Int. J. of Technological Learning, Innovation and Development   »   2008 Vol.1, No.4



Title: The global leather value chain: the industries, the main actors and prospects for upgrading in LDCs


Author: Olga Memedovic, Heikki Mattila


United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Vienna International Centre, A-1400 Vienna, Austria.
Institute of Fibre Materials Science, Tampere University of Technology, Finland


Abstract: The global leather value chain is complex system. It includes animal husbandry, industrial and assembly processes and branded marketing, while semi-finished and finished products are sold and exported between companies and countries. One peculiarity of this value chain is its dependence on another value chain, animal production. In other words, its main input relies on animal production rates and the ability to collect and preserve the pelts. Essentially, the leather industry is built on meat production worldwide. Human skills, equipment and chemicals are needed for the production of top quality leather. In the footwear, leather garments and goods sector, additional attributes are required like high manufacturing skills, design know-how, computer-aided design systems, branding and marketing. Environmental policy instruments with respect to process standards, economic instruments and eco-labelling schemes received more attention in the recent past and although these measures are intended to protect the environment, support trade and reduce unfair competition, they might at first still be a burden to developing countries, because financial and managerial skills are required for successful implementation and monitoring of these standards. Trade barriers still exist in both EU and US. Growth and upgrading are real possibilities for firms in the global leather value chain. China's development from practically zero to the leading footwear supplier to the United States and the EU in 25 years is an example of this. This paper provides policy recommendations for developing and least developed countries, and for international organisations.


Keywords: leather industry; footwear; global value chains; LDCs; least developed countries; developing countries; industrial upgrading; value chain management.


DOI: 10.1504/IJTLID.2008.021965


Int. J. of Technological Learning, Innovation and Development, 2008 Vol.1, No.4, pp.482 - 519


Available online: 11 Dec 2008



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