Credit: Ivars Krutain

The leather industry could lead the way in manufacturing

Redwood comment
Published:  28 July, 2021

This is the headline from the top of the editorial page of the Financial Times (FT) on July 23. It had the word “British” added, and yes it was 2021 and not 1821. The headline came from the FT but the letter it headlined I had written in response to an article about hopes for future employment in manufacturing and services.

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Credit: Cytonn Photography

The joy of meetings

Redwood comment
Published:  21 July, 2021

A year or more of zero travel and extended remote working has raised the importance of “the meeting” to a new level. Back-to-back Zoom meetings have become the norm, and the one-hour meeting the defined standard. I have sat in on a few where managing the sixty-minute aspect had priority over content and purpose.

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Credit: Nick Karvounis

A beautiful concept

Redwood comment
Published:  13 July, 2021

A word. A simple word. Three easy syllables that merge smoothly despite being in a foreign language. Yet a beautiful word representing an even more beautiful concept. 

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Mike Redwood

The right sort of jobs

Redwood comment
Published:  06 July, 2021

One year ago, I was writing that the leather industry should do all that it could to offer jobs to young people. The young were suffering disproportionately from the problems of Covid-19 despite being the least likely to die from it. School leavers, college and university graduates were unable to find jobs and the under 30s were the most likely to be laid off.

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Mike Redwood

Old ideas have their place in a modern world

Redwood comment
Published:  29 June, 2021

During the past eighteen months of pandemic, one winner seems to have been wine; anyway it was in our household. Trapped at home with decent weather, much of the time a glass of wine while relaxing in the garden was the logical activity. So, it is a pleasure to know that over the past six months the wine producing industry has been debating unexpected livestock ideas from France.

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Cyber-attacks affect us all

Redwood comment
Published:  22 June, 2021

Walking back to our hotel after dinner in Shanghai a few years ago (do you vaguely remember those days?), an Alderman from the City of London reminded me that I fitted the profile of individuals likely to be the target of scammers on the internet. While I was aware of this, it was still a shock to hear it so directly stated. 

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Credit: Bram van Oost

There is a joker in town

Redwood comment
Published:  15 June, 2021

Sustainable electric cars with plastic seats, who’s kidding who?

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Dr Mike Redwood

The written word

Redwood comment
Published:  08 June, 2021

Although this article will appear only online I still find myself preferring to read from paper and writing with a traditional fountain pen. In fact, only three weeks ago I changed to a new type of notebook for my everyday note taking. My choice was largely made by its larger size, which while less convenient, I am hoping will get me back writing more legibly.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Good leadership rather than good luck

Redwood comment
Published:  02 June, 2021

Leadership can be quite a nebulous concept and one that only gets defined when some specifically successful action is highlighted, regardless of whether the next time round the same action proves useless in a different context.  

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Dr Mike Redwood

We need to innovate out of the commodity trap

Redwood Comment
Published:  26 May, 2021

In a world grown accustomed to low prices as businesses prioritise efficiency, it is hard to avoid a commodity trap. Efficiency has been very much about reducing costs through a mix of using lower cost labour and higher levels of mechanisation in order to achieve shareholder gains. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Luncheon matters

Redwood Comment
Published:  19 May, 2021

It is Wednesday and we are sitting outside Purchases restaurant on high chairs with small tables in North Street, Chichester, a historic Cathedral town near London. This is our first lunch away from home since September 2020, as the UK cautiously attempts to escape the shackles of Covid-19. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

China and its people

Redwood Comment
Published:  12 May, 2021

The pandemic and the subsequent vaccine rollout present a very divided world. Global economic recovery is expected to be pretty strong in 2021, but only because of growth in China, the U.S. and Europe.

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Dr Mike Redwood

The Mulberry Made to Last Manifesto

Redwood Comment
Published:  05 May, 2021

If you watched the APLF Academy seminars, which are all now available on YouTube, you may have seen “The sustainability of knowledge within the industry”, presented by Rachel Garwood of the University of Northampton. She demonstrated how much University Leather education has changed over the last decade to create better options for both what is called “lifelong learning” and traditional leather learning - changes that have rapidly advanced because of COVID-19.

