ICEC is the Italian Institute of Quality Certification for the leather sector founded in 1994 on the initiative of the Italian tanning association which, thanks to its high competence, now also operates outside national borders. The Certifications proposed by ICEC are of various types: environmental, ethical-social, economic and product. Among the latter, the traceability of raw materials upstream of the tannery is today one of the most sought-after certifications. We talk about it with its director, Sabrina Frontini.

Sabrina Frontini

What does leather traceability mean and what is the trend request of these types of Certifications?
“Traceability means having documented and verifiable information on the countries of origin, i.e. slaughter and breeding of the animals from which the raw or semi-finished skins/hides that the tanneries process come from. The request for traceability certifications, which ICEC provides through the TS410/412 schemes, is constantly growing. Every year the growth trend of this certification sees the number of certificates issued double. It is currently the most requested certification on the market”.

In these type of requests, how much does the push of fashion brands that ask for an increasingly transparent supply chain weigh?
“The push of the brands is of primary importance to determine on which and how many themes tanneries must give guarantees, thus demonstrating transparency in all the activities carried out. Consequently, to respond to their customers, tanneries choose to certify according to schemes recognised by the market.
But it should be emphasised that it is also the supply chain companies themselves that want to be more transparent in the supply of products and services. Therefore they actively and voluntarily undertake improvement paths and certifications with results that are then absolutely appreciated by customers”.

Could you tell us how many tanneries have already obtained it and how many procedures are still in progress?
“Currently, according to the ICEC TS 410/412 schemes there are already 45 traceability certifications issued by ICEC and about 20 Italian and foreign companies have already submitted the certification request”.

What are the main difficulties encountered along the certification path?
“For this scheme, the main problem is finding the documented and verifiable information in a supply chain that is often not organised to provide it, or that simply wants to keep it confidential. In fact, names of slaughterhouses and farms, when available, are sensitive information from a commercial point of view, which the players in the supply chain tend to protect. The Certification in this sense is useful because the information is viewed and evaluated by the Certification Body which keeps it confidential. Brands/customers are given a certificate that through a rating indicates the quantity and quality of the source information verified, but without revealing confidential information. In the future we will also combine product data sheets which, depending on the origin, will also indicate the types of legislation applied to protect, for example, animal welfare or the environment”.

What are times and costs of the Certification?
“The traceability certification involves annual inspections. It is a product certification, and the duration of an annual inspection is on average half a day of work in the company dedicated to checking the quantity and quality of the information collected, and the system requirements set by the standards.
As for costs, it is preferable to contact ICEC for a quote, but they are in no way prohibitive, given the limited duration of the verification”.

 What role does ICEC play in the UNECE project to increase the transparency of supply chains?
“ICEC participates likewise to UNIC and Cotance and many other interested parties in the UNECE project for the transparency and traceability of the leather supply chain. We strongly believe in this worldwide project and ours is a very active and supporting role in providing experience and data. It is an ongoing work that sees us engaged in meetings, webinars, and many initiatives that are proposed to the group of experts in which ICEC has participated since the beginning of the project”.