“This can be either by using bio-based raw materials in their products or by designing products which will reduce the CO2, energy, water or toxicological footprint of their customers’ products.”

We asked more about this to to Michael Costello, Stahl’s Sustainability Director.

Sustainability is a big word. What does it mean for a big company like Stahl?

“We believe that as a market leader we need to take responsibility to minimize the environmental impact. This mentality is felt throughout our whole organization in providing high quality products and services to our customers. Our membership in the UN Global Compact and our alignment to the seventeen UN Sustainable Development Goals is a clear indication of our commitment to a more sustainable future”.

We know that you have many policies and initiatives in place to ensure continuous improvement. Which are the most important results so far?

“Looking at just the last few years, we made a lot of efforts in minimizing the environmental impact within the leather industry. Not only by looking closely to our own product portfolio, but also promoting transparency and sustainability within the supply chain.

In 2016 we became an affiliate of the ZDHC Foundation, underlining our commitment to help lead the clothing industry towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020. The apparel and footwear chain is long and complex and the foundation is cooperation closely with its members to drive industry-wide change.

In that same year, we joined forces with multiple partners within the supply chain in organizing ReVeal, an event to promote full transparency and traceability to the leather supply chain. Taken the success of the event, we organized the third edition in 2018 with leading industry partners to show that partnership is pivotal in achieving a more transparent supply chain”.

We know that recently you promoted environmental programs in India, Ethiopia, etc. Why?

“We led multiple sustainability seminars in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. With these seminars Stahl aims to familiarize local professionals with its sustainability philosophy for the industry and related sustainable solutions. The seminars attracted an average of 350 people per seminar.

In November 2017, Solidaridad, Stahl and PUM Netherlands senior experts and a number of Indian partners officially launched a public-private partnership linked to the Clean Ganges project launched by the Indian government. The five-year project is focused on reducing water pollution in the Kanpur Leather Cluster. In July 2018, Stahl joined forces again with Solidaridad and CSR Netherlands and launched the ‘Green Tanning Initiative’. This three-year program – funded by the European Union under the SWITCH Africa Green initiative – is aimed at promoting environmental friendly leather making and creating sustainable employment in the Ethiopian leather industry. The program is aimed at collaborating with Ethiopian abattoirs, tanneries and factories on different sustainable consumption and production practices”.

What about Stahl’s new products?

“We are very proud of the continuous growth of our Stahl Neo portfolio. All the solutions within the portfolio for leather are compliant with the Manufactured Restricted Substance List (MRSL) launched by the ZDHC Foundation”.

Next goals?

“We will continue with promoting transparency along the supply chain through the environmental programs, sustainability seminars and other activities.

As part of our five-year program in India, we will introduce environmentally cautious production methods and train tannery staff on best practices together with our partners. In May this year we will open a new Center of Excellence in India to demonstrate more sustainable technologies to produce leather and there will be activities for downstream communities about efficient water use for irrigation and livestock farming.

Stahl is still on course to achieve its target of 10% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020. In 2017 Stahl made its first estimation of scope 3 emissions as per the GHG Protocol Corporate Value Chain Accounting and Reporting Standard. This exercise is designed to understand the full value chain impact of its activities and will help to focus efforts on significant sources of GHG emissions.

We are also working on making our production facilities more self-sufficient. A good example of this is that we placed 2250 solar panels on our facilities in Brazil. The panels provide for 50% of the facility’s energy”.

Which new challenges are still to be gained in the sector?

“There are still many challenges to be gained. Reaching a sustainable industry is complex, there are a lot of factors at play. For example, a long standing discussion that affects the industry is the impact of leather production on the environment. While some may say the impact on the environment is close to zero because leather is a by-product of the meat and dairy industry, others disagree. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a methodology that measures the impact of any product on the environment in the course of its life. It can provide quantitative, full life cycle information on products in a format that permits comparisons to be made. Stahl is a big advocate of the LCA methodology and will keep promoting it during several events and webinars with professionals within the industry. The impact of LCA will be much greater when more partners in the supply chain provide data and when real comparisons can be made. This in turn will lead to better decisions on processes and technologies within the leather industry”.