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Dr Mike Redwood

We need to sort this out

Redwood Comment
Published:  28 April, 2021

If you watched APLF’s Digital Week, you will have realised that major organisations in the leather industry around the world have come to the conclusion that there are many good reasons to proclaim leather as an excellent material to play its role in a world facing the huge challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.

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Dr Mike Redwood

People are our most important asset

Redwood Comment
Published:  21 April, 2021

Rather too long ago, when I was studying for my MBA, a much-respected Professor raised the often-used phrase in Company Mission Statements that employees are key assets. His course was about recognising that the majority of business activity was routine and how the efficient company analyses and automates them. He was scathing that so many companies who trumpeted the “people are first” statement steadily released staff whenever their automation allowed it.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Forward and backwards with Clubhouse

Redwood Comment
Published:  14 April, 2021

I cannot decide what my relationship is going to be with the new App called Clubhouse, where rooms are created for audio chats about all manner of subjects. Is it really a step towards a more relaxed and creative way of thinking about a wide range of subjects than Zoom or Teams, or do I hate it as no more than another demand on valuable time?

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Dr Mike Redwood

A unique material that needs to keep re-defining itself

Redwood Comment
Published:  07 April, 2021

We talk a lot about leather being one of the oldest and most versatile materials, available to the first humans as a ‘waste product’ from their hunter gatherer diet, which included meat and milk.

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Credit: Annie Spratt

Leather and livestock improve biodiversity and poverty

Redwood Comment
Published:  31 March, 2021

Lately, we have been seeing a number of new definitions of sustainability being presented, all intended to move us forward from the 1987 Brundtland Report definition in the UN document Our Common Future.

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Dr Mike Redwood

We must be honest, but never silent

Redwood Comment
Published:  24 March, 2021

It is Tuesday in a small west country village in the south west of England, looking out over the sheep resting and grazing amongst the trees. We are locked down by the rules of the pandemic, and with only a few brief interruptions, have been for most of the last twelve months. Yes, it is exactly one year since we were first asked to confine ourselves. So, while the view is pleasant, it has largely been the only one available for a year.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Time to think and act positively

Redwood Comment
Published:  17 March, 2021

Some years ago now, a leather industry friend of mine with whom I first worked in the early 1970s, sent me a package of small material samples with a suggestion that I meet and offer to help the founder. I arrived at the London Royal College of Art, meeting with founder of Ananas Anam, the makers of Piñatex. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

The network always evolves

Redwood Comment
Published:  10 March, 2021

International trade has declined surprisingly little as a result of the tariff driven mission of the 45th President of the U.S. and the ravages of the pandemic, but it will not survive. President Trump saw trade as a binary win-or-lose proposition, which America’s size guaranteed he would win.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Post pandemic it is youth we will depend on

Redwood Comment
Published:  03 March, 2021

The Executive Committee of the IULTCS has announced the two young leather scientist winners of the 2021 IUR research grants. The selected scientists are from Brazil and New Zealand.  

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Dr Mike Redwood

Celebrate our people

Redwood Comment
Published:  24 February, 2021

On a recent Saturday afternoon, I found myself sitting in front of a computer on a Zoom panel with half a dozen others as part of the Independent Shoemakers Conference, run by bespoke London based shoemaker Carréducker. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Education is not preparation for life - it is life

Published:  17 February, 2021

I recently read Dr. Tara Westover’s book Educated. Having often travelled to the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City and regularly incorporated it in a longer trip which allowed me to see more of the local area, I was interested to learn about life growing up in rural Idaho and Utah. In one of many interviews she has done since publication, she said that she thought it was wrong to say that education is only to prepare us for life - it was life.

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Dr Mike Redwood

This is a crisis still to play out

Redwood Comment
Published:  10 February, 2021

In a rather slow changing world, strategic thinking was a very relaxed process during the centuries of leathermaking, but in the last few decades, the subject has needed to become part of routine management team discussions. As the 20th century progressed, the leather industry slowly began to recognise that changes were happening that required long term planning to adapt for the implications of an aging global society, rapid urbanisation and a huge emerging middle class.

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Credit: Matthew Guay

The leather industry’s difficult relationship with the media

Worldwide
Published:  05 February, 2021

The leather industry’s relationship with the media, and by that I am mainly referring to mainstream media, and more recently social media, has long been a strained one. Some of it is self-inflicted, it has to be said, with the sector’s passive stance in the past having opened the floodgates to journalists, broadcasters and other unvetted publicists to spout one-sided, badly researched propaganda and misinformation against leather.

