ReVeal targets greater transparency

Last November, leather chemical manufacturer Stahl joined forces with livestock trading company PALI Group, Vitelco, Rompa Tanneries and Rompa Leder, to bring full transparency and traceability to the leather supply chain during an interactive event named ReVeal. The ReVeal partners explain more to ILM (International Leather Maker) about this forward-thinking initiative.

ReVeal aims to become a model for transparency in the calf leather supply chain. The Netherlands based companies joined forces to present to various consumer brands on November 2 how high-quality Dutch calf leather can be produced for their leather goods, footwear and garments.

“ReVeal brought full transparency through each stage of the calf leather supply chain and included a visit to a farm and a tannery. This gives decision makers a better view on alternatives that improve animal welfare and reduce the environmental impact without compromising on leather quality. ReVeal sets a worldwide example for transparency and traceability in the leather supply chain”, said Stahl in a statement following the event.

Continuously working towards more sustainable production processes, from good living conditions of cattle to reducing the use of chemicals during leather production, the event organisers have become aware that consumer brands, designers and purchasers are increasingly taking the whole leather supply chain into account.

During ReVeal, luxury brands could trace where and under what conditions the leather articles have been produced. The one-day event also addressed certain environmental issues associated with leather processing. The Dutch PALI Group is a worldwide operating livestock trading company and a large producer of veal. Key subsidiary Vitelco is responsible for selling numerous calfskins to tanneries who supply leading luxury brands, and has its own durable farms, a slaughterhouse and a tannery, therefore, it controls the entire supply chain. Rompa Tanneries, part of Vitelco, is based in Lichtenvoorde in the Netherlands. The tannery is fully equipped to process calfskins from fresh hides to high-quality finished leathers for the luxury segment.

What exactly is ReVeal?
The main aim of ReVeal is to contribute to a sustainable and durable leather industry by creating more sustainable calfskins, primarily for the high-end fashion industry. This Dutch initiative literally reveals the path of all production process stages from calf to the final bag design. The integrated chain from calf to leather makes is possible to check and control each step of the supply chain at any given time. It also makes it possible to make every calfskin to be fully traceable individually. Furthermore, ReVeal does not only mean complete transparency, it also contains the keyword of the product: veal - referring to calfskins from animals that are under one year old.

The themes transparency, traceability and sustainability are well known to all event partners, as they are all leading companies in the leather production industry and continuously endeavour to make their processes more sustainable. From good living conditions of the cattle to reducing the use of chemicals during leather production. Leather chemical makers Stahl explained its involvement in ReVeal to ILM: “By showing what is possible by keeping the full leather production process in the Netherlands, we have ensured multiple benefits. Excessive transportation is avoided, fewer processing steps are necessary and no salt is needed to preserve skins. Thanks to the owned farms, animal welfare and good labour conditions are guaranteed.”

So why is a leather chemical company such as Stahl getting involved in a project like ReVeal? Stahl says that it believes that the road to sustainability starts with transparency, but it does not limit its activity to the technology that it supplies. The purpose of the ReVeal project is to show how the (calf ) leather supply chain can be managed in a way that is environmentally and socially responsible. Stahl also recognises that consumers, brands and designers are increasingly taking the whole leather supply chain into account when they make decisions, so this project was also aimed at opening-up the process for key stakeholders in the supply chain.

Whole chain sustainability
Stahl is committed to making the industry more sustainable by participating in projects like this. At the event, the company showed which environmental issues associated with leather processing ReVeal aims to address. Proviera - Probiotics for Leather, for example, is a range of probiotic-based products used in the beamhouse step. The technology is 100% biodegradable and based on a 100% natural probiotic formulation which can then be used to prepare the raw hide for tanning. Further processing of the calfskin can be performed with Stahl EasyWhite Tan, the chrome-free tanning system for manufacturing high-quality leather which can save water and energy without compromising product quality and usability.

Who is PALI Group?
PALI Group is a family owned business with a completely Dutch origin. Founded in 1959, it has about 450 employees and a turnover of €385 million. The head office is situated in Den Bosch, the Netherlands; also where the calf slaughterhouse, the deboning hall and the cold store facilities are. The meat company is called Vitelco. PALI slaughters around 8,000 calves every week. In Cuijck, is located the hide salting facility where all its hides are being sorted/selected and then salted or cooled. The tannery, Rompa Tanneries, is located in Lichtenvoorde, and is a joint venture between PALI Group and Rompa Leder.

