Spin 360 for leather

Some industrial sectors are acting more rapidly than others on sustainability, among which Automotive, Design and Fashion. Corporations and brands can no longer run the risk of being found guilty of non-sustainable practices along their supply chains.

The leather industry, as key supplier of these sectors, is being asked to rapidly evolve and develop strategies and techniques to face the new sets of requirements developed by its customers. These involve: respect of human rights, health & safety on the workplace, environmental protection, fair trade and operating practices, consumer safety, chemical management, traceability of raw materials and animal welfare.

In this context, Spin360 is developing a set of innovative services, new operational tools and innovative models of business relationships in the global leather supply chain, an innovative and solid sustainability approach that is based on recognized international standards, which meets the needs of safer supply chains for customers, including all potential risk factors without favoring the proliferation of new standards and certification schemes.


An extensive market research has been conducted, in order to identify the most important requirements that need to be addressed. With the support of two leading organizations (Lineapelle and The MICAM), we have analyzed more than 110 among Brands and Retailers, over 50 shoe manufacturers and a similar number of tanneries. Results show that interest, commitment and activities are focused on two sets of requirements: the ones that we define “generic” (that are not applicable only to the leather industry) and the ones that we can define “sector specific”. Results of our research show that the most important “generic” requirements are the ones that deal with the most important and widely accepted topics of Sustainability and of Corporate Social Responsibility: from human rights, to the protection of consumer health, to adequate working conditions, to environmental protection.

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In order to identify and propose to the leather market a complete and exhaustive set of requirements, Spin360 carried out an extensive research on existing qualified international standards that include the requirements described above, identifying ISO 26000 “Guidance on Social Responsibility” as the most suitable reference. It is developed by the world’s leading recognized standardization body and provides a holistic and comprehensive approach to sustainability, with requirements covering all major sustainability-related spheres of interest identified during our market research.

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Our research shown an increasing trend by Brands and Retailers in requiring traceability from the finished product up to the farm(s) where animals have been raised. The most important reason for this is again the avoidance of risks related to unsustainable practices in animal rearing, such as for example deforestation or animal bad living conditions.

From a Legislative point of view, Except for CITES[1](that is applicable only to a limited selection of endangered species), there is no international regulation on the traceability of raw hides and skins. There is moreover no sanitary need to trace up to the farm single hides and skins and therefore few investments have been made by different actors of the supply chain until now.Taking in consideration the structure of the leather supply chain, there are at least three points in which the traceability can be lost: in slaughterhouses, in warehouses and in tanneries producing semi-processed material. Having all this as important background, we have developed advanced solutions for several different cases, with success.

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LCA “studies the environmental aspects and potential impacts throughout a product’s life cycle (i.e. cradle-to-grave) from raw material acquisition through production, use and disposal” (ISO, 2006) and it is the basic method used in product environmental foot-printing.

There has been a long debate in the leather scientific community on one important issue, related to the so called “System Boundaries” that represent the Life Cycle Stages that have to be included in the calculations for a specific product. The industry long stood for the start of the life of leather at the gate of the abattoir (therefore excluding animal rearing), being it a by-product of the meat industry, while, according to the most recent scientific developments, the Life Cycle Stages to be considered in leather production (System Boundaries) start at the Farm and end at the exit gate of the tannery. This debate is of outmost importance for the leather industry, since the impacts related to animal farming are by far more important and more relevant than the ones generated in leather making. We in Spin360 have carried out LCA and LCC studies in tanneries and chemical industries all over the world and we are using the results of our activities to guide improvement programs of our customers

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The leather supply chain is implemented through 2 main pathways:Product Restricted Substances List (PRSL), to guarantee the respect of specified limits for a list of Hazardous substances in the product (Leather)and Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL), to guarantee the respect of specified limits for a list of Hazardous substances in the manufacturing processes leading to Leather.

PRSLsare mainly meant to guarantee compliance of the final products when traded worldwide (customs in different countries have specific requirements to allow products in) and for protection of consumer health (limits can be in fact different for goods destined to children). Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL)recently started to be spread in the leather supply chain. Also in this case there are different documents issued by different brands and retailers, including or excluding specific substances and referring to different limits. Compliance is verified both through declaration of the different suppliers and by laboratory tests on chemicals, both by customers and by tanneries.

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The problem in the leather supply chain is linked with the non-homogeneous interpretation of the topic by the market. The topic is highly regulated in different areas of the world (Es. Europe – Dir. 93/119, Reg. 1099/2009-, US, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Norway) and there are also important international references (OIE – World Organization for Animal Health and FAO – Food and Agricultural Organization). In general, we considered the international standards on animal welfare issued by OIE[1]as the most applicable ones for international harmonization purposes. The standard in fact provide details referring to the “5 freedoms” to be guaranteed to animals, during different phases of their life (Es. production systems, transport, slaughter): freedom from hunger, malnutrition and thirst, freedom from fear and distress, freedom from physical and thermal discomfort, freedom from pain, injury and disease, freedom to express normal patterns of behavior. From the leather perspective, animal welfare can only be verified if the source of the raw hides are known, but here we go back to the problems described on Traceability, but several best practices have been tested positively and the supply chains are benefiting from it.

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Synesis è una società consortile europea no-profit, frutto di una collaborazione pubblico-privato, costituita per la parte privata da piccole e medie imprese italiane e tedesche e per la parte pubblica da istituti di ricerca e sviluppo tecnologico: il CNR (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche) per l’Italia e la Fraunhofer Gesellschaft per la Germania.

Synesis svolge il ruolo di tramite fra il mondo della ricerca e l’innovazione in ambito industriale attraverso progetti di ricerca e offrendo servizi di trasferimento tecnologico e opportunità di collaborazione diretta alle imprese che hanno scelto l’innovazione come chiave per rispondere alle sfide produttive del nuovo millennio.