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Credit: Muhammad Numan

Save the planet and enjoy the rich patina of life

Redwood Comment
Published:  03 February, 2021

I received an email two weeks ago when I asked for some advice from the Product Life Institute in Geneva. My message had mentioned the comparison of leather with plastic substitutes. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Have we seen the end of ties?

Redwood Comment
Published:  27 January, 2021

Working out what we will be wearing as we ease back into a more open life as the pandemic diminishes is getting harder. For a long time, there was a belief that we would enter a new Roaring Twenties type of lifestyle, exuberantly dressing up to enjoy the release from months of misery. The arrival of Regency diversions such as Bridgerton onto the small screen, along with some of the concepts on current digital catwalks, reinforces this positive feeling. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

The digital world

Redwood Comment
Published:  20 January, 2021

I have never ever sat an examination where I was allowed to use a calculator. I am from a generation that began at primary school learning about dipping pens into inkwells and went on to work on log tables. University years were a little simpler as we had moved on to slide rules, and I benefited from my father letting me have a lovely one that had been gifted to him by Lennig Chemicals, the UK subsidiary of Rohm & Haas.

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Dr Mike Redwood

The tannery today

Redwood Comment
Published:  13 January, 2021

As last year came to an end, I wrote about the value of family businesses, and how the fact that family-owned companies were embedded in the community made them naturally more likely to have maintained what is now recognised as a forward-thinking approach to supporting a wider range of stakeholders than shareholders alone. As part of a community, the welfare of employees, their families and the wellbeing of the local society all had to be considered.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Rebuilding support for making things

Redwood Comment
Published:  05 January, 2021

In the midst of the pandemic in 2020, the British Government paid out about US$2 billion to keep the Arts alive in the UK. According to statements at the time, the Arts are the nation’s lifeblood; they have to be kept alive. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Strategy direction in the snow

Redwood Comment
Published:  22 December, 2020

Some years ago, I was invited to attend a UNIDO meeting high in the snows of the mountains of Austria. A group had been convened to look at future planning and I was to talk about the leather industry in which one arm of UNIDO works. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

China’s 14th Five-Year-Plan

Redwood Comment
Published:  16 December, 2020

As we slide towards the end of the weird and monstrous year 2020, we are beginning to see that much of the future will indeed not look like the past - like an arrow shot through skin does not reverse out with the same simplicity but leaves changes that will stay forever. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

The EU Social and Environmental Report for tanneries

Redwood Comment
Published:  09 December, 2020

The presentation of the Leather: Social and Environmental Report: 2020 by Cotance and industriAll-Europe a week ago was very well done. Given that it was run as a virtual event with a long list of speakers from many countries, and translations provided in half a dozen languages, there was a lot to potentially go wrong. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Not all cows are the same

Redwood Comment
Published:  02 December, 2020

As Britain leaves the EU, a big discussion has been initiated about farming. Many in Britain have long disliked the EU Common Agricultural Policy - a farming subsidy system largely based on cash handouts related to the area of farming land owned. How it is to be replaced is proving contentious and not helped by the fact that today consumers pay about 25% of the price for food compared to when Britain first joined the EU. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

The battles of Bangladesh and California

Redwood Comment
Published:  25 November, 2020

The leather industry continues to complain about life, the universe and everything; perhaps this is the best evidence that it has largely survived the most unexpected and horrendous year in history. We have not seen the mass loss of good companies that we expected a few weeks into the pandemic as it swept from Asia to Europe and on to the USA. 

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Credit: Annie Spratt

Transparency in the supply chain is not merely a box to tick

Redwood Comment
Published:  18 November, 2020

Traceability has become a major new theme of doing business in many spheres. Apart from the complexity of split leathers, following hides and skins back to source should not be impossible. 

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Credit: Benoît Teillet / Fondation d’entreprise Hermès

Appreciation for leather must be nurtured in childhood – or it may be too late

Worldwide
Published:  12 November, 2020

The other day, my nine-year-old daughter and I were browsing online stores to search for some winter boots for her. My girl had a very specific idea of what she wanted (a chunky, ankle-length hiking boot style, in case you were wondering), and we checked the usual big brand stores on the lookout for something suitable. When I dismissed a number of shoes she liked because they were not leather, she protested: “But Mummy, leather is from dead animals. That’s bad. I don’t want leather!” 