Transparency for luxury brands
At the event, the ReVeal partners and invited speakers from the ZDHC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals) Foundation, of which Stahl is a member, and presented to various luxury consumer brands how high-quality Dutch calf leather is produced for (their) leather goods, footwear and garments. They explained how the integrated leather chain works and how it can combine this with environmentally friendly tanning systems. Aiming to make calfskins fully traceable, the partners literally revealed each stage of the calf leather supply chain by visiting a farm and a tannery. Invitees paid a visit to one of PALI Group’s calf farms so they could see what is going on there for themselves.

Our visitors appreciated the transparency by which we let them see the barns at first hand. The feedback we got was great. They saw with their own eyes how well the calves are treated and taken care of and how tidy and organised a professional veal-farm is. We believe they especially appreciated that a Dutch veal farm is a family owned business, where a family is really committed to taking good care of the animals.

Twan de Bie, Project Manager, PALI Group.

Traceability and environmentally friendly tanning processes are hot topics in the leather industry at the moment. Since organising the event last year, the partners have received a lot of positive feedback on those topics as well.

Animal welfare and husbandry
In the Netherlands, every single calf is registered in a government owned database that is open to see for everybody. There is even an app available with which you can check all the places where every calf has ever been. On top of that, every calf is checked and approved by SKV before it can be slaughtered. SKV* is an independent, government owned organisation that is founded to control the veal supply chain. They check farms, the calves, food preparation and slaughterhouses to make sure that the veal is produced according to current quality regulations. Animal welfare is a significant part of this. Every calf produced in Holland meets the standards of SKV. Additionally, PALI Group has an integrated chain where it owns the calves and makes its own decisions with what happens to each animal, and where it can control and check every step. Strict rules are applied in every part of the chain to make sure the calves are treated well. This goes for the collection centre, the farm and the slaughterhouse as well as for the transport.

PALI takes care in making sure the skins are clean and free of damage. For example, the floor in the barn is designed in a way that calves cannot lie in manure. The company also ensures that there are no sharp objects (such as bolts or nails) on which calves can scratch themselves. In addition, during raising and transport, there is much attention towards the welfare of the calf which goes perfectly together with an optimal skin quality.

The welfare of our ReVeal cattle is the number one priority. From husbandry to transport, we focus on their (calves) health and provide them with the best possible care to ensure the optimal final skin quality.

Twan de Bie

Transparency and traceability
ILM asked the project partners how they can provide specific detail on how a tanner, brand or retailer can really trace where the leather from a ReVeal calfskin comes from? How much data is supplied about each animal/skin and how that is transferred through the leather supply chain to a finished leather product? “We are currently developing this and we will make it possible to make the skin traceable back to the individual calf. This means that all the information about each calf, such as which farm raised the calf, where it was born, date of birth, age, sex, ID-code of his/her mother, is available in the government-owned database through the app. We also aim to provide all the information a tanner, brand or retailer needs since most of the calves are raised in an integrated supply chain. In our database, we have hundreds of details for each calf available”, they explained.

Checks and balances
When the traceability program is up and running, approximately 10,000 calfskins will be available every week. It is indeed very important that a traceability system can be checked and guaranteed. The quality in the animal raising process is checked and guaranteed by the independent SKV*. In the development of the traceability system PALI will make sure that good monitoring systems are possible. Sustainable practices have a financial cost In a response to a question from ILM on the costs introducing a full traceability programme, the partners believe that by keeping the full leather production process in the Netherlands, it will ensure multiple benefits: excessive transportation is avoided, fewer processing steps are necessary and no salt is needed to preserve skins which saves on costs. In addition, ReVeal stands for high-quality leather, created with respect for people, animals and the environment, which results in what they term a “fair price”. To ensure full transparency and traceability in the supply chain, brands should factor in the extra costs.

*About SKV
SKV is the Dutch Foundation for Quality Guarantee in the Veal Sector (SKV) and stands for safe and responsibly produced veal. Consumers are guaranteed that quality was the primary consideration during the production and processing of this meat, and that no forbidden growth promoters are used - either when the calf was being raised or as an additive in the cattle feed. SKV was established in 1990 by the veal calf sector in close consultation with the Dutch government.
For more information visit the SKV website.

This article was written and published by ILM - International Leather Maker (Issue 21 - February 2017)