Who We Are

Our team combines our collective passions and knowledge of the leather industry, environmental and political sciences. We are committed to supporting the leather value chain through our framework that provides transparent, inclusive and accessible mechanisms for sustainable improvement.

Deborah Taylor

Deborah Taylor

Managing Director

Deborah established SLF in July 2020 with a clear vision to support sustainable improvement for the leather industry in a way that is accessible to all. Prior to that, Deborah managed the Leather Working Group where she learned first-hand what challenges exist, and the regionality of some of those challenges. As well as overseeing the day to day management of the Sustainable Leather Foundation, Deborah is also a UN/CEFACT Consultant, working on the UNECE project to "Enhance Traceability & Transparency for More Sustainable Value Chains in the Garment and Footwear Sector" and is a Council Member of the Society of Leather Technologists and Chemists. Deborah is a Practitioner of the Chartered Quality Institute (PCQI), an accredited SA8000 Social Systems Lead Auditor and a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Curriers.

Sam Taylor

Sam Taylor

General Operations Manager

Sam holds an SA8000 lead auditor qualification and is a member of the SLTC. Sam holds a degree in Politics and International Relations with a specialist interest in environmental and economic sustainability. Before joining the SLF team in 2022, he worked for BAT (British American Tobacco), the largest tobacco company in the world where he experienced multi-level outlets and suppliers., requiring intelligent communication skills to successfully work with different value chain stakeholders. Earlier in his career, Sam worked within the public sector, for Warwickshire County Council's Library Division which gave him experience of communications at a very practical level and also taught him the importance of systems and procedures.

Zain Akber

Zain Akber

Head of Auditing Services

Zain holds a Masters Degree in Operations Management and an MBA from ITM Business School; plus a Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Anna University, India. His early career was as a Chemical Quality and Procurement Manager in the leather industry, working in tanneries for over a decade before turning his expertise to supporting ESG improvement. Zain has worked in tanneries for more than 13 years and comes from a fifth generation leather industry family. His knowledge spans the full range of leather production and more latterly product manufacture, in addition to, a wide range of regions as a Sustainability Consultant since 2010 in India, Russia, Turkey, Africa, Bangladesh, Indonesia etc. His experience covers the full range of leather production from beamhouse to finishing process. Registered with IEMA as a Principal Environmental Auditor, Zain is a qualified ISO 14001:2015, ISO 45001:2018 and SA8000 Lead Auditor and brings a wealth of experience to the team, particularly understanding the challenges from a tannery and an auditor perspective.

Deborah Taylor

Deborah Taylor

Managing Director

Deborah established SLF in July 2020 with a clear vision to support sustainable improvement for the leather industry in a way that is accessible to all. Prior to that, Deborah managed the Leather Working Group where she learned first-hand what challenges exist, and the regionality of some of those challenges. As well as overseeing the day to day management of the Sustainable Leather Foundation, Deborah is also a UN/CEFACT Consultant, working on the UNECE project to "Enhance Traceability & Transparency for More Sustainable Value Chains in the Garment and Footwear Sector" and is a Council Member of the Society of Leather Technologists and Chemists. Deborah is a Practitioner of the Chartered Quality Institute (PCQI), an accredited SA8000 Social Systems Lead Auditor and a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Curriers.

Sam Taylor

Sam Taylor

General Operations Manager

Sam holds a degree in Politics and International Relations with a specialist interest in environmental and economic sustainability. Before joining the SLF team in 2022, he worked for BAT (British American Tobacco), the largest tobacco company in the world where he experienced multi-level outlets and suppliers., requiring intelligent communication skills to successfully work with different value chain stakeholders. Earlier in his career, Sam worked within the public sector, for Warwickshire County Council's Library Division which gave him experience of communications at a very practical level and also taught him the importance of systems and procedures. Sam is currently in SA8000 lead auditor training (qualification pending).

Zain Akber

Zain Akber

Head of Auditing Services

Zain holds a Masters Degree in Operations Management and an MBA from ITM Business School; plus a Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Anna University, India. His early career was as a Chemical Quality and Procurement Manager in the leather industry, working in tanneries for over a decade before turning his expertise to supporting ESG improvement. Zain has worked in tanneries for more than 13 years and comes from a fifth generation leather industry family. His knowledge spans the full range of leather production and more latterly product manufacture, in addition to, a wide range of regions as a Sustainability Consultant since 2010 in India, Russia, Turkey, Africa, Bangladesh, Indonesia etc. His experience covers the full range of leather production from beamhouse to finishing process. Registered with IEMA as a Principal Environmental Auditor, Zain is a qualified ISO 14001:2015, ISO 45001:2018 and SA8000 Lead Auditor and brings a wealth of experience to the team, particularly understanding the challenges from a tannery and an auditor perspective.

