With close to 600 tanneries, Tamil Nadu is the key centre for the leather industry in India. On June 22, 2022, Solidaridad Regional Expertise Centre and its partners launched an EU-India sustainability project for the leather clusters in Tamil Nadu which promotes sustainable consumption and production across the Asia-Pacific region.

The 42-month initiative, called ‘Promoting Circularity in the Tamil Nadu Leather Clusters for Solid Waste Management,’ focuses on circularity through solid waste management and water efficiency practices in the leather sector along with improvement in behavioural practices through Occupational Health and Safety. 

In line with Tamil Nadu’s effort to transition to a resource-efficient and circular economy model, the circularity initiative supports clusters to adopt cleaner and sustainable production practices and entails pilot demonstration of sustainable technologies at the tanneries, which mainly process semi-finished leather into finished and value-added products for export. Tatheer Zaidi, Solidaridad General Manager-Pollution Management in MSMEs, described the programme as the next step to scale our initiatives to the Tamil Nadu geography after having successfully demonstrated the appropriate techno-commercial viable interventions in Kanpur and Kolkata leather clusters. 

The project will follow four key approaches: 

  • Solidaridad will work with its partners and technical experts to demonstrate a series of circular tanning and waste-to-value technologies at cluster level. 
  • Tannery workforce will be capacitated on better tanning practices, solid waste management, and occupational health and safety through a training-of-trainers programme. 
  • Sectoral cooperation and market linkages for ‘waste to value’ products will be facilitated by engaging with potential national and international off-takers. 
  • A public-private partnership platform will be established that represents the interests of key stakeholders. These stakeholders will come together to create a roadmap for improving waste management at the cluster level.

The EU is India’s third-largest trading partner, with Europe being one of the largest markets for Indian leather products. With the financial support of 80% contribution to the programme, the EU’s support to this initiative aligns with India’s development priorities.

We are very pleased to collaborate with Tamil Nadu on this project as sustainability, circular economy and resource efficiency are the key pillars of the EU-India partnership. This project will not only help to reduce environmental footprint of the tanneries but also improve health and safety conditions of the workers, taking India a step closer to fulfilling SDGs.

Ugo Astuto, Ambassador of the European Union to India

The programme is funded by the European Union under its SWITCH-Asia Programme and aims to establish a global benchmark for the leather sector. Solidaridad Regional Expertise Centre’s partners on the initiative include Politecnico Internazionale per lo Sviluppo Industriale ed Economico (PISIE), Indian Finished Leather Manufacturers and Exporters Association (IFLMEA), Council for Leather Exports, and Tata International Limited and the European Union (EU).