingly in domestic markets too, demanding sustainable leather, it makes business sense for us to invest in solutions that reduce environmental footprint. Not only does it help us get better prices for our products in international markets, it is also bringing operational efficiency in our units,” Mr. Nadeem Azhar, M. K. Products.

“Inaugurating the ‘Centre of Sustainability’ marks a pivotal moment for the leather industry, transcending its polluting label. It’s time to address the root cause and usher in a new era of waste-to-wealth initiatives. Urging State Authorities to endorse our transformative plans and banish the notion of ‘leather look-alike’ from our vocabulary.” – said Mr. Imran Ahmed Khan, General Secretary of CLCTA.

“We are working for weaker section of the society, for women empowerment. Deeply appreciate what Solidaridad has doing for KLC and each of their effort with CLCTA. Encouraging work has done in QR code portal. CLE will sign a MoU at Delhi with Solidaridad to generate 1,50,000 employments.” – said Mr. Sanjay Leekha, Chairman, CLE.

The workshop was organised as part of the “Effective Waste Management and Sustainable Development of the MSME Tanning Companies in the Kolkata Leather Cluster (Bantala)” project implemented by Solidaridad, and funded by the European Union under its SWITCH-Asia programme. Other partners in the project include Il Politecnico Internazionale per lo Sviluppo Industriale ed Economico (PISIE), the Calcutta Leather Complex Tanners Association (CLCTA), Stahl, Dugros and Council for Leather Exports.

The workshop witnessed the participation of Mr. Rehan Ahmed (N. J. Exports), Mr. Rahul Gupta (Ciria Tannery), Mr. Chitran Jha (Weblec International), Mr. Ashik Jamal (Dugros Leather India Pvt. Ltd), Mr. Imran Akhter (Aslam Tanning Industries Pvt. Ltd), Md. Alim (Crescent Export Syndicate), Mr. Zia Nafiz (Joint Secretary, CLCTA), Mr. Nehal Zafar (ANS Leather).

The workshop was preceded by the inauguration of “Centre of Sustainability” and “Tallow Extraction Unit” in the Bantala leather cluster in Kolkata by Laurent Le Danois, Team Leader – Cooperation Section, Delegation of EU to India and Bhutan and Shatadru Chattopadhyay, Managing Director of Solidaridad Asia. Supported by the Calcutta Leather Complex Tanners’ Association, this centre, spread across 2,000 sq. ft., showcases a range of techno-commercially viable interventions aimed at reducing the environmental footprint of the leather production in tanneries, in a cost-effective manner.

Solidaridad has also presented GHG emission avoidance certificates to two progressive tanneries of Kolkata Leather Cluster, N. J. Exports and Dugros Leather India Pvt. Ltd.

These interventions include cutting-edge technologies such as desalting machine, enzyme-assisted dehairing technology, accurate weighing system, smart water automated saving system, digital water flow metre, low salt tanning technology, and innovative approaches like the extraction of tallow and protein residue from fleshing waste, production of paver blocks from sludge, creation of bonded leather sheets from waste, and the reutilization of buffing dust in leather processing and waste management.

The “Effective Waste Management and Sustainable Development of the MSME Tanning Companies in the Kolkata Leather Cluster (Bantala)” project aims to create capacities and conditions within tanneries and their support organisations for the widespread adoption of green tanning technologies and improved waste reduction, re-use, and solid waste management practices. To achieve the larger goal of empowering and supporting the tanneries, the project also aims to enable them to meet international quality and environmental standards, thereby enhancing the competitiveness of the Indian leather industry on the global stage.

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