The final conference of the project for Implementing and Evaluating Social Standards in Europe was held in Brussels on May 7. The objective of the project has been to lay down a framework of social responsibility and has been a co-operative venture between Cotance, SAI, Nyenrode and TUF:TCL. The full title of the project is Implementing and Evaluating the Cotance/ETUF:TCL Code of Conduct / Framework Agreement and Further Social Standards in Europe (B3-4000). It was conducted as part of the Cotance/ETUF:TCL European social dialogue and aimed at enforcing the framework agreement/code of conduct signed in July 2000.

Some twenty employer and trade union representatives, appointed by a dozen companies in the leather and tanning sector from five EU countries, jointly followed the three training sessions that covered topics such as core labour standards (with ILO Geneva’s expertise), implementing codes (SAI), impact studies (Nyenrode University), independent verification and certification.

The training sessions took place in Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, and prompted other industry experts or representatives to take the floor. Ten European tanneries took part: Rino Mastrotto Group, Gruppo Mastrotto and Zini from Italy; Colomer, Inpelsa and Serpelsa from Spain; Dupire and Roux from France; Hulshof from Holland; and Elmo, Sweden.

Corporate social responsibility is a voluntary obligation that companies take on in order to reduce risk, protect their reputation and stay ahead of legislation. Increasingly, consumers and investors are focusing on social and environmental conditions.

A toolkit has been created to assist the tanning sector to become more socially responsible. For example, safeguarding workers rights usually results in a workforce that is committed and loyal, even during difficult economic times. Likewise, conditions that foster animal welfare often enhance the quality of hides and skins. The toolkit provides tanneries with: a sectoral code of conduct; a sectoral questionnaire to evaluate social responsibility; the SA 8000 standard and the management systems of social accountability 8000; an overview of relevant ILO conventions; resources for further information.