ISSUED IN 2020 - DEDICATED TO CSR
"For an ever more ethical and responsible leather industry"
Leather production is the most ancient recycling practice in human history. Thus, the French leather industry is the worthy successor to a long tradition of savoir-faire that goes back to the dawn of time. It can justifiably be proud of its highly-skilled professions which place it in fourth place for leather production worldwide. The shock of globalisation and the constant search for cheaper labour costs had a severe effect on French industry in the 1970s and 1980s but, after having lost almost 90% of its companies and jobs, the industry managed to halt its demise.
The leather industry, a French success story
The leather sector reinvented itself for the premium market and its image, products and labels are now renowned the world over. The figures speak for themselves: the sector consists of 9 400 companies, more than 80% of which are SMEs, creating some 130 000 jobs and generating 25 billion euros of income, including 12 billion from exports! A real economic and social resurrection, thanks to the exceptional efforts of company owners and employees who have worked hard to ensure the success of their companies.
This economic transformation has been accompanied by far-reaching changes in the social environment of companies in the sector. Concerns about the environment, the harmlessness of products and the need for animal welfare have become major themes of the contemporary world and its values. This transformation has had a great impact on the leather industries, which are regularly criticised for their environmental impact and their responsibility in terms of animal welfare.
And yet, our sector is at the forefront with its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) commitments and is constantly striving to improve its environmental footprint. This daily struggle, the result of will, innovation and substantial investments in order to comply with the very demanding legislation and consumer expectations, must be publicised and recognised. That is why the Conseil National du Cuir (CNC), with the partner professional federations, decided to hold a major event on 16 September 2019 – the Sustainable Leather Forum – so that professionals from the sector could take the floor and talk about their everyday commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility.
The success of this event – accompanied by a very inspiring slogan: “For an ever more ethical and responsible industry” – has convinced the board of CNC to repeat the exercise, in order to offer a truly transparent evaluation of the developments in our sector and its professions in terms of ethics and responsible development. The wealth of experiences described by leather professionals during this event also convinced us to present a white paper on the profession to serve as a reference document during the current debates on CSR issues. Nothing can replace the testimonies of those who are at the heart of the real economy, in their workshops, their factories and their stores.
Frank Boehly, President of the Conseil National du Cuir
ISSUED IN 2015
The Conseil National du Cuir (CNC) is an inter-professional organisation that brings together 20 professional federations from the leather industry. It represents the entire French leather industry, ranging from animal breeding to the distribution of finished products, including raw materials processing and the manufacturing of finished products.
For the greater good of the industry, the Conseil National du Cuir’s activities are focused on three missions: coordinating the member federations, promoting the excellence of the French leather industry, and representing all industry sectors in dealings with the French public authorities.
The major challenges facing the French leather industry are to support businesses within the industry and assist new entrepreneurs, train leather industry professionals and teach them unique skills and methods, produce in a sustainable and responsible fashion, increase Made in France production, and maintain the industry’s excellence.
The industry’s 8,000 businesses, artisans, SMEs, and large companies with prestigious names employ 70,000 people and generate a turnover of 15 billion euros. In 2015, they exported goods to a total value of 9.3 billion euros.
Remove the levy cap to increase the performance of SMEs in the leather industry
This levy helps to increase the competitiveness of SMEs in the leather industry.
The industrial sector pays 60% of it with significant contributions from the major groups, with the other 40% coming from imports.
The funds collected are mainly used by SMEs to develop innovation and R&D programmes and improve their competitiveness.
This levy is used to:
- Adapt industrial expertise to ensure better quality skins, increase industrial performance, improve the design of finished products, ensure sustainable development, etc.
- Maintain, develop and transfer knowledge, carry out studies for the federations, and develop initial and vocational training programmes.
- Support the promotion of the leather industry by providing financial assistance to businesses to enable them to take part in national and international trade fairs.
Since 2012, this levy has been capped at 12.5 million euros. Any excess (€828,000 in 2014 and nearly 2 million euros in 2015) is paid to the French government. The cap was lowered to 12.25 million euros in France’s budget bill for 2016 (PLF 2016).
Capping this levy greatly penalises exports, particularly as it limits the ability of SMEs to participate in trade fairs abroad.
This situation limits the resources allocated to collective actions carried out for the benefit of SMEs and based on the four “I’s”: International, Investment, Innovation, Industry.
