Leather and leather products industry

UNIDO has been dealing with specific problems of the leather industry since its early years, when the organization operated as the Industrial Development Centre within the United Nations Secretariat in New York. Technical cooperation and projects have been developed upon requests from Ministries of Industry or relevant governmental institutions.

Soon after the establishment of UNIDO (1966) and the setting up of its Headquarters in Vienna (1967), the Light Industry Section was organized (1969) and a leather technologist was employed as a staff member responsible for coordinating technical assistance. This was primarily implemented under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) funding as part of individual country programmes.

Initially, the main focuses of UNIDO’s interventions were hides and skins improvement, tannery operations upgrade, and establishment and strengthening of leather development centres. Later, the footwear and leather products industries of developing countries gained increasing attention, and technical assistance.

More than four decades of the UNIDO leather-based industry development programme covered the following areas:

• Providing assistance to small- and medium-scale enterprises in close cooperation with associations in evaluating business opportunities, finding or establishing markets (niches), building product ranges, improving production methods and product quality, enhancing productivity, and developing labour and managerial skills.

• Developing human resources by 1) elaborating and implementing comprehensive professional training systems; 2) establishing and/or rehabilitating national, (sub)regional and international training-cum-service institutions; 3) implementing experts meetings, workshops, seminars and special training courses in design, technology and management related areas; 4) initiating, organizing and monitoring cooperation among training, service and Research & Development centres operating in developing and industrialized countries.

• Environmental protection and pollution control directly related to leather processing and leather products manufacturing through 1) the implementation of cleaner tanning methods; 2) waste minimization and conversion of solid wastes into saleable by-products; 3) design, construction, and operation of tannery Effluent Treatment Plants (ETPs) with particular emphasis on common, low cost systems for SME clusters (CETPs); 4) handling and safe disposal of solid wastes and sludge; 5) promotion of the eco-labelling concept.

• Preparation of publications and maintaining databases of leather-related marketing and trade, design and product development, technology, pollution control, information sources and quality requirements, as well as training opportunities.

• Integration of social aspects (gender development, occupational health, safety at work) in technical assistance activities.

• Maintain the dialogue with, and support of, the world leather-based industry sub-sector through the Leather Panel Meetings.

More information related to UNIDO technical assistance and publications available on UNIDOLeather Panel