Leather: pioneering sustainability and circular fashion in the age of climate action

Original content by: Leather Naturally

As the world grapples with how we can reduce our impact on the environment and actively limit the impacts of climate change, we sit at a vital crossroads in our collective history. Leather is well positioned to be a meaningful part of the solution.

The European Commission has launched an anti-fast fashion campaign specifically designed to educate younger consumers about the negative impacts of fast fashion and to promote the EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles. The campaign aims to address issues of over-production associated with fast fashion and to prioritize sustainability and longevity.

The European Union is committed to serious action as part of its 2030 Vision for Textiles the cornerstone of which is sustainable fashion – designed to have a positive impact on people and the planet. Read here for more details.

With leather’s inherent properties of durability, reparability and longevity it represents the antithesis of fast fashion. The fact that it utilizes a by-product in order to create a versatile and premium material lends an additional benefit to its key position in the circular economy.

Increasing traceability expectations together with more and more stringent regulations have entirely shifted the modern consumer landscape. Consumers are far more educated than ever before on the provenance of the goods they purchase and the fact that the impacts of their purchasing decisions can be far-reaching.

Within this context, leather takes a by-product that would otherwise need to be disposed of (with its own environmental impacts) and using responsible, traceable and verifiable production processes, offers designers and consumers high quality products that can be repaired, re-cycled and that can last a lifetime.

How can we make an impact?

In addition to industry and government initiatives and regulations being pursued on a global scale, consumers also play an important role in effecting positive change by choosing leather. Please see below for some ideas as to how you can have an impact –

1. Quality over quantity

Invest in high-quality leather products that are durable and timeless, meaning that you can buy fewer items that last longer. Take care to purchase authentic leather pieces rather than synthetic or vegan leather alternatives which can contain high percentages of plastic, petroleum based products etc…which are damaging to the environment and do not have the same durability as leather.

2. Repair and restoration:

Leather products can often be repaired or upcycled and major brands are actively encouraging their consumers to repair their leather products. Many luxury leather brands such as Hermes, Chanel and Loewe offer to repair your leather products with the intent of extending their life and consequently reducing consumption and waste.  Some of these services include in-store artisans and even dedicated retail spaces which create an experience for the consumer and build brand value at the same time.

 3. Vintage & second hand:

Given the longevity of leather items, there is a strong vintage or second-hand market for leather products which – similarly to above – reduces global consumption and waste and can offer you a point of difference in terms of style and luxury at the same time.

4. Circular economy:

By choosing leather, you can actively support a circular economy in a number of ways. Firstly, by using a by-product of the meat industry, leather avoids hides and skins being sent to landfill and instead uses them to create beautiful and versatile products. In addition to this, you can take advantage of brands that may offer to buy back leather goods for a credit towards a new purchase eg… Mulberry’s circular Exchange program. Repairing your leather products and buying vintage leathergoods are also examples of how you can encourage a circular economy.

5. Timeless design:

Authentic leather products are often designed to be classic and timeless to encourage you to invest in pieces that you can wear for many years rather than to buy into fast fashion. You can also use apps such as Whering which can help you to digitize, curate and style outfits from your own wardrobe as well as fill wardrobe gaps sustainably!

6. Care:

Educate yourself about the quality and origins of what you are buying so that you can make informed choices about purchasing leather products. This will ensure you can keep them for many years and also take care of them well. For more tips on how to best care for your leather items please click here

Splenda Leather bets on solar energy in its production plant

At Splenda Leather, faithful to our permanent commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility in the production process, we have made a significant commitment to self-consumption of energy at our production plant in Igualada (Barcelona).

Together with Grupo IONSE, we have installed a photovoltaic solar plant for self-consumption of 84.15 kWp, with a total of 153 solar modules of 550 Wp each. In this way, in addition to achieving significant savings in network consumption, we will avoid the emission of 28 tons of CO2 per year.

More information HERE


Photo & video: Grupo IONSE

Towards a Zero Impact of the tanning industry in Europe

Original content by: Lederpiel

The Confederation of National Associations of Tanners of the European Community (Cotance) and the European union IndustriALL organized in mid-April in Valencia the conference Towards a Zero Impact of the Tanning Industry in Europe. With this meeting, the aim was to share different business and labor strategies to make the tanning industry a more sustainable and respectful sector with the health and safety of its workers. Among other topics, those attending the conference spoke about how to reduce the carbon footprint, as well as actions aimed at minimizing the accident rate in workplaces. During the day, a couple of visits were also made to two Spanish tanneries.

