Welcome to leatherpanel.org

The leather and its related downstream industries can claim to be the world's largest industrial sector based upon a by-product. In the case of leather, the raw material is a by- product of the meat industry. Hides and skins and their downstream products are vital earners of foreign exchange and they compare very well with the other agricultural commodities and, in fact, with any internationally traded commodities. This industry converts  a putrescible material into a stable and marketable product.

As raw hides are natural  by-products of milk and meat production, the demand for leather has no impact on the number of animals slaughtered. So, upcycling these hides into leather is not only an appropriate use of an available, renewable resource, it can also substitute products made from non-renewable raw materials such as petroleum-based plastic sheets and textiles.

Leather is currently the best way to up-cycle hides and skins from the meat industry; every year the leather industry converts around 7.3 million tons of hides that otherwise would go to landfill. Leather is so versatile that it is used in a range of products from soft gloves to comfortable footwear, and from long lasting furniture and automotive seating to contemporary clothing.

As a specialized agency of the United Nations is contributing to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and focusing on Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development (ISID), UNIDO has proven worldwide experience in assisting member states to enhance the leather value chain;  introducing cleaner leather production techniques, Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) measures, deploying Central Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETPs), effectively handling solid waste, starting by-product manufacturing, managing leather/products estates and establishment and/or enhancement of support and training institutions.

UNIDO has outstanding references with regard to institutional and human resource development in developing countries. These projects have focused on improving capabilities and performances in the collection of hides and skins, in leather processing (tanning), and in the manufacture of footwear and other leather products such as leather garment, upholstery and sports goods.

It is possible to link UNIDO’s activities involvement in the leather value chain to the Global Compact Principles and SDGs and assesses the contribution in the relevant areas.  There are four main areas: Industry (economy); Planet (environment); people (society) partnership (cooperation).

The UNIDO Leather and Leather Products Industry Panel (henceforth referred to in the short form as the Leather Panel) is the UNIDO global forum for technical assistance programmes dealing with the leather-based industry sector. The Leather Panel provides information on good practices in small-scale manufacturing as well as professional training and pollution control procedures in the leather, footwear and leather products industries.

This website – www.leatherpanel.org – offers access to information, publications, UNIDO technical assistance programmes and links to leather-related industries.

The leather sector in developing countries has expanded substantially in the recent decades. This was caused in part by a gradual relocation of production facilities, initially shoe-uppers, but followed by leather processing (tanning) and footwear manufacturing, to countries with lower labour costs. While developing countries are witnessing a greater proportion of leather goods manufacturing, the performance of the leather sector in many developing countries is still negatively affected by several factors, most notably shortage of high-quality raw material, inadequate manufacturing skills and technical knowledge base as well as environmental issues and trade barriers.

Technical assistance projects implemented to date by UNIDO in the leather and leather products sector have covered a wide range of activities, such as improved flaying, preservation and collection of raw hides and skins; leather processing (tanning); manufacturing footwear and other leather products such as gloves, leather garment, upholstery, sporting goods and other leather accessories. Interventions have also addressed issues related to environmental aspects, occupational safety and health, and quality control.

This portal is a depository of technical information generated through UNIDO technical assistance and global forum activities that are considered as useful sources for those associated with or interested in the development of leather-related industries and technology.

We welcome your suggestions, queries and corrections.