External Support

External Support

Elise Cawthorn

Elise Cawthorn

IT Consultant

Diz is an experience IT specialist with over 20 years experience in creating and supporting specialist IT platforms. During her career Diz has worked on projects for Brands such as Sony Mobile and Playstation developing be-spoke applications for reward and recognition programmes and incentive websites. Diz provides SLF with IT development and support for the Transparency Dashboard.

Katie Kutskill

Katie Kutskill

Technical Consultant

Katie has a background in Environmental Policy and Leather Technology, having gained her Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Environmental Policy from the University of Michigan and her Master of Science (MSc) in Leather Technology from Northampton University. Katie has been supporting SLF since it's inception in 2020, first as an Advisory Board member, then as Technical Director before evolving to a Consulting role in 2024.

Elise Cawthorn

Elise Cawthorn

IT Consultant

Diz is an experience IT specialist with over 20 years experience in creating and supporting specialist IT platforms. During her career Diz has worked on projects for Brands such as Sony Mobile and Playstation developing be-spoke applications for reward and recognition programmes and incentive websites. Diz provides SLF with IT development and support for the Transparency Dashboard.

Katie Kutskill

Katie Kutskill

Technical Consultant

Katie has a background in Environmental Policy and Leather Technology, having gained her Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Environmental Policy from the University of Michigan and her Master of Science (MSc) in Leather Technology from Northampton University. Katie has been supporting SLF since it's inception in 2020, first as an Advisory Board member, then as Technical Director before evolving to a Consulting role in 2024.

SLF Advisory Board

Our Advisory Board has been established to ensure that we have a fully rounded representation of the leather value chain providing input and specialist expertise for all our work.

The Advisory Board members along with our Specialty Experts have been selected based on their knowledge and experience in areas spanning the wider ecosystem of the industry; including farming and livestock, deforestation & land conversion, leather manufacture, chemistry, machinery manufacture & efficiency, policy & regulation, retail & consumer, leather technology, global representation and strategy.

This valued team of individuals will support the strategy, direction and tools of the Foundation to ensure we have a fit-for-purpose initiative that meets its vision to support the global leather industry and add value in an inclusive and cohesive way.

SLF Advisory Board

Our Advisory Board has been established to ensure that we have a fully rounded representation of the leather value chain providing input and specialist expertise for all our work.

The Advisory Board members along with our Specialty Experts have been selected based on their knowledge and experience in areas spanning the wider ecosystem of the industry; including farming and livestock, deforestation & land conversion, leather manufacture, chemistry, machinery manufacture & efficiency, policy & regulation, retail & consumer, leather technology, global representation and strategy.

This valued team of individuals will support the strategy, direction and tools of the Foundation to ensure we have a fit-for-purpose initiative that meets its vision to support the global leather industry and add value in an inclusive and cohesive way.

Hans Van Haarst

Hans Van Haarst

Chair of SLF Advisory Board, SHV Holdings

With over 30 years experience working for Blue Chip process companies, Hans brings a strategic, corporate perspective to the Foundation. As the CEO of Royal Smit & Zoon for 10 years, Hans was instrumental in steering the company to become one of the industry’s leading chemical companies when it comes to a sustainable business vision. Now as the Corporate Director of ESG at SHV Holdings, Hans expands this perspective with a wider approach to sustainability.

Ralph Arbeid

Ralph Arbeid

Sales Manager Asia and African, Hueni, Non-Executive Director - Operations

With over 30 years working for one of biggest machinery suppliers in the industry, alongside working as a UN Consultant, Ralph understands what it takes to strive for efficiency of process. Ralph has contributed to many publications including the "Leather Guidebook" published by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and "A Blueprint for The African Leather Industry" by UNIDO.

Kevin Latner

Kevin Latner

VP, LHCA, Non-Executive Director - Finance & Policy

Kevin has 30 years experience in agricultural trade policy, strategic planning, trade marketing, monitoring and research. He is passionate about the contribution that sustainable and renewable agricultural products make to our lives, our communities, our supply chains and world. Kevin is Vice President of the Leather and Hide Council of America (LHCA) and has previously served as Executive Director of the Cotton Council International and as Vice President of the National Cotton Council of America.

