In his talk “Kind Leather – A New Approach to Leather Processing”, presented at the 4th ILM Automotive Leather Supply Chain Conference in Europe on May 21 in Munich, Fernando Bellese, Marketing and Sustainability Manager at JBS Couros, introduced the Company’s recently launched eponymous concept and the significant environmental, economic and social gains this innovative process brings about.

Responsible Sourcing
Bellese continued by giving an overview of JBS’ social and environmental monitoring programme whereby more than 80,000 farms and an area spanning 590,000 km2 are being monitored using satellite images as well as government data. JBS has also developed clear criteria and indicators that define animal welfare and provides training and guidance to all of its employees. “Animal welfare is a matter of doing good business. If animals are not treated well, you don’t get good beef, you don’t get good prices for the beef, so it’s as clear as that; more so than doing the right thing, treating animals well is good business”, said Bellese. He added that having these clear criteria in place helps inform and drive new projects, as well as facilitate engagement with other industry stakeholders. “Not only are we controlling what we are doing, but we are also promoting best practice,” he said, further detailing the Company’s practices around traceability, with detailed sourcing and production history, product safety and continuous improvement key.

Eco-Efficiency
“We all know our industry is resource-intensive, so we need to continuously work to be sure that we are becoming more and more efficient as an industry”, said Bellese. In order to avoid waste, a unique shape was developed that is used for leather processing, while the rest of the raw material is being sold to other industries. Key advantages of this method include less trimmings/waste, less chemicals in the process and reduced carbon footprint due to savings in transportation, as well as water and electricity reduction. In addition, Bellese outlined a number of wider economic benefits from this new approach. “If you have a smaller hide, a more standardised shape, you can feed more hides to your machinery, they are lighter, you can move them in a faster way, so you gain productivity, you gain in cutting yield because we are removing the areas that normally have more defects. All those things you are sending to other industries, and you end up with a better-quality leather”, he said. “Because we think this is an important mindset change in the way we process leather, we decided to name it. We call it Kind Leather”, he added.

After a two-year development process, Kind Leather was officially launched in January 2019, with the company working to further develop the concept. JBS says it has already seen significant improvements and savings in the reduction of CO2 emission in the transportation of wet-blue (-65%), water consumption at beamhouse processes (-46%), chemical consumption (wet-blue -42%), power consumption (-20%), as well as in the reduction of chemical consumption in finishing (-28%), and of trimmings considering the whole production chain (- 51%). “It’s more profit, it’s better business”, concluded Bellese.

From ILM