The Conseil National du Cuir calls on the authorities to remove the levy cap to improve the performance of SMEs.
Encourage business creation
The industry is made up of 8,000 businesses. The most innovative of these are growing thanks to breakthroughs made in R&D: improvement in the quality of skins, of production, new industrial processes, etc. Other SMEs are being created based on new, highly creative manufacturing concepts in line with trends.
The Conseil National du Cuir and the Fédération Française de la Chaussure (FFC - French Footwear Federation), with the support of CTC, joined forces to create the ‘ADC Au-Delà du Cuir’ association.
ADC’s aim is to encourage the emergence of new entrepreneurs and promote French creativity and craftsmanship. ADC supports the development of young labels chosen for the innovative nature of their projects in the fields of footwear, leather goods, luggage and leather objects, by providing training programmes, coaching and financial assistance. ADC puts these new companies in contact with footwear and leather goods production sites all over France.
A guarantee fund financed at 50% by the Conseil National du Cuir and at 50% by the Fédération Française de la Chaussure has been created. This fund enables young entrepreneurs to accelerate their creative and economic growth, by facilitating their access to bank loans.
The Conseil National du Cuir wishes to extend this support to a greater number of entrepreneurs and new business owners in the leather industry by developing the ‘ADC Au-Delà du Cuir’ programme.
Encourage micro-business and SME succession
The industry is made up of artisans, micro-businesses and SMEs that work as subcontractors for larger companies because of their precious know-how. Gradually, these workshops and small businesses are disappearing with no one to take over their operation. As a result, companies are outsourcing their production abroad.
By being part of the industry’s value chain, these artisans, micro-businesses and SMEs help to promote France abroad.
The Conseil National du Cuir would like to encourage SME and micro-business succession in order to secure the value chain, and to do so it is considering setting up a guarantee fund.
Support the fight against the counterfeiting of major brands to protect the Made in France label
Counterfeiting poses a considerable threat to the ‘Made in France’ label, particularly in the leather goods and footwear sectors. The leading luxury labels invest significant amounts to protect their designs and models.
The Conseil National du Cuir encourages and supports effective actions on the part of French customs authorities and the DGCCRF anti-fraud teams. It calls for greater monitoring and control in all European countries.
In France, counterfeiters are very present online but it is very difficult to prosecute them. French companies are faced with highly complex procedures such as having to draw up a notification in the language of the country where the counterfeiter is based, finding a bailiff in that country and serving papers to an address that is difficult to identify.
Canada and the USA have simple and effective procedures for dealing with counterfeiters, particularly over the internet, and they are successful at blocking sales.
French companies that manufacture leather products also face unfair competition due to the non-application of Decree n° 2010-29 of 8 January 2010 relating to products which are made in Europe or transit via a European country. This decree prohibits the use of the word leather for any material other than that obtained from an animal skin using a tanning process or an impregnation procedure that preserves the natural form of the skin fibres. However it is currently only applied to French companies.
The Conseil National du Cuir calls for greater monitoring and control in all European countries. It would also like legal procedures to be simplified and for action to be taken as quickly as possible to limit the sale of counterfeit products over the internet.
Secure the leather supply of big companies in the leather industry
Some 60 tanneries, 44 of which are industrial, generate a turnover of 430 million euros and employ 1,731 people.
Thanks to the expertise of these tanneries, French leather is highly sought-after by big companies in France and abroad. France is one of the global leaders for calf leather and exotic skins (crocodile, iguana, ostrich etc.).
Big companies have taken measures to secure their supplies in order to counter the shortage of raw materials and the inflationist tendency of the price of leather. Following the same logic as for the integration of manufacturing, companies and major groups such as Weston, Hermès, Vuitton and Kering have adopted an upstream production integration strategy to secure the availability of materials and know-how by buying up certain suppliers.
Recently, Hermès acquired Tanneries du Puy.
The CNC finds that these takeovers are beneficial for the industry and its activity. Jobs are saved, training programmes are created and skills and expertise are preserved.
The CNC would like to see these tanneries continue to collaborate with all their clients. It would also like for the improvements in production and skin quality to benefit all manufacturers, large and small.
The Conseil National du Cuir encourages tanneries to preserve their specific production methods and urges them to maintain a diverse range of clients, as proof of their independence and their success.