Chirag Patel

Chirag Patel

CEO, Crest Leather Group

With an early background in fashion and trading, Chirag is the CEO of a leading global operation that produces high quality finished leather, primarily for upholstery but also other leathergoods products. Crest Leather own facilities in Italy, Brazil, USA, South Africa and the UK where they are headquartered. This enables the company to manage and oversee the entrire production from raw hide to delivery of finished product to their customers.

Rosie Wollacott Phillips

Rosie Wollacott Phillips

Head of Sustainability, Mulberry

Rosie's career with Mulberry began in 2010 as a trainee stitcher and over the last 12 years, she has been fortunate to work in a number of areas of the business, which has given her a real understanding for the product. Moving into the CSR department in 2017, Rosie has been instrumental in the evolution of that department into the future-thinking sustainability team that is now in place.

Hans Van Haarst

Hans Van Haarst

Chair of SLF Advisory Board, SHV Holdings

With over 30 years experience working for Blue Chip process companies, Hans brings a strategic, corporate perspective to the Foundation. As the CEO of Royal Smit & Zoon for 10 years, Hans was instrumental in steering the company to become one of the industry’s leading chemical companies when it comes to a sustainable business vision. Now as the Corporate Director of ESG at SHV Holdings, Hans expands this perspective with a wider approach to sustainability.

Ralph Arbeid

Ralph Arbeid

Sales Manager Asia and African, Hueni, Non-Executive Director - Operations

With over 30 years working for one of biggest machinery suppliers in the industry, alongside working as a UN Consultant, Ralph understands what it takes to strive for efficiency of process. Ralph has contributed to many publications including the "Leather Guidebook" published by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and "A Blueprint for The African Leather Industry" by UNIDO.

Kevin Latner

Kevin Latner

VP, LHCA, Non-Executive Director - Finance & Policy

Kevin has 30 years experience in agricultural trade policy, strategic planning, trade marketing, monitoring and research. He is passionate about the contribution that sustainable and renewable agricultural products make to our lives, our communities, our supply chains and world. Kevin is Vice President of the Leather and Hide Council of America (LHCA) and has previously served as Executive Director of the Cotton Council International and as Vice President of the National Cotton Council of America.

Chirag Patel

Chirag Patel

CEO, Crest Leather Group

With an early background in fashion and trading, Chirag is the CEO of a leading global operation that produces high quality finished leather, primarily for upholstery but also other leathergoods products. Crest Leather own facilities in Italy, Brazil, USA, South Africa and the UK where they are headquartered. This enables the company to manage and oversee the entrire production from raw hide to delivery of finished product to their customers.

Rosie Wollacott Phillips

Rosie Wollacott Phillips

Head of Sustainability, Mulberry

Rosie's career with Mulberry began in 2010 as a trainee stitcher and over the last 12 years, she has been fortunate to work in a number of areas of the business, which has given her a real understanding for the product. Moving into the CSR department in 2017, Rosie has been instrumental in the evolution of that department into the future-thinking sustainability team that is now in place.

SLF Specialty And Regional Advisors

Our Specialty and Regional Advisors have been selected based on their knowledge and experience in areas spanning the wider ecosystem of the industry; including farming and livestock, deforestation & land conversion, leather manufacture, chemistry, machinery manufacture & efficiency, policy & regulation, retail & consumer, leather technology, global representation and strategy.

This valued team of individuals will support the strategy, direction and tools of the Foundation to ensure we have a fit-for-purpose initiative that meets its vision to support the global leather industry and add value in an inclusive and cohesive way.

SLF Specialty And Regional Advisors

Our Specialty and Regional Advisors have been selected based on their knowledge and experience in areas spanning the wider ecosystem of the industry; including farming and livestock, deforestation & land conversion, leather manufacture, chemistry, machinery manufacture & efficiency, policy & regulation, retail & consumer, leather technology, global representation and strategy.

This valued team of individuals will support the strategy, direction and tools of the Foundation to ensure we have a fit-for-purpose initiative that meets its vision to support the global leather industry and add value in an inclusive and cohesive way.

