Limeblast – Go Brazilian

Brazil boasts the world’s largest commercial cattle herd, and, as the second-largest leather producer and exporter, the industry market leader is showcasing its strengths globally. For the unenlightened, Sam Setter’s latest Limeblast highlights a sorely needed South American education for the leather industry.

Brazil was dominated by the Portuguese for more than three centuries when it became independent in 1822, had a monarchist government, abolished slavery in 1888 and became a republic in 1889. Brazilian coffee exporters dominated the country’s politics until Getúlio Vargas came to power in 1930. Until 1985, when the ruling military regime peacefully surrendered power to elected civilian rulers, the country was ruled by military and populist leaders.

Although the spectacular Rio Carnival week of 28 February to 4 March 2014 came to an, but Brazil doesn’t just mean dancing, samba, World Cup 2014 or favelas. It also means a livestock of some 210 million head of cattle, which produce about 43 million hides annually, supplying 310 domestic tanneries that directly provide 45,000 jobs. It’s the largest country in South America and the biggest meat-exporting country in the world at the rate of 119 million tonnes of refrigerated or frozen beef in 2013.

It’s only logical that the country sports an important leather industry, which is extremely well organised by its Centre for the Brazilian Tanning Industries (CICB) sector association, who have lately taken a very prominent role in promoting the Brazilian leather industry with presentations in the most important trade fairs, as well as interesting newsletters.

As a result of innovative processes, technology, research and tradition, Brazilian leather has seen extremely positive results in the international market in recent years. Besides having the world’s largest commercial cattle herd, the country has grown to be among the world’s most recognised nations regarding quality, sustainability, design, and delivery of hides and skins, providing the world’s biggest buyers with a single security in the acquisition of high-standard leather.

Reaching this level, however, did not happen by chance. With combined efforts from national industries, tanning schools, governments and the CICB -with the support of the Brazilian Leather project, an initiative of CICB in collaboration with The Brazilian Agency for Promotion of Exports and Investments (Apex-Brasil) – it’s been possible to create and execute a series of projects aimed at professional improvement, education, commercial promotion and innovation within the industry. Brazil is one of the countries that looked ahead of its time, and installed process control and automation in its tanneries to guarantee quality consistency to its buyers. Systemhaus of Novo Hamburgo, a Hueni AG Process Control associate, markets the only ERP system in the world that was developed uniquely for the tanning industry, and many Brazilian tanneries run the system.


Project management

The "Design na Pele" project is an example of this position. Already considered one of the great initiatives within the Brazilian fashion world in 2013, the project brought together one of the country’s most talented fashion designers, and one of Brazil’s top artists, to work alongside 13 tanneries and develop a collection of exclusive leathers. From these hides and skins, designers created a series of new and amazing decor and fashion articles, which, since then, have travelled Brazil in the form of an itinerary exhibition and was present in Hong Kong at the March 2014 edition of APLF MM&T, where Brazil was the Focus Country.

Brazilian originality and inventiveness show its results not only on projects and products, but also on numbers. The country is the world’s second-largest leather exporter, with around 72% of its production dedicated to exports and values increasing each year. During 2013, the accumulated value of exports of Brazilian hides and skins reached $2,511 billion, and more than 55% comes from the export of finished leather. The major buyers of Brazilian leather are China, Hong Kong, Italy and the US.

By integrating new technologies and continuous production processes improvement, the sector is seeking to add productivity gains with employment generation and the efficient use of resources with full respect of the conservation of nature, such as the Amazon rainforest, considered the world’s largest tropical forest covering more than 50% of the national territory. In addition to its immense biodiversity and clean energy sources, it is a key player regarding sustainable development. A survey carried out by Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics (LSE) and the NGO Globe International emphasises the adoption of the new Brazilian Forest Code as one of the most significant measures in 2012 to fight global climate change. Besides the approval of the forestry code, the study also highlights the country’s commitment to reducing Amazon deforestation by 80% by 2020. In this respect, many will remember the Greenpeace report that accused the leather industry being the main culprit of illegal deforestation. It came to a point that Greenpeace was taken to court, but the matter was resolved "amicably".

The Brazilian energy matrix is one of the cleanest in the world. Almost half of the consumed energy comes from renewable sources; 75% from hydroelectricity and the rest from biomass, solar energy and ethanol.

On top form

The Brazilian tanning industry has been demonstrating its commitment to business sustainable management. The industry is continuously motivated to fine-tune its sustainability tools and strategies for the improvement of its activities. The evolution achieved over the years in the application of these concepts can be seen along the production chain, and is recognised internationally. Brazil is the country with the highest number of tanneries certified by the Leather Working Group, which aims for the development of best environmental practises, and assesses the performance of the tanneries for certification.

The sector is continuously improving its environmental performance in areas such as water consumption, management, treatment of wastewater effluents, emission reduction and waste disposal, among others.

Consumer demand for ample and sufficient food safety policies, traceability of animals and animal products has become a main issue for governments, distribution channels and consumers globally. The existence of an adequate traceability system is essential to perform efficient risk assessment along the production chain, including animal health, food safety and environmental issues. In terms of raw-materials traceability, Brazil is the leader among the emerging countries.

"With these initiatives, we want to ensure greater transparency to our businesses and encourage our partners to expand and enhance their responsibility to society," says José Fernando Bello, executive chairman of the Centre for the Brazilian Tannery (CICB). "These actions will certainly bring more credibility and strength to the entire sector, with positive effects on the industry, the environment and the public. Brazil is a land of great opportunity, ready to take its place as a global leader and high-technology hot spot for innovation and investment."

The development of the Brazilian leather industry has been supported by strong government incentives, which resulted in a growth of Brazilian economy in the past decade followed by the expansion of various segments of its economy, such as the industrial sector, which is considered the second biggest in the Americas.

According to the Ministry of Science and Technology (MST), Brazil has invested €17 billion in the national research and development system from 2007-10. The national research and innovation efforts have turned Brazil into a strong actor in technology intensive areas, such as biofuels, agribusiness research and ICT among others.

The disposal of waste is a main concern of the Brazilian leather industry, and the importance of technological measures to combat the environmental challenges is being recognised by the entire sector. The adoption of environmentally friendly waste-to-energy recycling technologies has become an important tool for the industry. Waste can be viewed as a valuable resource such as a substrate for the production of value-added products such an organic fertiliser.

Sam Setter,