ICEC, the reference point for certification and sustainability of the leather sectorICEC is the Certification Institute of reference for the leather sector.

Jul 27, 2017
Posted in: , Interview , Sustainability

ICEC carries out certification, information and standardisation activities, with a series of services that can be consulted on the website, which is also provided with an accessible database of certified companies, among which there are tanneries, manufacturing companies and other companies within the leather sector (for example, subcontractors). It is the only Institute in the world that is specifically dedicated to the leather sector, and it has been operating since 1994. It has been founded by the tanning sector and among its associates there also the Italian Associations of leather goods, footwear, fur, and accessories and components manufacturers, as well as CNR, ENEA, AICQ, Naples’ SSIP and the Italian Ministry of Economic Development.

We talked about ICEC ‘s activities with director Sabrina Frontini, who underlined how important the constantly evolving work of the Institute is for the future of the leather supply chain.

Could you summarise your activities?
ICEC certifies in an impartial and highly specialised way the conformity of systems, products and processes to the requirements established by national or international standards of reference. We need to take into account that third-party certifications are voluntary, so our mission is to favour the growth of the sector (besides what is already granted by law), the exchange of competences and experiences, and to promote the diffusion of a culture of sustainability.
Besides, we collaborate to the creation of a reference standard – constantly updating it – at national or international level (for example within UNI or CEN) for the leather industry. We also write technical documents or guidelines of reference for the leather sector, according to the needs of the clients (tanneries or brands), regarding new topics, themes of major interest, or subjects where standards are lacking.

In which areas can a company get certified?
Essentially, we divide certifications into three areas: environmental sustainability, ethic and social sustainability, product and economic sustainability; the last one includes a novelty, the traceability of raw materials (origin, slaughterhouse, breeding farm from which the leathers come), and the origin of leather production (according to UNI EN 16484) – that is, the so-called Made In. The validity of the certifications usually lasts three years, but some of them last one year. In any case companies receive an annual inspection.

What do you mean by ‘made in’ of leathers and products?
As regards the much-debated issue of “Made in (Italy)”, in order to be able to declare the (Italian) origin of leather production, according to the European standard UNI EN 16484, at least the retanning, dyeing and fatliquoring stages have to be carried out in the country of which one wants to declare the origin (for example in Italy). If the finishing takes place in another country, one has to declare where.
The tanneries that carry out the whole cycle in Italy, for example, (from the tanning of raw hides to finishing) can use the wording “Leather from Italy – full cycle”.
Tanneries’ customers will be able to communicate to the market, in a way controlled by ICEC, that they have used certified leathers “produced in Italy” to make their products by putting numbered labels on leather products such as, for example, shoes, bags, belts, clothing, and furnishings.
Besides, also the ‘made in’ of a product’s realization can be certified by ICEC according to international non-preferential origin custom rules, where it is given importance to the substantial product realization stage.

And as regards leather traceability? What kind of information is certified?
Besides the system requirements applicable to the tanneries that choose these certifications, we require the complete mapping of the purchases of raw hide or semi-finished leather that is then transformed into specific finished leather. Each purchase is associated with available and documentarily verifiable information about countries and places of origin, slaughterhouse, breeding farm or the growth of the animals from which the leathers come.
We give a weighted rating, which measures the degree of information and control that the tannery has regarding its leather purchases. This guarantee is very much appreciated by fashion houses that have to manage the risks linked to their supply chain, which are solved also through the knowledge of what happens upstream of tanneries.

What are the key factors that actually motivate a company to get certified?
There are virtuous and proactive companies that spontaneously choose to get certified so to convey the excellence of their organisation and products, others that do it following the requests of their customers, choosing the best scheme to satisfy them.

You joined the ZDHC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals) programme in January 2017. Could you tell me something about that?
ICEC committed itself to working in an open and collaborative way towards the goals established by ZDHC Programme’s schedule through the active commitment with brands, companies and concerned parties. We collaborate with a group that includes also many brands that are leader in the luxury market and work together to drive the change in the responsible management of chemicals. First for textile, now also for leather. So we are in it too, in particular for the methods and the contents linked to inspections.

What are the novelties for ICEC in the second half of 2017?
Surely we will inform and popularize our activities and the ICEC brand, participating in the main trade shows of the leather sector (for example Lineapelle Milan, London, NY) in order to promote the certifications and sustainability of the exhibitors that possess them. In fact, we collaborate closely with Lineapelle, and in these days we have been present at its London edition with a desk in order to provide information on the certifications applied to Italian and international tanneries, many of which were at the trade show. Besides, we have planned in-depth workshops throughout 2017 on the traceability of raw materials; we will carry them out in tanning districts in front of brands and tanneries. The first one took place in Solofra in June, the second one is already planned at the beginning of September in Tuscany and in Veneto (for information: [email protected]).
Our main goal, given the proliferation of qualification criteria in the leather sector, is to talk as much as possible to the parties concerned in order to co-ordinate the supply chain’s evaluation systems and to make the reliability of our services known. We never stop.

“Certifications increase the excellence of the entire sector”

ICEC is accredited by Italian Accreditation Body ACCREDIA for the following schemes:
• UNI EN ISO 9001 (quality management systems)
• UNI EN ISO 14001 (environmental management systems)
• OHSAS 18001 (occupational health and safety management systems)
• EMAS (Regulation (EC) n. 1221/2009)

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