International Council of Tanners meet

16 April 2007

The next meeting of the International Council of Tanners (ICT) will be held, as in recent years, the day before the APLF opens in Hong Kong. The meeting takes place in the Hong Kong Exhibition Centre in the morning of Tuesday, March 27, 2007. ICT is the membership organisation of the world's leather trade associations. It meets regularly to discuss relevant topics affecting or influencing the global leather industry. Not all trade associations are members - but most of the major ones are. The main aims and objectives of ICT can be summarised as: 1. To provide a forum for members to meet and exchange views and information. Including the exchange of statistics and market information 2. To provide an interface with international bodies such as ICHSLTA - International Council of Hide, Skin & Leather Traders Associations; Unido - United Nations Industrial Development Organisation; FAO - Food and Agriculture of the United Nations; UNEP - United Nations Environmental Programme; ISO - the International Standards Organisation; IULTCS - International Union of Leather Technologists and Chemists Societies; Cotance - Confederation of National Associations of Tanners and Dressers of the European Community 3. To collaborate with ICHSLTA to maintain and develop the international leather contracts to promote a fair and ethical basis for trade in the sector 4. Protect and promote leather as a product by providing information, developing the website and producing position papers to counter threats to the industry 5. Support improvements in the supply, treatment and preservation of hides and skins 6. Promote free trade in hides, skins and leather as far as practically possible Of these, items 1 and 2 are regular ongoing activities, through the regular ICT meetings and the involvement of ICT in international meetings - such as the Unido Leather Panel and the Hide and Skins Sub-Group of the FAO, which are both particularly relevant to the sector. Items 5 and 6 form an important part of the basic philosophy of ICT and represent longer term general aspirations, whereas items 3 and 4 are more practical and immediate objectives where current activities are aimed at achieving practical results. The International Contracts The ICT has been in existence since 1920 and since 1926 has co-operated with ICHSLTA in recommending the establishment and support of commercial and trading standards, by means of the International Contract. The International Number 6 and 7 Contracts are the basis for international trade in raw hides and skins, wet-blue, crust and finished leather - establishing and defining a set of rules for fair and ethical trade in the leather sector. Even where these Contracts are not used to support a buying and selling transaction, their very existence maintains the custom and practice - or the standard - that is used in the industry. The contractual rules set the framework for possible arbitration and establish clear definitions of weight, moisture, presentation, preservation, price, payment terms and, explicitly, though an ICT Code of Practice emphasise the importance of the correct discipline for area measurement of leather. After some years of consideration the respective presidencies of the International Council of Tanners and the International Council of Hide and Skin Traders Associations are now actively discussing whether the time is now right to review the international contracts, which were last amended in 1998. ICT has prepared proposals, for discussion, aimed at bringing the contract up to date. These are intended to limit room for uncertainties, by requiring explicit choices and adding new, voluntary conditions that would allow for many of the requirements now being requested by downstream customers. Promoting the image of leather There are two distinct aspects to this - one relates to the way that leather and leather products are defined, described and labelled, and the other relates to the ICT Code of Practice on how leather is produced. Regarding leather descriptions and definitions, different countries have different rules but all the basic principles are set out in the International Glossary of Leather Terms, which is the result of agreement by all member associations and published by the ICT. Among other aspects of terminology this clearly defines the term leather as 'hide or skin with its original fibrous structure more or less intact, tanned to be imputrescible…..' It also makes clear that such terms as: * Synthetic leather * Artificial leather * Genuine imitation leather are never valid descriptions and are misleading. Anticipating the responsibility to operate in a more transparent and ethical fashion, in 2005, ICT members formally adopted a Code of Practice and all members undertook to publicise this Code within their membership. This Code recognises that ICT members must adopt basic self imposed rules to demonstrate to their ultimate clients that the industry although changing geographically, is able to respond to the expectations of their customers. The Code declares that ICT members who sign up to it commit to the promotion of best practice and continuous improvement in a number of areas, including: * respect of human rights in the workplace * establishment of occupational health and safety practices * reasonable hours of work and benefits, * sourcing hides and skins from known and carefully monitored suppliers maintaining acceptable standards of animal welfare * minimising the effect on the environment * honouring commercial contracts and complying with standard industry practice, for example with area measurement of leather. The president of the International Council of Tanners, Michael Parsons, will speak on Commercial, Social and Environmental Compliance, or 'Standards - Do they Matter?' at the Leather in Retail Conference in Hong Kong in the afternoon of March 27, 2007.

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