Inspection, testing and certification company SGS is offering a training course aimed at guiding leather manufacturers through hazardous substance control.

The course uses a combination of presentational approaches but with a strong emphasis on providing the students with practical tools they can use to implement a new approach to substance control when they return to their factories.

Each stage of the manufacturing process is covered, enabling individual factories to catalogue their chemical inventory and identify the means by which each chemical should be assessed for hazard level. Students leave the course able to introduce effective chemical control systems into their own settings.

SGS says the course overcomes the knowledge gap in the textile sector. Leather manufacturers can reduce the use of restricted hazardous substances and improve profitability through chemical flow management.

"With tighter regulations to protect human health and the environment being introduced, manufacturers of leather and leather products must find ways to control the levels of restricted substances used by their businesses," SGS says. "End-product testing has proven to be unreliable, resulting in costly product recalls. Instead, manufacturers are now seeing the advantage of shifting their restricted substances focus from testing end products to assessing input chemicals."

Leather and leather product manufacturers and retailers are increasingly promoting the assessment of input chemicals through the adoption of Manufacturing Restricted Substances Lists (MRSL); the tanning industry is already using Restricted Substances Lists (RSL). MRSLs allow the processing chemicals and auxiliaries, such as dyes, retannages and fatliquors, to be profiled to ensure conformance.

According to SGS, a considerable problem for brands and retailers is that tanneries often use local small suppliers, so, while third-party assessment systems do exist, they may not be applicable to the tannery's situation.

"Experience from the textile and apparel sector has shown that often a knowledge gap exists in how to implement hazardous substance controls at the factory level. The most challenging part for businesses is the classification of risk associated with each chemical, because most factories are given insufficient information about each substance," says SGS.

"While leather manufacturing differs greatly from textile manufacturing, from the perspective of HSC they are very similar. It is therefore possible to take the experience gained in the apparel and footwear sector and transpose it to the leather industry."

SGS says benefits for tanneries include a reduction in risk and increased chemical efficiency. Through the optimisation of the chemical hazardous risk profile at the purchasing stage, the tannery can significantly reduce the use of many restricted substances and mitigate against environmental issues. The increased focus on input rather than output chemicals will also allow greater efficiencies to be created, cutting costs through a reduction in the amount of chemicals being discharged into the waste stream. This will also reduce effluent/waste treatment and disposal costs. Effective CFM will also create greater confidence in the tannery along the whole supply chain, resulting in their products becoming sought after by potential customers.