Partnering for more responsible leather production worldwide

In the project “Pollution prevention and efficient water use in the Kanpur Unnao leather cluster” in India and in the Green Tanning Initiative in Ethiopia, Solidaridad has kick-started promoting sustainability in the leather sector, in partnership with local stakeholders and global actors in the value chain.

Number of producers supported



Solidaridad is one of the few civil society organizations in the world that is actually working with the private sector on improvements of sustainability of this sector, with projects on the ground for better livestock and tannery management.

In 2017, Solidaridad Network started two major sustainability projects in the leather sector both with local and international partners. The organization is actively engaging with input suppliers (leather chemical companies), end-user companies and with local producers in leather producing countries including India, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

In the beef sector, some major projects were concluded in 2016, and new projects began in Paraguay and Zambia in 2017. In Southern Africa, Solidaridad facilitated the formation and launch of a South African Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, with local networks in seven countries, aiming at jointly promoting sustainability in the smallholder beef sector.

Regional Commodity Programmes

  • Central America

    Livestock production is a driver of deforestation but also contributes to smallholder livelihoods. Through improvements in silvopastoral systems, it is possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase productivity. In partnership with CIAT, the sustainable landscapes “PASOS” initiative successfully improved livestock production in the Region Autónoma del Costa Caribe Sur. Solidaridad hopes to replicate the Nicaragua success of PASOS in Honduras and Mexico.

  • South America

    Climate change continues to be the driving force for interventions in South America. Solidaridad is testing solutions to improve herds’ resilience to sustained droughts in Dry Chaco that can be incorporated in the design of public relief policies. In Brazil, Solidaridad tested pasture management carbon performance to develop a low carbon agriculture model in the Amazon. Building consumer markets in China, Japan and North America for low-carbon beef is a result of Solidaridad’s efforts on a territorial level.

  • South & South-east Asia

    Solidaridad worked within the leather sector to build strong stakeholder engagement. Government representatives, local water regulatory authorities, tannery associations and leading leather chemical suppliers aligned on the Five-Year Tannery Project for Clean Ganga. Solidaridad facilitated the installation of real-time water meters in 50 small-scale tanneries, established a pilot project on electro-oxidation-based wastewater treatment, and established a pilot on effluent treatment through bioremediation. Throughout the year, tannery associations were consulted on improved eco-friendly technologies.

  • Southern Africa

    Solidaridad’s livestock programme has expanded in Zambia. Solidaridad worked with the government and other partners to establish a multi-stakeholder platform. This platform is intended to develop landscape solutions to provide a more coordinated effort to mitigate the effects of climate change in the Kafue Basin. In 2017, Solidaridad took over the management of the Global Livestock Programme and employed a livestock expert to create a Regional Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.


The global leather industry, consisting of a large number of processing steps from raw hides and skins until the end products, has a total production value of as much as $40 billion and employs millions of people. But at the same, there are important social, environmental and economic challenges in each step of the chain, from livestock farming towards slaughtering, tanning and processing. Increasingly, companies and other players in the leather sector are becoming aware and concerned about sustainability issues and realize they need to act and work together.


Important partners in the five-year Ganges Project in Kanpur include the Uttar Pradesh Leather Industry Association, the Small Tanners Association, the Ganga Pollution Control Unit, the Central Leather Research Institute plus PUM Senior Experts and leather chemical company STAHL.

The Dutch government (RVO) is the main donor of the project, through the Fund Sustainable Water (FDW). STAHL is also the key partner in Ethiopia with the Green Tanning Initiative starting in January 2018 and funded by the European Commission (Switch Africa Green). Other partners include MVO Netherlands, the Ethiopian Leather Industry Development Institute (LIDI), the Ethiopian Leather Industries Association, local tanneries and manufacturers and buyers of leathers in Europe.  

Solidaridad is a member of the Board of Directors of the Global Roundtable Sustainable Beef. Within GRSB Solidaridad is actively supporting GRSB’s ambition to broaden the geographical focus of the organization.


In the leather sector, Solidaridad established cooperation with tanneries and input supplying companies. The next challenge will be to involve end-user companies in shoes, fashion, automotive and other buyers of leather for investing in sustainability improvements in all steps of leather production, from livestock production to slaughterhouses, tanneries and manufacturing.

The beef sector has a large footprint in terms of land use, water and energy use and in GHG emissions. Many governments and NGOs tend to shy away from investment in livestock.

Gert van der Bijl

International Programme Coordinator, Livestock & Leather