Reduce the taxes and costs imposed on shopkeepers and manufacturers of leather products and change retail legislation.
The difficult economic climate has weakened the retail sector, which has registered a 6% decrease in turnover since 2012, while overheads in that same time have continued to increase. Shop rents, indexed on the ICC (Construction Cost Index), have increased by an average of nearly 15% over the last five years to reach almost 14% of turnover (all taxes included), which is the equivalent of the wage bill. The Contribution Economique Territoriale (CET) business tax has increased by 30% on average for retailers and the tax burden is constantly increasing: the tax on commercial premises, TASCOM, has doubled, and local and environmental taxes are on the rise. The Conseil National du Cuir calls for these taxes to be reduced, as they are too heavy a burden on the retail sector.
The CNC is in favour of shops opening on Sundays, particularly in areas popular with tourists. There is a lot to be gained from this, as it would result in additional business growth and the creation of many thousands of jobs (around 20,000 full-time positions). Although progress in this area is still considered to be inadequate, the new bill for growth, activity and equal economic opportunities (known as the “loi Macron”) is a step in the right direction. The Conseil National du Cuir will pay close attention to the results this new bill produces.
As labour costs are too high in France, companies manufacturing labour-intensive leather items in France which are aimed at the lower end of the market are penalised by imports, particularly from Asia.
Lowering labour costs would help to partially offset this imbalance and limit mass imports from Asian countries. The CICE (tax credit to boost competitiveness and employment) is a positive first step in meeting the expectations of our businesses.
The Conseil National du Cuir calls on the public authorities to take into account the specific characteristics of the leather industry when drawing up new legislative measures for businesses, and to reduce taxes and social contributions in order to allow French businesses to become more competitive.
Develop initial training
Very often, the recruitment needs of leather companies are not being met. Two of the most significant challenges facing the industry are an ageing workforce and professions that hold little appeal for young people.
Passing on French know-how in the leather professions is absolutely vital for the industry’s development and its reputation. Our expertise is recognised worldwide and is a real plus for the big-name brands and the “Made in France” label. The leather industry thus has a strategic advantage that must be nurtured and passed on.
There is a great need for trained workers, yet there are not enough young people undergoing initial training. Furthermore, the initial training programmes offered do not always match the current requirements of shoe and leather goods companies. Companies are looking for a level of skill that does not appear to be developed in some of the training programmes available.
The industry relies on a network of 165 schools in France preparing students for 63 qualifications (ranging from post-16 certificates to engineering degrees) across all sectors: leather goods, saddlery, shoemaking, shoe/boot repair, design/fashion, leather clothing, leather tanning, leather binding/gilding.
To make the leather professions more attractive to young people, CTC has forged partnerships with scientific, technological and fashion institutions – ITECH (a leather engineering school), Université de Savoie (sports engineering), Institut Colbert, and Institut Français de la Mode (IFM) – to enable students to discover the products and materials that are specific to the leather industry.
Make leather professions more attractive to young people
The Conseil National du Cuir is making efforts to improve the visibility of leather professions by taking part in job and training fairs open to the general public and aimed at promoting the professions and training programmes in the leather industry, as well as by sharing the experience of young industry talents on social networks and on our website.
The industry’s image problem is due to a lack of knowledge about the leather professions and to their poor drawing power.
The Conseil National du Cuir promotes the industry’s 100 professions and training programmes by participating in the career fair ‘L’Aventure des Métiers’, organised by Salon de l’Etudiant and held in November every year.
The Conseil National du Cuir calls upon France’s Ministry for Education and the professional federations to work together to achieve a better distribution of training courses across the country and ensure these programmes meet the needs of businesses in the leather industry.
Encourage vocational training
To solve these training issues, businesses have a long-standing commitment to the vocational training and continuing professional development of their staff. CTC offers training programmes adapted to each business.
To ensure the skills and expertise of the brands are preserved, CTC also conducts in-company training, a solution which improves the responsiveness of businesses.
A number of companies, including Repetto, Méphisto and Hermès, have created their own schools. In general, the training is delivered by CTC and these companies’ own in-house craftsmen and women.
OPCALIA is the accredited fund-collecting agency that contributes to financing these training programmes.