The event was attended by, among other actors from the tanning industry, representatives of Cotance such as Manuel Ríos and Gustavo González-Quijano; Carmen Arias, general secretary of the European Confederation of the Footwear Industry (CEC), and Anna García, director of the Spanish tanning employers’ association Acexpiel, as well as members of the IndustriALL and UGT-FICA unions and the European Safety Agency and Health at Work (EU-OSHA).

You can read the original post HERE

Leather also has a role to play in the fight against deforestation

Original content by: Lederpiel

How many cows are killed to make a luxury bag? The correct answer is none.

According to a latest report from the NGO World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), leather is entirely a by-product of the meat and dairy industries. Consequently, leather manufacturers are crucial players in stopping the deforestation of forests. This study supports and acknowledges the need to use leather as a by-product and also clearly demonstrates the importance of considering full life cycle analysis of leather.

«Leather is one of the oldest forms of recycling known. There are many benefits to using leather as a by-product of livestock production», WWF explains in its report. «Leather also has a role to play in fighting deforestation». However, the NGO points out that the leather industry can play a leading role in the fight against deforestation of our forests, mainly by pressuring ranchers to engage in sustainable grazing and livestock practices. The sale of raw hides can be an economic incentive for farmers. For this reason, according to the WWF, the tanners should use their influence over them to put pressure on them and thus prevent them from continuing to destroy natural ecosystems for the intensive farming of cattle herds.

«Leather is an important by-product of livestock production with a rich history. Its durability and position as a luxury item make it a highly desirable material for consumers. The increase in meat consumption globally means that hides will continue to exist on the market and, if not used for leather, they are often wasted, creating methane while sitting in a landfill», the WWF report concludes. «The leather industry has an opportunity to intensify and strengthen its efforts to eliminate deforestation and improve the beef supply chain through the additional income that hide sales bring to producers. Companies that purchase leather can use their influence to drive change and accelerate the protection of habitats at risk», warns the study. «Leather also has a role to play in the fight against deforestation».

You can download the study HERE

And you can read the original post HERE

A successful green and digital transition of the EU textiles, clothing, leather, and footwear industries

Content published by: COTANCE

The European social partners of the  textiles, clothing, leather, and footwear (TCLF) industries agree joint demands to ensure that the textiles ecosystem can become more resilient, sustainable, and digital as set out in the EU textiles strategy. This involves tackling strategic dependencies, appropriate funding, incentives and support to help the European TCLF sectors decarbonise their production and become more circular, and initiatives to ensure that workers have the right skills for the future.

Employers’ and workers’ representatives for the European TCLF sectors, CEC, Cotance, Euratex and industriAll Europe recently met with the European Commission to discuss how to ensure a successful green and digital transition of the EU Textiles Ecosystem. During the meeting, national and European social partners adopted a JOINT STATEMENT setting out clear demands for the TCLF sectors to become more resilient, sustainable, and digital.

The joint statement follows the European Commission’s EU strategy for sustainable and circular textiles and the launch of co-creation process towards a transition pathway for a more resilient, sustainable and digital textiles ecosystem (TCLF sectors). The transition pathway recognises the need to build a resilient textiles ecosystem, based on innovation and global competitiveness, noting that the European TCLF sectors face tough global competition, and that measures are needed to encourage sustainable production and consumption in Europe’s internal market.

The strategy aims to ensure that by 2030, the ecosystem’s products placed on the EU market are long-lived and recyclable, while the industry moves from a linear to a circular business model. Initiatives in the strategy include new design requirements for textiles and leather products under the Eco-design for Sustainable Products Initiative, clearer information on products and a Digital Product Passport, measures to tackle greenwashing, and action to discourage the destruction of unsold or returned articles.

As a response, the TCLF social partners have agreed on specific joint demands to ensure that the ecosystem can become more resilient, sustainable, and digital. These include decisive action by Member States and the EU to tackle strategic dependencies, appropriate funding, sound metrics, legal incentives and support to help the European TCLF sectors decarbonise their production and become more circular, and initiatives to ensure that workers have the right skills for the future.

