Work is underway to make Mongolias leather sector more sustainable

Work is underway to make Mongolia's leather sector more sustainable

A new initiative has been launched to set up the first sustainable tannery in Mongolia, with the ultimate aim of producing a consumer-facing label to communicate where the leather in their shoes, bags and jackets has come from.

The plans were announced today (19 June) during a congress for the Dutch leather sector. MVO Nederland (CSR Netherlands) will work with a number of Dutch companies including chemical suppliers, brands and retailers to support the tanneries and help sell their products.

Taking part in the venture are chemical company Stahl, which produces leather dyes and coatings; Macintosh Retail Group (operator of the Manfield, Scapino and Dolcis stores); degradable footwear firm OAT Shoes; sustainable bag label MYOMY; the DNR sustainable leather jackets brand from Donders; and the clothing label Traced Good that's strives for transparency in the chain. to support the tanneries and make their production process sustainable.

Stahl has been creating closer ties with the tannery sector in Mongolia since 2013, in a collaboration with the Mongolian government. The aim was to make the local production process more sustainable and improve the quality of the leather.

The new sustainable tannery will use technologies and products that are less harmful to the environment. At the same time, employment conditions will also be assessed.
The partnership also aims to encourage other tanneries in Mongolia to follow this sustainable example.

The Dutch companies will provide advice, schooling and technical support as well as assist in selling the Mongolian products in the Netherlands. The tanneries will also be certified so that they can carry a Mongolian sustainability label.

The label "will make future consumers aware that the leather shoes, bags or jackets have been made by the most sustainable route possible in the Mongolian highlands," the firms say.

The Mongolian leather sector has barely developed since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The tanneries operate under the authority of Chinese traders, using Chinese chemicals that fall short of international safety and environmental standards.

Now that the Mongolian economy is growing and the government is stimulating ‘green developments', opportunities have opened for tanneries to make their production process sustainable and improve the quality of the leather. This will also enable them to supply customers outside of China.

The conference ‘Grensverleggers in de leersector' (Ground-breakers in the leather sector) in Utrecht marks the first time that the entire Dutch leather sector - from skin traders to chemical suppliers and brands to retailers - has been brought together to discuss projects for making the leather sector sustainable.

MVO Nederland is implementing a programme to promote sustainable business in developing countries. The leather sector is one of the first to combine forces to initiate sustainable change.