Taj Alam

Taj Alam

Chairman, MD, Kings International, SLF Regional Advisor for India

Taj has worked in the leather industry for over 40 years. In addition to heading up Kings International, Taj also holds key positions with various industry associations and research organisations in India.

Dr Christine Anscombe

Dr Christine Anscombe

Assistant Director (Marketing), SATRA, SLF Leather Technology Advisor

Christine studied at the University of Northampton to become a qualified leather technologist, and has spent her working life in the leather industry in various roles including manufacturing, product testing, training and management. She is the Chair of the British Standards Institute Committee for Leather and Footwear, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Curriers and a Past President of the SLTC.

Claudia Di Bernardino

Claudia Di Bernardino

Lawyer, TM Shell, SLF Legal Advisor

Claudia is a partner at TMSHELL Law Firm and specialises in fashion sustainability with a passion for the elimination of greenwashing in all its forms. Claudia is a UNECE Consultant and the Legal Advisor for the Monitor for Circular Fashion.

Reiner Hengstmann

Reiner Hengstmann

VP Additional Materials, ISA TanTec Ltd, SLF Additional Materials Advisor

Reiner Hengstmann has a PhD in Chemistry and was the Global Director for Sustainability and Compliance at Puma, before moving to Hugo Boss as their Senior Head of Global Sustainability. In 2020 Reiner joined ISA TanTec as the Vice President Additional Materials, based in Vietnam.

Leisha Hewitt

Leisha Hewitt

Animal Welfare Specialist, SLF Animal Welfare Advisor

Dr Leisha Hewitt is a Consultant on animal welfare practice, industry standards and quality assurance frameworks, with a particular emphasis on animal welfare at slaughter. She holds the position of Adjunct Lecturer at Adelaide University, teaching animal welfare. She holds a PhD in Clinical Veterinary Science and is a qualified Lead Auditor and Animal Welfare Assessor.

Ivan Kral

Ivan Kral

Industrial Development Officer, UNIDO, SLF Industry Technology Advisor

Ivan co-authored UNIDO's "The Framework for Sustainable Leather Manufacturer" and specialises in Best Available Techniques for the leather sector. He oversees the UNDIO "Leather Panel" a website that contains a wealth of information around health & safety and best practice for the leather indusry.

Thomas Yu

Thomas Yu

General Manager, Jollity Enterprise, TILA Senior Officer, SLF Asia Regional Advisor

Thomas started his career in the leather industry in 1997 working in technical service, then R&D before becoming General Manager for Jollity Enterprise, a leather chemicals provider. Thomas previously held the position of Secretary General of TILA and is now the Senior Consultant for the association.

Taj Alam

Taj Alam

Chairman, MD, Kings International, SLF Regional Advisor for India

Taj has worked in the leather industry for over 40 years. In addition to heading up Kings International, Taj also holds key positions with various industry associations and research organisations in India.

Dr Christine Anscombe

Dr Christine Anscombe

Assistant Director (Marketing), SATRA, SLF Leather Technology Advisor

Christine studied at the University of Northampton to become a qualified leather technologist, and has spent her working life in the leather industry in various roles including manufacturing, product testing, training and management. She is the Chair of the British Standards Institute Committee for Leather and Footwear, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Curriers and a Past President of the SLTC.

Claudia Di Bernardino

Claudia Di Bernardino

Lawyer, TM Shell, SLF Legal Advisor

Claudia is a partner at TMSHELL Law Firm and specialises in fashion sustainability with a passion for the elimination of greenwashing in all its forms. Claudia is a UNECE Consultant and the Legal Advisor for the Monitor for Circular Fashion.

Reiner Hengstmann

Reiner Hengstmann

VP Additional Materials, ISA TanTec Ltd, SLF Additional Materials Advisor

Reiner Hengstmann has a PhD in Chemistry and was the Global Director for Sustainability and Compliance at Puma, before moving to Hugo Boss as their Senior Head of Global Sustainability. In 2020 Reiner joined ISA TanTec as the Vice President Additional Materials, based in Vietnam.

Leisha Hewitt

Leisha Hewitt

Animal Welfare Specialist, SLF Animal Welfare Advisor

Dr Leisha Hewitt is a Consultant on animal welfare practice, industry standards and quality assurance frameworks, with a particular emphasis on animal welfare at slaughter. She holds the position of Adjunct Lecturer at Adelaide University, teaching animal welfare. She holds a PhD in Clinical Veterinary Science and is a qualified Lead Auditor and Animal Welfare Assessor.