Gustavo Gonzalez-Quijano, Secretary General of Cotance, said that “Leather is the best example of a circular economy product, as it is the result of recycling an unavoidable residue of meat production. In doing so, European tanners create wealth and jobs for an entire value chain! The “Green Transition”? It’s our DNA! And leather can and will become even more sustainable, but this needs to be done hand in hand with our regulators and stakeholders.”

The European TCLF social partners agreed to continue their good cooperation including during the co-creation process towards a transition pathway for a more resilient, sustainable and digital textiles ecosystem (TCLF sectors) noting the importance of quality sectoral social dialogue

You can read the original post HERE.

10 FAQs about leather

Content published by: Leather Naturally

Are animals killed for leather?

No, hides come from animals raised for food. This accounts for 99% of the world’s leather.

The main sources of animal hides are cattle – 69%; sheep – 13%; goats – 11%, and pigs – 6%. Their skins are a valuable global resource and, thanks to tanners’ and manufacturers’ skills and knowledge, they ensure this versatile material does not end up in landfill. Current estimates put this at a saving of 7.3 million tonnes for cattle hides alone and around 10 million tonnes in total per year. That is a lot of potential waste being transformed into a versatile, usable material.


Is leather sustainable?

Yes. It converts waste from the food industry that would be otherwise thrown away, to make products we use in everyday life.

• Leather keeps around 10 million tonnes out of landfill a year

• Leather is long-lasting

• Leather products are repairable

• Leather can be recycled

• At its end-of-life phase, leather degrades through chemical and biological means

• The leather industry creates employment and skills for millions worldwide, an important defining factor in sustainability and the circular economy.


Is leather environmentally friendly?

Leather is a highly versatile, widely used material. Responsibly made, it is highly regulated and certified with strong environmental credentials. Leather is a by-product of the food industry that saves around 10 million tonnes of waste from landfill every year.

There are strict requirements regarding the use of chemicals in the leather industry. It is restricted by legal requirements and by many voluntary industrial initiatives which are committed to eliminating potentially harmful substances from the supply chain.

The leather industry has established certified standards that consumers can use to better understand the provenance of the leather and leather products they buy.


Where does leather come from?

Leather is made from the hides of animals, treated and finished to create a durable product suitable for a huge range of uses.

The main sources of animal hides are: Cattle – 69% Sheep – 13% Goat – 11% Pig – 6%

These animals are not raised to make leather. Their hides are a by-product of being raised for food and, transforming them into leather ensures that a valuable resource does not contribute to the waste and environmental impact of landfill.


What is Vegan leather?

Vegan leather (sic) does not exist. It is a marketing term and any material that is not of animal origin can be labelled as ‘vegan’.

It is important to realise that the ‘vegan’ tag does not necessarily mean ‘natural’, ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’, nor does it necessarily provide the same wear and durability qualities as real leather.


How is leather made?

Leather making is generally referred to as tanning, but actually has five key operations:

• Cleaning

• Tanning

• Retanning

• Milling

• Finishing

Hides and skins that are a waste by-product from the food industry account for 99% of the worlds leather. In a circular economy, transforming this waste into a versatile everyday material is the most responsible thing to do.


What is vegetable tanned leather?

Vegetable tanning is the oldest tanning method, it uses extracts from wood, and nuts of trees and shrubs. Responsible suppliers will ensure these are from a sustainable source. It usually takes longer to tan leather using this method, but the result is a leather with distinctive aesthetic and handle that ages beautifully.


What is Chrome tanned leather?

About 75% of leather made today is chrome tanned. The process uses trivalent chromium (Cr III), which is a safe substance that also represents an essential part of our diet with many people taking daily supplements that contain it.

Best practices of chrome tanning use half the chemicals required by other methods and produces effluent content below legal requirements. Chrome tanning produces consistent leathers that can be used or worn year after year without any loss of properties.


Can leather be recycled?

Yes. Leather fibreboard is made by grinding up old leather and is used in shoes to create insoles and heel inserts and leather trimmings are used as stuffing for items such as punch bags. New composite materials are also being developed that incorporate ground up leather.

Increasingly companies developing ways of using the leather trimmings that result from production and businesses that repurpose leather products into something new, enabling them to be recycled and reused.


How long does leather last

Well-made and cared for leather products will last generations. This longevity together with repairability means that leather can make an important contribution to a society that is looking to consume less, and repair and reuse more.


You can access the original post HERE.

