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Perrine Ardouin, APLF Director, Informa Markets, Hong Kong
Fast fashion faces sustainability challenges in some areas but less so
in others, such as leather. APLF (Asia Pacific Leather Fair) was voted
the industry’s most important leather event and we’ve found an
important role to play as champions of a material that is sustainable
by nature. Produced by tanners who process hides that would
otherwise be wasted as a by-product of the meat industry, leather
is also long-lasting and bio-degradable.
Championing sustainability has been central to APLF for well over
a decade. Most of our conferences, and most new products launched
at the show each year, have sustainability built in. The Leather
Working Group (LWG), who established the industry’s gold, silver
and bronze sustainability ratings for tanneries, host their Annual
Meeting at our show. So does Leather Naturally, an industrial group
we helped found to promote the beauty, durability, versatility and
(most importantly) sustainability of leather. We developed the
Sustainability in the Leather Supply Chain conference, and it’s also
the occasion for the Tannery of the Year Award and gala dinner.
The industry has come a long way since the LWG began offering sustainability audits and certification in 2005. Driven by consumers, brands needed to understand which suppliers met their requirements on sustainability in the broadest sense – on environmental, human rights and compliance issues. Today, the majority of tanneries in China and other countries in Asia-Pacific region have upgraded their production. Treatments are increasingly environmentally friendly, such as vegetable tannins and solvent-free dye, and in some of the most advanced tanneries water discharge from the tanning process is drinkable!
Reflecting the trends in the global leather industry, in 2018 we introduced the ‘PPP process’ for all exhibitors – a Profiling and Positioning Procedure that shows our commitment to transparency. We require every exhibitor to declare their sustainability credentials, and we include proofs of their certificates in the online showroom. And every year we continue to invite the technicians and experts from British Leather Centre to organise training programmes with us in Hong Kong, where fashion industry professionals can get clued up on the latest auditing, compliance and certifications.
Setting our sights higher
We have made it our mission to become the region’s leading sustainable sourcing platform for the fashion industry – including
non-leather materials. To do that, we’ve set up a Sustainability Steering Committee to guide our development, comprised of our exhibitors, brands, research centres and organisations promoting sustainability.
Jessica Rubin, Senior Director – Content Marketing Informa Markets, Boulder
Since joining Informa 11 years ago, I’ve watched how we have
increasingly provided the platform for others to inspire change
– not least when it comes to sustainability. Today at Informa Health
& Nutrition, I help companies in the natural products industry tell their
stories, to grow businesses and bring more health to more people.
It’s not surprising to me that a recent study found that 78%
of consumers believe it is no longer acceptable for companies to
just make money. There’s an expectation that companies should positively impact society as well.
The pillar of purpose
As well as price, quality of product and convenience, consumers
increasingly care about sustainability and the mission of a brand. And it’s a massive opportunity for those brands that do it well.
Unilever understood this when I first met with them in 2016. Some of
their brands had exhibited at New Hope Network’s 85,000+ person event Natural Products Expo West in the past and they saw us as an important partner. We act as an amplifier to their rallying call by creating content marketing that builds trust in their products, with stories that promote sustainable best practices to other companies, retailers and industry influencers that engage with our market networks in various ways.
Spreading good deeds
The message is that there are companies making products that are not only good for you, but also good for the planet and society. For example, Unilever brands like Pukka Herbs donate at least 1% of
all sales to environmental projects through 1% for the Planet, and Growing Roots donates a staggering 50% of profits to urban agriculture organisations. Culture Republick is supporting local arts with 10% of profits, while Schmidt’s and Love Beauty and Planet products are proudly vegan and cruelty free, a crucial
factor for their customers. And at Natural Products Expo West, we’ve teamed up with Unilever to offer education sessions on sustainability for other businesses in the natural products industry. Independent and large retailers get involved, which shows how big and small companies can work together. We further build out this story through a range of digital content tools. Ultimately, we’re showing how
sustainable, mission-driven business models are cultivating health for people and the planet, growing their businesses and defining a new collaboration economy.