IFF and AIP present the traceability and sustainability programmeThe International Fur Federation and Italian Fur Association (AIP) in recent months have presented the traceability and social responsibility programme, “Natural Fur. The Responsible Choice” that the Federation is launching globally and the Italian Association nationally. We talked about the relevant topics with Roberto Scarpella, President of the Italian Fur Association
As can be gathered from the brochure “Natural Fur – The Responsible Choice”, the characteristics of sustainability are an inseparable aspect of fur, as are its biodegradability, traceability, transparency of the supply chain…
The information booklet published by the International Fur Federation is an important communication tool that illustrates the characteristics of sustainability of the fur product and what the entire sector is doing to ensure animal welfare, traceability of the production and transparency to the consumer. Our Association, which edited the Italian version, has circulated it to all member companies, to fashion and design institutes, to the design offices of the most important fashion companies and to the most qualified buyers. A copy of the brochure was also handed out at every political and institutional meeting.
The objective of implementing a general certification standard for animal welfare (named WelFur), starting from January 1st 2020 is ambitious. Do you think that you will also be able to involve the most important fashion brands and possibly animal welfare associations?
Absolutely yes, with regards to many important fashion brands, who are already aware of this project, and have followed its development and are waiting to be able to use certified leather for their productions. As for the animal welfare associations, I believe that those really committed in this area and not only interested in eliminating all human use of animal products can only be in favour of the certification.
In fact, a very important area of commitment for our Association is the constant protection and promotion of high standards of animal welfare guaranteed by our fur farms, which in Italy only breed mink. Italian farms are numerically small, but their production is of a high level and I can proudly say that almost all of them have already completed the process of obtaining the WelFur certification, i.e. the certification guaranteed by an external body that carries out inspections to ensure that the animal welfare standards are met on the farm. It is important to underline that WelFur is a scientific evaluation programme, whose protocols are based on the four principles of animal welfare in the Welfare Quality project of the European Commission: good shelter, good nutrition and diet, good health and adequate behaviour.
What activities are AIP carrying out to protect and promote the Italian fur industry, especially regarding specific rules and regulations?
For many years, the Italian Fur Association has been committed to promoting the undeniable characteristics of sustainability of fur as a fashion material: a commitment that also translates into preparing and providing companies with useful tools to ensure a sustainable production that is traceable and transparent at all levels of the supply chain. Just to give an example, for almost forty years, AIP has been working with the Forestry Corps and the management authorities of CITES (Washington Convention), the international agreement approved in 1973 to protect the sustainable use of animal and plant species, to provide information of wild species used by the sector, none of which is at risk of extinction, to help officials in the recognition of hides and to keep companies constantly informed of the legal requirements.
In order to fit the sector with a suitable tool to protect both the information needed by consumers and the correctness and transparency of operators, sixteen years ago AIP, with the collaboration of the Quality Certification Institute for the Tanning industry (ICEC), began a study for the voluntary labelling of natural fur products. This study resulted in a project that, in September 2002, led to the publication of the UNI 11007 Standard “Requirements and guidelines for the labeling of fur products.” In addition to its importance in terms of communication and marketing, this standard also acquired particular relevance in view of the absence of a specific regulation governing the labelling of fur products: a relevance immediately grasped by the International Fur Federation which, a few months later, promoted it at an international level and imposed it as an essential requirement for all member organisations. The collaboration with ICEC and the work at the UNI have continued over the years and see us engaged in other projects of standards aimed at protecting the sector: the last one was the UNI project concerning “Requirements for the designation of origin of the production of leather and fur products” concluded with the publication of the UNI standard 11712 on May 17th 2018. The next step will be the drafting of a standard for standardising at a national level the environmental criteria and functional characteristics of the production of leather and fur products so that they can be defined as having a reduced environmental or ecological impact. This is a particularly important project as the communication for the promotion of products with a reduced environmental impact must be based on accurate, verifiable, relevant and scientific information, so as to avoid ambiguity and confusion for consumers. In short, this is our commitment in the regulatory field, which is accompanied by the work within the Sustainability Commission of Confindustria Moda, of which our Association is a member. The Commission aims to analyse what has already been done by the different sectors of the Italian fashion industry and identify the best ways to strengthen increasingly different aspects of sustainability ranging from attention to the environment, proper use of natural resources, safety in the workplace, and protection of consumer health. A very broad and complex subject that the fashion world must address in a unified manner. The same applies to our tanneries, whose very high quality is recognised all over world. Also, in this area, research to improve the production processes is continuing: our Association collaborates constantly with the Union of Italian Tanning Industries (UNIC) and with the Experimental Station for the Leather Industry of Naples in order to guarantee that no leather tanned in Italy can contain chemical substances harmful to the environment and to the health of the consumer.
Due to their intrinsic properties, garments in natural fur are made to last and stay beautiful over time: in practice, the exact opposite of what can be said of fast fashion. What do you think about the recent hard stance taken by some fashion brands towards fur, showcasing synthetic fur on the catwalks instead of real?
Precisely because natural fur is an absolutely sustainable material from an environmental point of view, I believe that the choice made by some fashion companies to replace it with synthetic is dictated more by commercial strategies. In some cases, the argument that it is done for ethical reasons seems to respond more to communication and marketing needs than to moral convictions. However, I am absolutely convinced that our task is not to discuss the business choices of one brand or another: we have a duty to defend our product and our work, underlining that, when we talk about true sustainability, fur is second to none in the fashion world.