Code of Conduct

A Code of Conduct for the European Leather Industry

Implementation and Evaluation

In the year 2000, the representative bodies of European tanners, together with COTANCE, signed a highly advanced social Code of Conduct. The Code was developed at European level by COTANCE and ETUF:TCL (European trade union federation for textile, clothing and leather).

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Many projects divulging the content of the Charter have been developed at EU level and in Member States promoting the leather industry Code of Conduct. It was taken up by its member organisations and subscribing to it is a precondition for new members. Its implementation at company level is, in principle, achieved, but COTANCE would to like to take a step further and provide companies subscribing individually to the Charter with an acknowledgement that they can use in their marketing strategies.

As a first step, companies subscribing will receive an acknowledgement of their willingness and commitment to the principles laid down in the Charter. In time they will be requested to formalise this commitment further through the certification by an independent body of their compliance to the Charter; SA 8000 or similar.

Subscribing is a voluntary act of commitment that is expected to be taken at the highest company decision-making level and to be further developed credibly over time with concrete achievements. All companies of the leather value chain may subscribe to the Charter, including non-EU companies. Its uptake by extra-EU companies increases its success as a global model.

To subscribe, send an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and you will receive the appropriate form.

Final Conference of the project

On 7 May 2003, COTANCE and ETUF: TCL organised the final conference of a joint pilot project aiming at implementing and evaluating this code of conduct. 

In his opening speech, COTANCE President, Mr. Costa, underlined among others that “the future of the leather and tanning industry in Europe requires sustainable development and corporate social responsibility (CSR)”. Mr. J. Gallice, ETUF: TCL Vice-President, pointed out that by wishing to ensure a stronger transparency and a bigger credibility of the concluded framework agreement, the project would contribute in practical terms, among others, to the works of the multilateral Forum set up by the Commission in the field of CSR. Mr. B. Jansen, Director of DG Employment and Social Affairs finally underlined that “this project – a first of its kind – reflects the quality of the social sectoral dialogue leather/tanning and the commitment of the social partners to implement their code of conduct on the ground”.

The pilot project (of a 9-month duration) allowed more particularly – through three joint training sessions – to train employer and trade unions representatives from some ten European tanneries in the fields of: core labour standards / ILO Conventions; and the enforcement of codes / agreements, according to procedures such as SA 8000.

Beyond this, it allowed to adapt the management systems, usually intended for big multinationals, to small- and medium-sized enterprises, characteristic of the European leather and tanning sector. The objective is clearly to transform an entrepreneurial commitment into, on the one hand, a credible tool for the consumers and, on the other hand, a competitive advantage on the global market.

Finally, a "toolkit" was developed under the project to reach, in principle, all employers and trade unions representatives from some 3,000 enterprises – directly employing more than 50,000 people, and generating a turnover of some 9 billion euros – representing the leather and tanning sector in the enlarged European Union.

By tackling the follow-up of the project, participants notably mentioned: the negotiation in the framework of their sectoral social dialogue, of a societal reporting adapted to the sector; and on the other hand, an extension through the verification of the production / value chain (subcontractors, providers, subsidiaries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, but also possibly in certain Mediterranean countries).

This project took place thanks to the support of the European Commission.