Water, waste and a wish for the future

Content published by: Leather International

Over the years, the industrial activity of leather tanning has been criticised for its contribution to environmental pollution, particularly when it comes to the contamination of water bodies. Tanneries consume large amounts of water that is used with strongly alkaline and highly acidic mixtures, chromium salts and sulphides in the tanning process, so the potential for toxic substances to leak into rivers has drawn the eye of industry critics.

The treatment of hides involves many aqueous steps with discontinuous discharges, generating high volumes of effluents that require costly and time-consuming treatment to satisfy emission standards laid down by national and international legislation.

Furthermore, the amount of water used in the tanning process has also drawn criticism. Water is, after all, a precious resource and, in some parts of the world, a scarce commodity. Consequently, industry players have a shared obligation not to take the availability of clean water for granted.

Although the industry has made great efforts to reduce water consumption and prevent the discharge of harmful effluents into the water supply, its image is still tarnished in the eyes of some observers by its past failures to manage water usage in an sustainable manner. Now, it is time for public perception to catch up with how the industry is changing.

A footprint in the water

In a tannery, the many phases of conditioning and preparing the hide for tanning, as well as the transportation and fixation of tanning substances, require water. The beamhouse process where hides are made ready for tanning is, by far, the most intense process in terms of water usage. A 2019 study found that during the beamhouse process, between 7m3 and 25m3 of water is used per tonne of hides, and between 1m3 and 3m3 is used in the tanning process.

In most instances, fresh water is used for the diffusion of chemical products and the extraction of undesirable materials from the hide. The result is a significant drain on local fresh water resources. The industry’s water footprint is large, even if one disregards the water used in the raising of cattle. It is estimated that worldwide water consumption in the leather industry is around 400 billion litres annually.

If the industry is serious about improving resource efficiency, both for reasons of environmental management and cost reduction, then water use must be near the top of the list of priorities.

A tannery’s water footprint is the total amount of direct and indirect water use involved in its processes. It comprises many different elements, starting with the blue water footprint, which represents the amount of surface water and groundwater required by the tannery. Next, there is the green water footprint, which is the amount of rainwater required, and then the grey water footprint, which represents the amount of freshwater required to mix and dilute pollutants enough to maintain water quality according to certain standards.

Once measured, all of these factors can be managed. It is incumbent on the industry to apply best practice technologies and implement effective water management techniques, but this can only be done effectively when the scale and detail of the problem are fully understood.

Indeed, a 2019 paper in the Journal of Environmental Management, entitled ‘Water reuse: An alternative to minimise the environmental impact on the leather industry’, highlighted some of the systems that can help tanneries reduce the amount of wastewater they produce that contains high concentrations of contaminants and reduce the total amount of water used in the tanning process.

Among these, the overriding concept is the reuse of wastewater. The key concern is the release of the pollutant chromium into the environment, and reuse tests on both pilot schemes and an industrial scale have shown that reuse techniques, when properly evaluated, can both reduce water demand and minimise the disposal of the wastewater with chromium.

Reduce, recycle, reuse

For some tanners, the results of an intense focus on water usage and contamination have yielded impressive results and fostered innovative approaches to resource use. Among them is ECCO Leather, which operates four tanneries and two beamhouses, as well as wastewater treatment facilities in all of its tanneries to ensure that we release only clean water back into the environment.

As one of the steps in the tanning process, ECCO has developed DriTan, which uses the moisture already present in the hides. With results that are indistinguishable from traditionally tanned leather in terms of quality, characteristics, stability and lead-time, DriTan results in major savings on water, while considerably minimising the discharge of wastewater and the use of chemicals.

At its tannery in the Netherlands alone, ECCO is set to eliminate 600t of sludge per year from its effluent, which translates into 40 truckloads of sludge deposited in landfills per year.

Will tanning eliminate water for good?

ECCO sees DriTan as the first real step towards water-free leather manufacturing. The history of leather tanning goes back around 10,000 years and the process has always involved water, so it may seem inconceivable to some that water-free tanning could be possible. Nevertheless, technologies are emerging that could break the paradigm and revolutionise the industry to the point where we can now seriously ask whether there will one day be a way to tan leather without the use of water.

DriTan only impacts one step of the process, though the company’s vision is to achieve entirely waterless tanning. For that, much more innovation will be required and many stakeholders in the leather making process will need to work together. If they do, the implications of water reduction – or, ultimately, elimination – will also be felt in other key areas of the sustainability agenda.

