Sustainability with the Leather Industry: A Review of Changes over the last 100 Years

  • Lama, A. (Speaker)
  • Jeanette Casey (Speaker)

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsOral presentationResearch


The concept of sustainability is not new, dating back to the late 19th Century. Within the leather industry, evidences of growing concern regarding effluent issues were recorded in the late 1800s/early 1900s in various articles published during that period. Introduction of legislations to protect the environment were also seen around the same time. Simple effluent treatment procedures were practiced, as well as various effluent treatment options being investigated. Hexavalent chromium was still in use, however the negative impacts were noted and solutions proposed.

As the leather industry moved to the middle of the 19th Century, focus on effluent treatment increased. Single bath chromium tanning using trivalent chromium was introduced and rapidly became popular, so that in the late 20th Century use of hexavalent chromium was discontinued. The IULTCS (International Union of Leather Technologists and Chemists Societies) effluent commission was formed. The Waste Framework Directive was introduced along with the concept of waste hierarchy. Effluent treatment started to be a standard procedure for many tanneries. The emergence of pressure groups such as ‘environmentalist’ and ‘consumerist’ was also observed during this period.

In the 21st Century, the leather industry has moved beyond simply treating effluent. Focus on certification and authentication has increased. Corporate Social Responsibility has become an integral feature for many organisations. Community and economy are just as important as environment. For a sustainable business strategy it is important to measure the social and financial impact along with the environmental aspect. Therefore, it is becoming critical to adopt the concept of ‘triple bottom line’ and consider all three aspects; social, environmental and economic sustainability, to ensure a sustainable leather industry.
Period2 Sep 2017
Held atInstitute for Creative Leather Technologies
Degree of RecognitionRegional


  • Leather
  • sustainability
  • triple bottom line
  • backcasting