Green ⋅ Sustainable ⋅ Fashion
Natural leather is sustainable in its purest form as a by-product of animals raised for their meat and in those circumstances doesn’t need additional land and resources.
There is no substitute in terms of the look, feel, texture, suppleness and most importantly durability, for real leather. As a natural product, its composition of collagen fibres allows it to be processed in a number of ways to produce a multitude of products. Its durability lends itself to re-cycling or re-purposing.
We love working with leather because it is a natural product with an artisanship heritage but we are mindful of our environmental and social responsibilities related to using it.
Natural leather is heavily criticised generally at two levels:
(1) The potential for animal cruelty
(2) The potential environmental impact of the tanning process.
With respect to animal cruelty there should always be an insistence that animals are not raised specifically for their hides and that they are truly a by-product of food production. In all circumstances animals should also be farmed in an ecologically friendly environment and killed in a humane manner. New modern technologies allow TRACEABILITY through the entire supply chain using Blockchain and IoT (Internet of Things) to monitor the authenticity of the animal’s treatment from the time it is born until it is killed for food. In sourcing these raw materials there should be a demand on checking the origin and the certification processes for the production of the end product.
The Tanning Process
The most common leather tanning process uses Chromium (III), the residue fromwhich can be toxic and with significant environmental consequences if not disposed of effectively. Chromium (III) itself is commonly found in most plant or animal tissue and is not a danger to health. Problems occur however if through poor production processes, exposure to excessive heat or ineffective disposal, Chromium VI occurs which is highly toxic and carcinogenic. This is a significant issue in developing countries where regulations around toxic waste disposal are non-existent, poorly managed or ignored for economic gain.
Again there is a responsibility that comes with the use of chrome tanned leather to ensure the veracity of the production process.
It is estimated that 75% of global leather production is from chrome tanning as it is the quickest process and retains a higher tensile strength and weighs less than vegetable tanned leather.
Vegetable tanning was used in Ancient Greece and Rome using tannins from trees - bark, wood and leaves. It has some inefficiencies in terms of time and cost and product quality but does offer an eco-friendly alternative to the chrome tanning process.
One such option is Ecolife™ by Green Hides, which creates eco-friendly, chrome-free leather in Italian tanneries that recycle and purify wastewater.
The Leather Working Group, is a multi-stakeholder group dedicated to pushing for environmental best practice throughout the leather supply chain in alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and provides valuable input to oversight of the Leather Industry.
Sustain your style. (n.d). Retrieved from: https://www.sustainyourstyle.org/en/sustainable-leather.