Support from local authorities
The French regional councils are in charge of vocational training and economic development in their regions and are gradually giving more support to leather companies. In Aquitaine, the regional council backed the creation of a centre of excellence for training in the leather professions, to meet the needs of companies not only within its own region but also in the neighbouring Poitou-Charentes and Limousin. These training programmes are aimed at jobseekers of all ages. The training centre is located within the vocational high school at Thiviers.
In the Franche-Comté region, a leathercraft training centre is supported by the Montbéliard local authority which encompasses Ecole Boudard and Lycée des Huisselets.
In the Aveyron region, the leather association Pôle Cuir Aveyron has just been formed on the initiative of local businesses. It is backed by the Aveyron Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Millau Grands Causses Community of Communes.
The Conseil National du Cuir would like to see the local authorities supporting the vocational training projects and initiatives of leather companies.
Since the 1960s, the tanning sector in particular has implemented a sustainable development policy to limit the impact of its activities on the environment.
As tanneries use large amounts of water and treatment products, the sector has adopted environmental standards and developed environmentally-friendly technologies for:
- Waste management, including systems for sorting, disposal, and recycling
- Water protection with separated drainage networks and appropriate treatments
- Air protection with the development of aqueous formulas to reduce emissions.
Companies are subject to French and European legislation governing facilities classified for environmental protection (ICPE) and are audited by the DREAL regional bodies, as well as the Ministry for Work and Employment and various other government bodies.
The Conseil National du Cuir encourages companies within the industry to innovate even further in their efforts to protect the environment.
Ensure French leather poses no health risks to the consumer − a major concern for the industry
French tanneries use only harmless substances such as chrome 3 or plant-based tanning agents. They adhere strictly to European standards for chemical substances: dosage of water and volatile materials, levels of extractives, soluble materials and soluble mineral materials in leathers, levels of chloride ions to limit any impact on the health of consumers.
The French leather industry has issued best practice guidelines to avoid generating allergenic substances such as chrome 6, the use and sale of which has been prohibited for a number of years.
CTC performs checks using high-precision tools which allow them to measure the concentration levels of chemical substances even at a very low ppm (parts per million or mg per kg of leather).
In the footwear sector, a charter known as Innoshoe has been created by a group of manufacturers. The aim is to establish a methodological framework to ensure that the amount of chemicals used in their production poses no threat to the health of consumers. This demonstrates the leather industry’s commitment to consumer protection.
The situation is more complex for imported leather and leather goods. Imports by the French leather industry (all products combined) stood at 10.7 billion euros in 2015, up 10% from the previous year. Products from Asia/Oceania made up 50% of total imports.
All players in the French market, whether they are leather manufacturers, importers or distributors, are required to comply with European regulations (REACH). France is the only country in Europe to take samples from finished products in order to analyse them; this makes our country one of the safest for consumers.
French companies that import goods must adhere to very precise specifications.
The Conseil National du Cuir encourages French companies to implement procedures to identify the traceability of any imported leathers and to ensure they are safe for consumers.
Develop best practices for breeding
France is the third largest global exporter of raw leather and one of the biggest producers of tanned calf leather.
Today, the industry is facing supply shortages, particularly for calf leather, the most sought-after material in the leather goods sector. There are three reasons for this: a drop in meat consumption (-4% per year), mechanical injuries to livestock (by barbed wire, for example), and the presence of a parasite, ringworm, which severely reduces the quality of the skin and makes it unsuitable for leather production. Less than 20% of the skins bought from French farmers can be made into quality leather.
There is not enough raw material to meet the demand from the big luxury houses. In 25 years, the number of skins used has almost halved.
Good animal breeding and handling practices are also very important and improve the production and quality of the skins. The Syndicat Général des Cuirs et Peaux provides breeders and other upstream players in the industry with a handbook of best practices. It explains how to adapt herds to reduce the number of defects on the skins and also covers hygiene of premises, vaccination, anti-parasite treatments, and how to manage transport and slaughter conditions in the production chain of calf, young bovine and ovine hides.
Ringworm vaccination is also a way to increase skin quantity and quality. A pilot test carried out in 2012 showed that vaccinating animals against ringworm triples the amount of top-grade skins available. The production of quality skins could thus increase from 10% to 30%.
Norway, where vaccination was made compulsory in 1978, has eradicated ringworm from its territory.
