Do leather workers matter?

Violating labour rights and environmental norms in India’s leather production

he environmental impact of the leather industry is well known, with tanning being one of the
most polluting industries in the world. Waste water from tanneries often contains high amounts of acids, salts and heavy metals. These toxic chemicals also negatively impact the health of workers, as has been documented by Human Rights Watch and many others.
1The short film ‘The Toxic Price of Leather’ by Sean Gallagher, for instance, strikingly illustrates the harmful effects on people and environment of extreme pollution caused by tanneries of the city of Kanpur, the biggest producer and exporter of leather goods in India.
2 Less known are the manyother sustainability and human rights issues related to the leather and footwear production in India. This report explores labour conditions in the leather industry that are related to deep-rooted social inequalities in Indian society. It highlights underlying structural issues that impact the labour conditions in the leather industry in India: caste and gender discrimination. ICN feels that tackling these structural social conditions is a crucial prerequisite for the success of any CSR initiative in the Indian leather industry.
1For example: Toxic hazards of leather industry and technologies to combat threat: a review (Dixit S, Yadav A, Dwivedi PD, Das M, Oct 2014);India: The Toxic Price of Leather (The Pulitzer Center, Feb 2014);Special report: Toxic chemicals used for leather production poisoning India’s tannery workers (The Ecologist, Oct 2012); Toxic Tanneries: The Health Repercussions of Bangladesh’s Hazaribagh Leather (HumanRights Watch, Oct 9, 2012);BANGLADESH: Hazardous Child Labour in the Leather Sector of Dhaka(Anna Ensing, IREWOC, May 14, 2009)
2 The Toxic Price of Leather(S. Gallagher, supported by Pulitzer Center, 2014)
; retrieved from