Sustainable Leather Production

Sustainability Of Real Leather

Real leather can be a more eco-friendly and sustainable choice for consumers prioritizing environmental sustainability. While some may consider synthetic leather as the more environmentally responsible option, the reality is more complex.

Responsible production methods for real leather can have a smaller environmental footprint than artificial leather. Keep reading to discover why the sustainability of real leather varies by factor and how responsible leather production can support sustainable practices that align with consumer priorities.

This is a picture of a real leather cow hide made of real animal leather
Image of real leather shoes.
sustainable leather real leather tag

Common Misconceptions

Animals are killed for their hides.

False – Don’t be fooled by the misconception that eco-friendly leather is not sustainable. The truth is that eco-friendly leather is a by-product or secondary product of the meat industry within the sustainable supply chain for leather production.

Animals such as cows are raised for food by the meat and dairy industries, and without utilizing their hides for eco-friendly leather, millions would go to waste. When you choose ethical leather products, you support sustainability and responsible use of resources within the sustainable supply chain.

Faux leather products like “vegan leather” are eco-friendly and won’t harm the environment.

False – Many “synthetic leather” products in the fashion and automotive industries are made from plastics such as polyurethane or polyvinyl chloride. These plastics are unsustainable and decompose up to 10 times as long as natural leather. Just because something is termed “faux leather” is not eco-friendly or sustainable.

Leather is unsustainable and should be replaced by sustainable leather alternatives.

False – As a by product, leather is upcycled and follows sustainable practices. It is a practical and valuable product created from unused parts of animals harvested for food. Leather manufacturing is a natural and renewable resource, whereas imitation and faux leather deplete natural resources and introduce destructive microplastics when disposed of in landfills.


Sustainability in the leather industry entails making environmentally conscious decisions throughout the supply chain to preserve the planet, reduce waste, and combat climate change. This includes the popular mantra of “reduce, reuse, and recycle” to promote responsible production and encourage the well-being of our planet. From automotive to furniture and footwear, responsible leather goods production involves a focus on sustainability and reducing the environmental footprint in all aspects of the supply chain.

sustainable leather badge
this is a photo of a car with sustainable leather from the global leather goods market

Real Leather

Real leather is a socially responsible, durable, and renewable raw material made from animal hides, a by-product of an animal raised in the meat industry that has been tanned and treated. Its natural texture, and unique characteristics make it a popular choice for various products, from clothing and accessories to furniture, upholstery, and automotive interiors. Sustainable leather comes as a by-product or a secondary product of the food industry, providing an abundant supply of raw materials for manufacturers of leather goods in the fashion, shoe, apparel, and accessories industries.

Leather manufacturers today significantly promote sustainability in the leather supply chain to reduce waste by transforming leftover hides into high-quality, eco-friendly materials. Through a process of upcycling, these once-discarded hides are given new life as beautiful and durable leather products. The use of leather in the automotive industry, fashion, shoe, apparel, and accessories sectors creates a demand for sustainable and eco-friendly leather production, making it more important than ever to focus on responsible production and reduce the environmental footprint of the leather industry.

Fake Leather, Vegan Leather & Artificial Leather

The Environmental Impact of Fake Leather and the Need for Sustainable Alternatives

Fake leather, also known as faux leather or leather alternatives, is an artificial material created to resemble natural leather. Despite its growing popularity, it’s not always a sustainable alternative to traditional leather products made from hides and skins.

The production of these substitutes involves the use of hazardous chemicals, contributing to water pollution, and increasing carbon emissions. Moreover, most faux leather products are made from non-renewable raw materials, such as fossil fuels and plastic, which have a significant environmental footprint.

Many global brands and luxury goods companies market faux leather products as eco-friendly and vegan, contributing to greenwashing in the fashion industry. However, such practices create confusion about truly sustainable alternatives.

To address these issues, the fashion industry should embrace a circular economy and focus on creating durable leather products that can be repurposed or recycled. By reducing waste and water use, we can promote sustainability in the fashion industry and address environmental issues.

This is a photo of synthetic as alternatives to real leather
this is a seal showing faux leather isn't environmentally friendly

What would happen if the world stopped using traditional leather in future generations?

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Over 300 million hides would be wasted.
This is an image of the tanning process, vegetable tanning and sustainable leather production
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6.6 million tons of surplus greenhouse gas emissions globally each year. Contributing to global warming.
This is an image showing air emissions, emissions generated and the environmental impact of sustainability of leather manufacturers to reduce carbon emissions
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Environmental impact of leather.
The number of cattle reared for meat and dairy production would remain unaffected by changes in the leather supply chain.
This is a photo of cattle ranching and animal agriculture and dairy industry animals raised humanely
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More than 750,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions would be generated every year and all U.S. landfills would be filled within 4 years.
This is an image showing air emissions, emissions generated and the environmental impact of sustainability of leather manufacturers to reduce carbon emissions

A typical lifespan for natural leather products vs fake leather alternatives

2-10 years
Image of vegan leather called pleather

Fake Leather

Wear and tear.

This is a photo of car seats made from authentic leather industry


Remains in great condition.

10+ years
image of a landfill creating potent greenhouse gas and dangerous to human health.

Fake Leather

Product lifespan ends, deposited into landfill.

This is a photo of a leather couch made from the leather industry


Develops a weathered look and gets softer.

50-100 years
image of landfill and waste and toxic chemicals

Fake Leather

Continues sitting in a landfill.

This is a photo of a leather shoe made from the leather industry used to show how leather can be upcycled


Well cared for leather can still perform.

400+ years
This is a photo of microplastics used in making faux leather and how its not environmentally friendly

Fake Leather

Plastic begins to become microplastic.

This is a photo of the way leather degrades over time and is eco friendly and how leather processing is upcycling


Natural leather biodegrades.

This is a photo of waste in our environment showing fake leather isn't sustainable or eco friednly

Fake Leather

Microplastics can have a severe environmental impact

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Completes full circle life cycle

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