Campaign ‘Change your Shoes’ welcomes new EU regulation on leather

Friday 1 May 2015
article translations English

It is alarming that consumers of leather shoes in Europe run the risk to harm their health. Workers in tanneries and shoe factories in low-wage countries like India or Bangladesh are even more at risk as they work with chemicals without work safety and are in permanent contact with the polluted leather. It is long overdue that Chromium VI will be banned in leather products. The new EU regulation is a first step, but it remains to be seen whether it is effective and has positive consequences for the workers in tanneries and shoe factories.

Chemical tanning with Chromium is used in 80-85 % of the worldwide leather production. Although it is Chromium III and not the dangerous Chromium VI that is used in the tanning process, it can transform under certain circumstances to Chromium VI which is highly toxic to humans and causes skin and respiratory diseases.

In contrast to the textile industry, the grievances of the production processes of the leather and shoe industry are largely unknown. In the next three years “Change your Shoes” will do research on the working and environmental conditions in the leather and shoe production and stimulate the dialogue with EU citizens, politicians and shoe brands on these grievances. The aim of the project is to improve the social and ecological conditions in the shoe and leather industry by, among others, changing the purchasing habits of European citizens, by banning the use of chromium tanned leather and by increasing the living wages in tanneries and shoe factories.

In doing this, the campaign is part of the European Year for Development with the motto ‘Our world, our dignity, our future’. The EU is an important player in protecting workers and consumers form hazardous products and in implementing an ethical and sustainable shoe supply chain.

Further information: The EU regulation:

“Change your Shoes” is a European initiative of human rights and workers’ rights organizations. 15 European organizations and 3 Asian organizations stand up for an ethical and sustainable shoe supply chain. By raising awareness of consumers on their lifestyle choices, instigating policy changes and strengthening corporate responsibility, the campaign aims to improve the social and ecological conditions in the shoe and leather industry.

The Change your Shoes Project is supported by the EU. The contents of this press release, is the sole responsibility of GERT and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.