Ivan Kral

Ivan Kral

Industrial Development Officer, UNIDO, SLF Industry Technology Advisor

Ivan co-authored UNIDO's "The Framework for Sustainable Leather Manufacturer" and specialises in Best Available Techniques for the leather sector. He oversees the UNDIO "Leather Panel" a website that contains a wealth of information around health & safety and best practice for the leather indusry.

Thomas Yu

Thomas Yu

General Manager, Jollity Enterprise, TILA Senior Officer, SLF Asia Regional Advisor

Thomas started his career in the leather industry in 1997 working in technical service, then R&D before becoming General Manager for Jollity Enterprise, a leather chemicals provider. Thomas previously held the position of Secretary General of TILA and is now the Senior Consultant for the association.

Our Patron

Our Patron

Suzie Fletcher

Suzie Fletcher

Patron

Suzie is a Master English Saddle Maker and member of the Society of Master Saddlers. She also specializes in the restoration and repair of saddles, leather goods and solid leather furniture from her workshop in Oxfordshire.

The Foundation is extremely proud to count Suzie Fletcher as our Patron and Supporter.

Suzie has been an avid horse rider since her early childhood and it was no surprise that she found herself drawn to an equestrian based trade. Traditionally a male occupation, Suzie was determined to become a Master Saddle Maker and began her training in 1975 with Ken Langford, Master Saddler and former President of the Society of Master Saddlers.  This training was followed by two years at Cordwainers College in London and upon completion of her formal training, Suzie completed apprenticeships under several Master Saddlers to gain her knowledge in all saddlery skills.  Among the group of distinguished Master Saddlers, Suzie worked with William Turner, the then appointed harness maker to the Queen of England and Suzie learned the fine art of harness making, including the honour of working on some of the harness sets used in many State functions.

With her combined expertise both as a rider and saddle maker, Suzie spent many years working abroad and lived in Colorado USA, acting as the authorised USA repair person for many well known saddle makers in England.

Now back in the UK permanently, Suzie has her own workshop in Oxfordshire where she continues to carry on the traditional saddlery skills, alongside the repair and restoration of other leather goods and solid leather furniture.

Suzie Fletcher

Suzie Fletcher

Patron

Suzie is a Master English Saddle Maker and member of the Society of Master Saddlers. She also specializes in the restoration and repair of saddles, leather goods and solid leather furniture from her workshop in Oxfordshire.

The Foundation is extremely proud to count Suzie Fletcher as our Patron and Supporter.

Suzie has been an avid horse rider since her early childhood and it was no surprise that she found herself drawn to an equestrian based trade. Traditionally a male occupation, Suzie was determined to become a Master Saddle Maker and began her training in 1975 with Ken Langford, Master Saddler and former President of the Society of Master Saddlers.  This training was followed by two years at Cordwainers College in London and upon completion of her formal training, Suzie completed apprenticeships under several Master Saddlers to gain her knowledge in all saddlery skills.  Among the group of distinguished Master Saddlers, Suzie worked with William Turner, the then appointed harness maker to the Queen of England and Suzie learned the fine art of harness making, including the honour of working on some of the harness sets used in many State functions.

With her combined expertise both as a rider and saddle maker, Suzie spent many years working abroad and lived in Colorado USA, acting as the authorised USA repair person for many well known saddle makers in England.

Now back in the UK permanently, Suzie has her own workshop in Oxfordshire where she continues to carry on the traditional saddlery skills, alongside the repair and restoration of other leather goods and solid leather furniture.

“I am passionate about sustainability and the leather industry’s place within a sustainable future, and that is why I am delighted to be Patron for the Sustainable Leather Foundation.

I am looking forward to being part of the drive to support improvement and to educate consumers about the natural balance that farming and the leather industry can provide as part of a long term solution for a sustainable future.”

Suzie Fletcher, Master Saddle Maker And Member Of The Society Of Master Saddlers

“I am passionate about sustainability and the leather industry’s place within a sustainable future, and that is why I am delighted to be Patron for the Sustainable Leather Foundation.

I am looking forward to being part of the drive to support improvement and to educate consumers about the natural balance that farming and the leather industry can provide as part of a long term solution for a sustainable future.”

Suzie Fletcher, Master Saddle Maker And Member Of The Society Of Master Saddlers