Interview with Frank Boehly, president of the Conseil National du Cuir and organiser of a new event in Paris focused on CSR: The Sustainable Leather Forum
Could you remind us what the Conseil National du Cuir is?
The Conseil National du Cuir is the political advocate for the French Leather Industry. We represent twenty federations, from livestock farming to the distribution of finished goods, via the transformation of skins and the manufacture of shoes, leather goods and gloves. It goes without saying that we work on a number of subject matters every day, and we communicate about these with the general public as well as with politicians.
What does the French Leather Industry represent today on the international scene?
The general public tends to forget that there are still tanneries and manufacturers in France! The French Leather Industry is 9 400 companies, from SMEs to large luxury houses, and 130 000 employees with extensive expertise to maintain and transmit. The industry’s turnover stands at 25 billion euros, of which 11 billion is from export, or the equivalent of 110 Airbus planes! France holds fourth place in the global leather market. These days, it is undeniable that the luxury sector has become the driving force of our industry and has built our international reputation, notably for our calf leathers and leather goods.
Next September you are organising the first Sustainable Leather Forum in Paris dedicated to Corporate Social Responsibility in the leather, footwear, leather goods and glove making industries. Why are you putting on this event?
In recent years, we have faced accusations, accompanied by images designed to shock the general public, which question the leather professions. However, they do not reflect the reality of the French Leather Industry which is very respectful of legislation, whether social, economic or environmental. Governed by extremely strict European laws, the French industry incorporated the principle of CSR a long time ago. But no-one ever mentions it! Yet, since ancient times, the leather industry is one of the leading proponents of recycling. The skin that we recover is a co-product of the meat industry, which we transform into something beautiful! In addition, purchasing an item made from leather is the guarantee of a product that is durable, high quality, that can be repaired and passed on.
Our aim is therefore to shine a spotlight on all the actions undertaken by the players in the sector, notably the implementation of a system of traceability, a world first and an essential tool for transparency. We are not perfect (who is?) and we know that. Nevertheless, our industry is made up of responsible companies, sensitive to ethics and sustainable development, who are making great efforts every day to improve. This is the occasion for them to speak and be heard! Also, our event is scheduled to coincide with the Government’s examination of the white paper on the circular economy, and follows the G7 in Biarritz on the subject of Sustainable Development. In terms of timing, it is the ideal moment to speak on behalf of the industry and showcase the actions of companies in these areas.
The Sustainable Leather Forum is a one-day event, organised around a series of renowned international speakers and panel discussions. The leading luxury groups have agreed to participate and speak there. SLF Paris takes place the day before Première Vision Paris opens its door: another good reason to attend the forum and come and talk to us!