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Dr Mike Redwood

A balanced view

Redwood Comment
Published:  11 November, 2020

The last decade has seen very little growth in productivity in industry, even during the last five when we were well clear of the financial crisis and GDP growth should have been accelerating. Governments have been baffled as it has been such growth that increases incomes and wealth.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Call a spade a spade

Redwood Comment
Published:  04 November, 2020

The campaign for Plain English is intended to fight for clear language in public communication, opposing what is called gobbledygook, jargon and legalese. Many people either deliberately or thoughtlessly create confusion by using overly complex language that no one can understand. Where legal matters are concerned, this can be of grave importance. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

Leather can do good after Covid

Redwood Comment
Published:  28 October, 2020

After the 1990s, the world supercharged globalisation and pulled hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, led by China. Things had been improving since the 1950s, but the rise in the digital economy appears to have so improved communications that there was a huge acceleration.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Learning for life

Redwood Comment
Published:  21 October, 2020

The changing nature of work has pushed university education to the forefront in recent years as a prerequisite for survival during a life where few of the jobs available at the start of a career will exist towards the end. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

The effective use of external advisers

Redwood Comment
Published:  13 October, 2020

The prestigious journal of the UK Society of Leather Technologists and Chemists (JSLTC) has unexpectedly become a battlefield over the value of consultants. This is a weird battle for an austere technical journal in its 104th year, but one that points to the changing role of technology and innovation within our industry.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Making a start with the Higg Index

Redwood Comment
Published:  07 October, 2020

The leather industry is rightly furious with claims being made on behalf of alternate materials, most of which are made from fossil fuels. These materials would be labelled plastics, rather than synthetics, if they were built into any structural form rather than a sheet material.

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Dr Mike Redwood

Perhaps even put a tie on

Redwood Comment
Published:  29 September, 2020

Reporting on the European situation recently, Robert Perkins, Chair of the British Footwear Association (BFA), said that most countries are now forecasting a decline in footwear sales of 20-30% for 2020 versus 2019. This is better than the forecast decline of 30-40% four months ago. 

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Dr Mike Redwood

ESG hits the spotlight

Redwood Comment
Published:  23 September, 2020

How long will it take before Boohoo and Rio Tinto recover from the outcomes of hitting global headlines for what can only be classed as management failures? Company analysts are talking in terms of three years at least. During this time, their share price will be depressed, many investors will stay clear of the company and stakeholders and customers will be wary before transacting with them.

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Credit: Zbynek Burival

(Un)intended environmental consequences of the vegan agenda

Worldwide
Published:  22 September, 2020

Veganism is often presented as the solution to our environmental, health and animal welfare problems. But is it? Although, the majority of vegans believe any material that is not derived from animals is fine, many miss the fact that globally thousands of perfectly useable hides and skins (for making leather) are currently thrown away on a daily basis (estimates suggest 15-25%), while many of the alternatives that are marketed as ‘vegan’ use up natural resources and many are fossil-fuel derived from non-renewable carbon sources. 

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Credit: Rupixen

New trade models for a new world order

Worldwide
Published:  17 September, 2020

In the ILM Tanner Business Confidence Survey 2019, just 28% of tanners who responded stated that their company is set up to sell leather via e-commerce channels against an overwhelming 71% majority who were not. A year later, in the 2020 edition of the same annual survey, that number had barely edged up, with just 31% of tanners selling leather through online channels, while still a staggering 69% are not.

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Dr Mike Redwood

The chemistry of leather

Redwood Comment
Published:  15 September, 2020

The recent talks about the chemistry of leather by Dr Dietrich Tegtmeyer (which are easily found on YouTube) excellently update us in simple terms about how chemistry works and fits appropriately with the manufacture of leather. It shows that this is a complex subject, but a necessary one, and in the right hands can be a force for good in providing society with long lasting, sustainable materials like leather.

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Dr Mike Redwood

A material world

Redwood Comment
Published:  09 September, 2020

All the evidence that we are seeing is of a world that is fighting hard to pretend that we have never had this pandemic and do not need to change. The press continues to write about the need for a greener world, a less consumptive world and to talk about a kinder society, but the signs on the ground are hard to spot.

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