Consortium opens centre of excellence for leather industry

A facilitation centre for the leather industry opened in Kanpur, India on 6 February, 2020. It will help drive sustainable transformation of the industry, which is based in the town.

The state-of-the-art facility was inaugurated at the Kanpur Leather Complex by Marten van den Berg, Dutch ambassador to India. It is part of the Pollution Prevention and Efficient Water Use programme for the Kanpur-Unnao leather cluster. 

Marten van den Berg, Dutch ambassador to India, and Mukhtarul Amin, former chairman of the Council for Leather Exports

More water efficiency, less effluent

This Dutch-funded programme, led by Solidaridad, is introducing global best practices for tanneries in areas such as optimum water usage and recycling, and the prevention of pollution through effluent discharge.

The Kanpur-Unnao region of Uttar Pradesh State was once a formidable exporter of leather products. Recently, it has been a social, political and environmental conundrum for its contribution to pollution. Most affected is the iconic River Ganga (or Ganges), which runs through Kanpur. 

That’s because the Indian government launched an ambitious Namami Gange programme in June 2014. The programme aims to prevent pollution in the Ganga and restore its vitality. As a result, the leather industry in the region has come under stricter scrutiny from national and state pollution control boards, and other regulatory bodies. 

A consortium-led programme

In a mission to bring about sustainable transformation of the Kanpur-Unnao region and its leather industry, a consortium of Indo-Dutch partners joined hands in 2017. The consortium partners are:

  • Solidaridad
  • Stahl, a leading chemicals multinational
  • PUM, a volunteer organization sharing expertise with SMEs worldwide
  • the UP Leather Industry Association
  • the Small Tanners Association
  • the Central Leather Research Institute
  • the Ganga Pollution Control Unit

Together, they set up the programme for the Kanpur-Unnao leather cluster. The focal point of the programme is to develop and implement technology-driven, eco-friendly processes in Kanpur’s leather industry. The aim is to contain pollution in the Ganga thanks to efficient water use and well-managed discharging of effluent.

“We can now train our staff on best practices which is the need of the hour” – Mr H. Rahman, the Small Tanners Association

Watch this video to learn more about the programme.

Sharing sustainable and innovative practices

Led by Stahl, the programme’s Centre of Excellence seeks to improve the efficiency of tanneries by sharing knowledge on sustainable practices and innovative, eco-friendly technologies. 

“We can now train our staff on best practices – which is the need of the hour,” said Mr H. Rahman, president of the Small Tanners Association, at the inauguration. 

Tanneries in Kanpur, especially the smaller ones, have been running far below their production capacity in the past few years. More than 200 have endured lockdown for months on end, leading to huge losses both in terms of exports and local markets.

Tatheer Zaidi, regional programme head, Solidaridad Asia; Tuncay Deriner, managing director, Stahl India; Gert van der Bijl, international programme head, Solidaridad; D.P. Mathuria, executive director, National Mission for Clean Ganga; Huub van Beijeren, CEO, Stahl; Mukhtarul Amin, former chairman, Council for Leather Exports; Taj Alam, vice president, UPLIA; Marten van den Berg, Dutch ambassador to India; Javed Iqbal, regional chairman, Council for Leather Exports; and Maya Acharya, senior advisor, Dutch Embassy 

The new facility will improve prospects for the tanneries by teaching their workers, supervisors and other relevant stakeholders global leather industry standards in areas including: 

  • state-of-the-art technologies
  • eco-friendly practices
  • safe use of chemicals
  • shop-floor management 

“A great opportunity” 

Ambassador Marten van den Berg said, “The Netherlands and India make a great team to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goals 16 and 17, and both the countries emphasise the value of water globally, not just as an economic asset but also in the light of its social, cultural and environmental importance.” 

The CEO of Stahl, Huub van Beijeren, who was also present at the inauguration, mentioned that the partnership with Solidaridad has been a “great opportunity” to drive positive change in one of India's leading leather clusters. 

The Centre of Excellence [is] an important step towards reducing the environmental footprint and improving working conditions in the Kanpur leather cluster”- Huub van Beijeren, Stahl

He said that Stahl’s approach towards a more sustainable and transparent leather industry is built on promoting collaboration throughout the supply chain, and the Centre of Excellence is the result of effective collaboration.

“With the opening of the Centre of Excellence, we are taking an important step towards reducing the environmental footprint and improving working conditions in the Kanpur leather cluster,” he said.

Mr. D.P. Mathuria, Executive Director, National Mission for Clean Ganga, Government of India, said: “It is encouraging to see businesses and civil society organisations coming together under the ambit of this meaningful project to contribute significantly in the Clean Ganga mission. With ‘Centre of Excellence’ coming into operations, hope the industry is able to benefit from the facility and implement national and global best practices in their production process.”

Environmental and economic progress

The Solidaridad-led consortium strongly believes that environmental initiatives and economic growth are both crucial to realise constructive and sustainable developments. 

Shatadru Chattopadhyay, managing director, Solidaridad Asia, commented, “The excellence centre showcases Dutch technologies for water-efficient and eco-friendly tanning to reduce pollution of the Ganga cost-effectively. The present project also showcases how a serious ecological challenge may be solved in a viable way using a Public-Private Partnership model in India.”

>Learn more about Solidaridad's leather programme