The industry in Tuscany, which has an average of 12 employees for each company, produces 98% of the Italian sole leather and 35% of Italian production as a whole. Production is destined for the shoe market (70%), leathergoods market (20%) and the garment and upholstery markets(10%).

A highly flexible company structure allows the realisation of high-quality products aimed, in most cases, at the fashion market. 40% of the production is exported with half going within the EU and 50% to Asian and North American countries.


Two associations are operating in the area: the Associazione Conciatori di Santa Croce (300 companies) and the Consorzio Conciatori di Ponte a Egola (100 associated companies). They play a leading role in developing the industrial process in the district, while supporting programmes of moving tanneries from the towns to industrial areas and ensuring that the process meets the new environmental laws concerning groundwater and atmospheric pollutants.

Nowadays, tanneries in Santa Croce sull’Arno have reduced the impact they have on the environment to a minimum. Also, the associations assist their members in terms of accident at work, hygiene, financial services, research, training, contracts and other services.

At the same time they improved the commercial development in foreign countries, promoting and co-ordinating the presence of tanneries from the region at international exhibitions and events.

Tanneries have faced a number of problems, including the construction of new centralised effluent treatment systems, the building of new industrial areas, the recycling of industrial waste products and the reutilisation of sludge from the effluent

This has spawned a number of companies including:

* I Consorzi di Depurazione

* Consorzio Aquarno

* Consorzio Cuiodepur

* Consorzio Recupero Cromo

* Ecoespanso

* Consorzio Impianti Smaltimento

* Consorzio SGS

* Consorzi di Urbanizzazione

* Consorzi di Promozione

* Consorzi Export

These are all companies through which tanners manage initiatives about the environment.

The cost of financial undertaking in order to prevent environmental damage has been considerable both in terms of organisation and money: the total amount for effluent control corresponds to €608 million (US$541 million), while other investments have been already made for hundred millions of Euros in order to adjust tanning systems to the new technological structures.

Just to give an idea of the environmental problem, the depuration plants that are operating in the district deal with the same quantity of water as a city with 2.6 million and 98% of the polluting agents are eliminated.

The synergy between the associations and the tanneries about environmental problems represents a model to follow.

This was confirmed by the World Congress on Production in Local Areas, which was organised by Ocse in Paris at the end of January 2001).

At the meeting, the district was elected as a model production unit.