Vaccination would also be economically advantageous for breeders, since the difference in weight between a ringworm-infected calf and a healthy one at the end of the fattening period is around 4kg per animal.
In addition, ringworm vaccination would also improve the animals’ quality of life by reducing the stress caused by itching.
The Conseil National du Cuir encourages breeders and other upstream players in the industry to follow breeding best practices and vaccinate their livestock against ringworm to increase the production of top-grade skins.
Promoting the leather industry is one of the priority actions of the Conseil National du Cuir
Although French leather companies are held in high regard by their French and foreign customers, consumers and economic decision-makers have very little awareness of the industry.
To increase the leather industry’s visibility, twice a year the Conseil National du Cuir organises Les Rencontres du Cuir, an event held in regions where leather in its many forms has generated significant economic resources as well as opportunities for employment and training.
It is organised on the premises of one of the industry’s flagship companies. Local elected officials and representatives of various institutions, the government and the region’s schools providing training in leatherwork, along with young people undergoing training are all invited, as are the regional and local media. Paraboot, Camille Fournet, Tanneries HAAS, the young micro-business Maltier le Malletier and the Pôle Cuir Aveyron association have already participated in these events.
To introduce people abroad to the excellence of French leather, representatives of the leather industry attended the international leather fair, APLF-MM&T, in Hong Kong in 2015, at a stand organised by the CNC to represent the Made in France label.
This initiative was echoed in France at the Révélations fair held in the Grand Palais in Paris where a large, high-quality audience was able to discover our manufacturers’ original and exceptional creations.
To attract young people to our professions, we must maintain an active and constant presence on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, with videos showcasing skill and expertise, and interviews with young people and industry professionals talking about the possible prospects and opportunities available.
Events such as Les Portes du Cuir in the Aquitaine region and Salon de l’Etudiant (a student fair) are opportunities for the CNC to present all of our industry’s professions through live demonstrations by experts.
The Conseil National du Cuir develops a number of marketing campaigns to raise awareness of this dynamic French industry that is truly representative of ‘Made in France’ quality.
The leather sector
The Professional Organisations that are members of the National Leather Council
- National Livestock Confederation // Confédération Nationale de l’Elevage
- National Federation of Meat Producers and Wholesalers // Fédération Nationale de l’Industrie et des Commerces en Gros des Viandes
- French Confederation of Butchers and Cooked Meat producers // Confédération Française de la Boucherie-Charcuterie
- Union of French Industries of Animal By-products // Syndicat des Industries Françaises des Coproduits Animaux
- General Union of Leathers and Skins // Syndicat Général des Cuirs et Peaux
- French Federation of Tanners // Fédération de la Tannerie-Mégisserie
- Union of the Synthetic Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry Industry // Syndicat de l’Industrie Chimique Organique de Synthèse et de Biochimie
- French Footwear Association // Fédération Française de la Chaussure
- French Leathergoods Federation // Fédération Française de la Maroquinerie, Articles de Voyage, Chasse-sellerie, Gainerie, Bracelets Cuir
- French Glove-making Federation // Fédération Française de la Ganterie – www.gantdefrance.fr
- National Syndicat of Preventative and Protective Workwear Manufacturers // Syndicat National des Acteurs du Marché de la Prévention et de la Protection
- Union of French Bootmakers // Chambre Syndicale des Bottiers de France
- Federation of Leather Traders in France and associated professions // Fédération des Syndicats de Négociants en Cuirs et Crépins de France et Professionnels connexes
- Union of Shoe Repairers // Syndicat des Réparateurs Industriels de la Chaussure
- National Union of Podo-Orthotists // Chambre Syndicale Nationale des Podo-Orthésistes
- French Union of Shoe Wholesalers and Importers // Union Française des Distributeurs Grossistes et Importateurs de Chaussures
- Federation of Footwear Retail Chains // Fédération des Enseignes de la Chaussure
- National Federation of Shoe Retailers // Fédération Nationale des Détaillants en Chaussures
- National Federation of Leathergoods and Luggage Retailers // Fédération Nationale des Détaillants en Maroquinerie et Voyage
CTC is the Professional Committee for the Development of the Leather, Footwear, Leather goods and Glove-making industries. It also acts as a technical centre for the sector with regards to standards, innovation, information, training, fashion forecasting and the promotion of companies from the leather sector.