Sustainable Leather Tanning Industry in Bangladesh: Integrating Lean and Institutional Logics into OHS Management (SusLeather)


Start date: 15 February, 2022 End date: 14 February, 2026 Project type: Research projects in countries with targeted development cooperation (earlier Window 2) Project code: 21-M11-SDU Countries: Bangladesh Thematic areas: Economic development and value chains, Health, Lead institution: University of Southern Denmark (SDU), Denmark Partner institutions: Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology (AUST), Bangladesh Project website: go to website (the site might be inactive) Project coordinator: Dewan Ahsan Total grant: 4,999,999 DKK

Project summary

The leather industry is the second-largest export sector of Bangladesh. As for Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) performance, the leather tanning industry is one of the most hazardous trades in many South Asian countries including Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan. The leather tanning industry uses dangerous chemicals to convert the raw hides and skins into finished leather which can cause serious pollution to surrounding areas of leather processing plants (tanneries) and have debilitating health effects on employees and community inhabitants if proper protective measures are not installed and practiced. Several studies revealed that Bangladeshi tanneries´ workers suffer from serious health problems due to poor OHS practices. Therefore, the overarching objective of the SusLeather project is to create new theoretical and empirical knowledge on improvement and sustainment of OHS through the adoption of the integrative institutional logic of Lean in the tannery industry in Bangladesh. The project is operated jointly by University of Southern Denmark (SDU) and Ahsanullah Science and Technology University’s (AUST, Bangladesh) with close cooperation of Bangladeshi tanneries and Bangladesh Tannery Association (TAB). The objective of the SusLeather project is to develop research capacity in sustaining OHS for AUST’s researchers and research-based teaching capabilities, while SDU’s researchers will benefit by acquiring new knowledge on sustaining OHS in the tannery industry in a developing country context. It is also expected that adoption of new practices will contribute to develop awareness and change in OHS practices and behaviors of tannery managers, workers, TAB and public authorities for sustaining OHS improvements associated with Lean interventions. The project outcomes will be widely disseminated to the relevant stakeholders (e.g., researchers, practitioners, tannery associations, NGOs, buyers and policy makers) by publishing scientific peer reviewed articles, conference papers, articles in newspapers, national and international conferences and a policy brief.


First year report
Despite significant delays caused by the approval process of the Bangladesh government, the project has made significant milestones towards achieving its 1st year objectives. The baseline survey is currently in progress. Following the initial baseline survey, two tanneries have been selected for intervention. Additionally, other key activities accomplished are briefly stated below:

A kickoff meeting was organized.
Formation of the project joint team by ASU and AUST.
Factory visits with researchers, the Royal Danish Embassy Sector Councilor, and DFC personnel.
The organization of a Project Inception Workshop jointly held by SDU and AUST on the AUST campus.
Collaboration in hosting a focus group discussion (FGD) involving SDU, AUST, the Savar Tannery Complex Authority, and the tannery industry.
Formulation of the baseline questionnaire.

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