Using less water results in lower energy costs and creates a tanning process that requires less expenditure on chemicals. Different aspects of sustainability work together to create savings. Nevertheless, transitioning to new systems and processes does come at a cost.

The total water footprint of the leather industry may seem inconsequential compared to an industry such as hydroelectric power, but leather tanning is one of the most water-intensive industries in the world, relative to its size, and critics will always point to the amount of wastewater it produces, often with a heavy pollutant load. Around 95% of the water used by leather producers is subsequently discharged and forwarded for purification, with the remaining 5% evaporating during the production process.

Increasingly stringent environmental legislation around the world will force the industry to look at water usage, particularly from the point of view of contaminants in wastewater, so tanneries will need to start considering the technologies that are emerging to reduce water usage and improve water management. The solutions are there, but they come at a cost. So, the industry will need to look beyond the upfront costs and towards the savings that can be made further down the line.

You can read the original content HERE.

A modern tannery is a state-of-the-art facility

Original content posted by: ONE4LEATHER.

The leather industry has, for decades, been at the forefront of innovation in sustainable technologies. It has helped manufacturers reduce their carbon footprint, but also produce leathers that are eco-friendlier produced and free of VOCs. Yet, the public image of tanneries is often very different.

When you think of a leather tannery, you are likely to have an image in your mind of an open pit filled with liquid. Hides are hanging from racks around these as workers in shorts and t-shirts handle the substances used to produce leather. And that’s as far from the truth as it gets in how leather today is produced in safe, state-of-the-art facilities, yet for unclear reasons, media reports keep featuring pictures of tourist attractions or third-world facilities. Let’s see what a modern tannery looks like.

Watch the animation below:

Especially today, with growing meat consumption and a limited availability of resources, reusing materials we have in a safe and controlled manner, is vital. Animal hide are leftover in abundance and modern tanneries turn this by-product into quality leathers with minimal impact.

You can read the original post HERE.

Tanneries’ commitment to sustainable leather

Content posted by: Leather Naturally.

Leather Naturally recently published an article asking «Is leather sustainable?» and tries to answer the question.

In their opinion, the answer is clear: yes. If sustainable means converting materials that would be otherwise thrown away to make the products we use to live, keeping things for a long time, repairing them when we need to, passing them on to someone else to use after us and, eventually, recycling the product as many times as possible. Leather is most certainly sustainable.

And the leather industry is also an excellent example of the circular economy, as set out by the European Commission in December 2019, its sustainable consumption and production support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Leather’s durability, longevity and recyclability as a natural product are underpinned by regulations and quality standards in many countries to ensure that sustainability credentials are met and maintained throughout its production.

Responsible tanneries are also very transparent about their compliance data and openly share the following areas of information with their customers: how they comply with environmental controls, how they manage wastewater and other waste, how they use and manage chemicals including restricted substances, how tanneries keep their leather workers safe, how they calculate how much energy and water they use and how customers can track a leather supply chain.

Tanneries like Splenda Leather are firmly committed to these principles of responsibility, sustainability and transparency. We are very sure that the tanning industry has come a long way in recent years and, with everyone’s commitment, we hope that in a few more years we will be appreciated as a benchmark of a sustainable productive sector worldwide.

You can read the original content HERE.

Olipo Project: vegetable tanning from olive residues

Content posted by: Lederpiel.

A residue from the extraction of olive oil called bagasse contains tannins that allow the leather to tan naturally, reducing the use of chemicals in the process. This is confirmed by a recent investigation by the A3 Leather Innovation Center Chair, of the Igualada-UdL University Campus, specialized in the leather production chain. The Olipo Project will facilitate the production of leather goods that are more ecological and free of contaminants such as chromium.

This research not only makes the leather industry more sustainable but also contributes to highlighting a residue from the oil extraction industry. According to the director of A3 Leather Innovation Center, Anna Bacardit, the use of bagasse «allows us to obtain top quality ecological leather, while revaluing a problematic waste from the olive oil extraction industry».

Of the total material that is provided for olive production, only 20 percent is the final squeezed product and the remaining 80 percent is bagasse, that is, the remains of husk, bones and other residues of the raw material. Thus, the Olipo Project proposes new strategies within the framework of the circular economy, establishing synergies between the two industries.

You can read the original article HERE