Leather Sustainability

Sustainable Leather Production

Real leather is an 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 lead to a reduced environmental footprint and extended longevity compared to 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.

Common Misconceptions

Common Misconceptions

Animals are killed for their hides.

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.

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 take 10 times longer to decompose as compared to natural leather. Just because something is termed "vegan leather" does not mean it is eco-friendly or sustainable.

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

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 comes from a natural and renewable resource, whereas imitation and faux leather deplete non-renewable fossil-based resources and introduce destructive microplastics when disposed of in landfills.

Sustainability

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.

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.

Responsible
Durable
Renewable

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, vegan leather or leather alternative, 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 fossil fuels, 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. Faux leathers marketed as plant-based, such as cactus or mushroom are prime examples. Many of these faux leathers contain non-renewable plastic additives to mimic real leather, simply creating 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.

It’s not Sustainable
Use of fossil fuels
Non-renewable raw materials
Contributing to water pollution
Increasing carbon emissions
Benefits of Real authentic Leather

Over 300 million hides would be wasted.

Generating 6.6 million tons of surplus greenhouse gas emissions globally each year. Contributing to global warming.
6.6 million tons of surplus greenhouse gas emissions
Environmental impact of leather

The number of cattle reared for meat and dairy production would remain unaffected by changes in the leather supply chain.

750,000+ metric tons of CO2 emissions would be generated every year and all U.S. landfills would be filled within 4 years.
750,000+ metric tons of CO2 emissions would be generated every year and all U.S. landfills would be filled within 4 years.

A typical lifespan for natural leather products vs fake leather alternatives

Fake Leather

Wear and tear.

Real Leather

Wear and tear.

Fake Leather

Product lifespan ends, deposited into landfill.

Real Leather

Develops a weathered look and gets softer.

Fake Leather

Continues sitting in a landfill.

Real Leather

Well cared for leather can still perform.

Fake Leather

Plastic begins to become microplastic.

Real Leather

Natural leather biodegrades.

Fake Leather

Microplastics can have a severe environmental impact

Real Leather

Completes full circle life cycle

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