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Zenda Leather Named 2010 Sage Award Winner

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The American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA) announced that Zenda Leather is the recipient of the 2010 Sage Award for environmental excellence. The award was presented December 1 during the All-Industry Sustainability Summit in Asheville, N.C.

The Sage Awards were launched by AHFA and Cargill’s BiOH® polyols business unit to seek out and recognize environmental innovators from whom others in the industry can learn. The competition was open to retail, manufacturing and supplier companies in both the furniture and bedding industries.

Zenda Leather was founded in 1890 in Uruguay. Today the company operates 13 plants and commercial offices in Argentina, Mexico, Germany, South Africa and Uruguay. A 50,000-square-foot U.S. distribution center is located in Hickory, N.C.

All of Zenda’s manufacturing facilities hold internationally-recognized ISO 14001 environmental management certifications, said Juan Diego Casaretto, managing director. This certification prescribes controls for all activities that have an impact on the environment, including the use of natural resources, handling and treatment of waste and energy consumption.

Zenda’s Uruguay facility has the largest waste treatment plant of its kind in Latin America. In 2000, the company invested over a half million dollars to expand the plant and double its capacity. It now treats an estimated 2 million liters of water per day. Biological sludge from the plant is used as organic fertilizer for local farmland.  An extension to the finishing plant at the same location is used for collecting rainwater that is used in processing the leather hides. The rainwater accounts for 7 percent of the plant’s total water consumption.

In 2006, Zenda began working with researchers from the Uruguayan National Agricultural Research Institute and developed practices to reduce over 3 million kilograms of solid waste per year by producing compost.  In 2008, Zenda opened the first private energy plant in Uruguay. The plant transforms waste into energy, eliminating the company’s need to buy power from an outside source for this plant.

Zenda Leather has also invested in developing more eco-friendly products. Based on 10 years of experience making chrome-free leather for the automotive industry, Zenda introduced “Eden” leather to the residential furniture market in 2008. Only natural extracts – no metals – are used in the tanning process for Eden leather.   

Several Sage Award judges acknowledged that the leather industry is generally not considered an “environmentally conscious” industry – but they also described Zenda as an “industry transformer.” 

“This raises the bar for all leather manufacturers,” said one judge. 

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