In our short interview at the 7th International IAFLI Congress themed “Innovative Aspects for Leather Industry”, we talked with Mr. Gustavo Gonzalez-QUIJANO, secretary general of the Confederation of National Tanners and Finishers’ Associations of the European Community COTANCE, who is academically involved in many projects and applications in University-Industry cooperation, Turkey Ege University Graduate School of Natural and Applied Science Institute of Chairman of the IAFLI Congress Organizing Committee, We have compiled our interview with Prof. Dr. Bahri BASARAN.
Can we know Mr. Gustavo COTANCE?
COTANCE, the Confederation of National Tanners’ and Finishers’ Associations of the European Community, is an important organization covering the European leather tanning industry. We are celebrating our 50th anniversary. Associations of 11 member countries, with our headquarters in Brussels, are affiliated with our organization. With this unity, COTANCE, as the representative of the leather industry, that is, leather production, represents a large industry.
Will Genuine Leather End? I asked this question to encourage the use of genuine leather and to raise awareness about genuine leather. Because in terms of the ‘vegan’ industry, I wanted to ask this question while we are talking about the sustainability of the world’s industries and the sustainability of synthetic and petrochemical materials is also on the agenda.
Of course, there is already such a development. It is in a situation where it is occupying that region instead of the products produced by the leather industry. It currently constitutes a very small part of the market. Because the products you find in the market do not currently cover a wide area. The leather industry is a very big industry, but it should not be defined with anything short. It is an industry that produces a wide range of raw materials. Although the raw materials in the world are abundant in the leather industry, there is not enough raw material production. This is an important fact. Leaving the leather industry aside, they will say “Vegan leather”, “Mushroom leather”, “Apple leather”, of course. Because there is confusion in the market and people do not know what is what. People in the market think that it is a leather-like product made from mushrooms or apples. But there is no alternative to leather. It is very important to know that the properties of leather do not exist in any other material.
Leather is a very well-known material. When you look at its features, it is a material that has been examined in every aspect. We are only discussing other materials with their visible aspects, there are many unknown and invisible situations in the background, they do not appear, hence the confusion in the market.
What can be said about “Deforestation and Animal welfare” on the world’s agenda?
In addition to the question, “Animal Husbandry and Farming are one of the oldest crafts in the world. “Leather Craft” is also an old craft. “The more livestock and farming are done correctly in terms of sustainability, the more the regenerative transition that greens the world is very important for climate and sustainability.”
Deforestation is actually a current issue that everyone is discussing right now. The underlying reasons are being examined. If you take deforestation to an advanced level, this will also take climate change to very different levels.
It can be stated very clearly that ‘Leather has never led to deforestation.’ Leather is the result of the Meat industry. The livestock industry, which we see as raising animals, is shown as one of the causes of deforestation, but if we look at it as the Leather industry, it is too low to even be 1% of the deforestation. In other words, leather production is not a purpose of animal production, and this should not come out of this: we do not slaughter animals for their Leather.
As Raw Leather, are there any certifications for fantastic leathers?
This is in the Italian certification. There is a certificate issued for slaughtering the animal for meat and transforming its leather. It is the declaration of the Italian certification body. Some animals are slaughtered for their leather and for the use of their meat in different areas. Yes, there are various explanations and reasons for these sectors.
The main area of activity of the leather industry is that the larger volumes are processing sheep, calf and cattle leather. None of these are slaughtered for their leather. The leather of animals slaughtered for meat is transformed and processed using scientific methods and put into use. If any tannery or leather production company in the world needs a certification stating that it is not slaughtered for its leather other than meat, it can obtain it from the Italian certification body.
Does COTANCE carry out studies on the environment and waste related to the Tanneries?
We do not have any activities related to this issue, because we are not any certification body. If you need certification, Leather Working Group LWG, Sustainable Leather Foundation SLF, OEKO-TEX in the Textile and Leather sector can be obtained from these organizations. Many factories in the sector are already working with these organizations.
There are actually many more topics to talk about, but unfortunately our time is limited. As a final question, what does COTANCE do in terms of education?
Our activities in education have been continuing for 20 years. Our aim is to further improve the existing ones. We have partnerships with organizations such as EUROTEX related to the textile, ready-made clothing and shoe industries. Bringing together critical structures and increasing their impact through such activities. A project related to the development of these skills was concluded in 2018 and 8 courses were offered. This training program has been studied extensively. It is an important project to develop the leather, textile, shoe and apparel industry. Erasmus “Blue Trace” project is a study on what path this industry is following and what is needed moving forward, by developing a scenario for developing a strategy for education at the European level. This is a preliminary part, we are currently working on it. We continue to work on developing talent in the field of commodity, improving the existing technologies in our sector with today’s new technologies, and how we can give them to our own society. We have another project related to this issue and we are continuing to work on it. The state, private sector, industry and educational institutes decide together which scenarios they will work on to further their strategies, and we get what they need, for example, we act to develop their skills. Our intention is to provide cross-cooperation.
Mr. Gustavo GONZALEZ, thank you very much for accepting our interview as Magazine Leather, even if it was short.