Why Leather should be considered essential and sustainable material?

Why Leather should be considered essential and sustainable material?

Creating leather is one of the oldest manufacturing process and a fundamental building block of developing economies, providing valuable, often essential employment to millions of people in some of the poorest parts of the world. 

Livestock systems are a significant global asset with a value of at least $1.4 trillion (Steinfeld et al. 2006). The livestock sector is organized in long market chains that employ at least 1.3 billion people globally and directly support the livelihoods of 600 million poor smallholder farmers in the developing world (Thornton et al. 2006). Keeping livestock is an important risk reduction strategy for vulnerable communities, and livestock are important providers of nutrients and traction for growing crops in smallholder systems. Livestock products contribute 17 per cent to kilocalorie consumption and 33 per cent to protein consumption globally (Rosegrant et al. 2009).

With the global populations expected to hit 9 billion by 2050, livestock will play an essential part of providing food and protein for this growth, and as such, the hide and skin as a by-product will continue to provide an abundant source of raw materials for the production of leather.

The manufacturing of leather is the best use, and adds most value, to what would otherwise be a waste material from the livestock and meat industry. Correctly defined as a by-product, hides and skins are a renewable resource derived from the increasing global consumption of meat. Recent research has proven demand for leather/hides has no direct effect on cattle production (Brester et al. 2021).

Each year, approximately 20 billion ft2 of leather is produced which creates approximately 3.5 billion pairs of shoes, 16 million car interiors, 2.8 million sofas, 40 million garments and 450 million items of leather-goods. Without leather, all these valuable items would need to be manufactured using other materials, such as petroleum-chemical polyurethane based coated fabrics or other synthetic materials, many of which are less durable and therefore require replacing more often.

When processed correctly, with appropriate environmental stewardship, leather can be an environmentally preferred, high-performance material, outperforming many other natural or synthetic materials in terms of strength, flexibility, comfort and longevity (Meyer et al. 2021)

Many responsible retailers now recognise that fast fashion PU, PVC and other synthetics has a significant negative impact on the planet and that materials such as leather that have longevity of wear, have a part to play in a sustainable story. Combine a leather made using environmentally preferred process with a timeless classic style and you have a sustainable product that will last decades.

Eurofins | BLC is a provider of risk management solutions for the leather, and synthetic material supply chains with over 100 years’ experience. Our technical experts advise and guide brands, retailers and manufacturers around the world on commercial supply chain issues.

Contact us by email [email protected] or telephone +44 (0)1604 679999.


Brester G. W., et al. 2021 Quantifying the relationship between US cattle hide prices/value and US cattle production.

Meyer M, et al. 2021 Comparison of the Technical Performance of Leather, Artificial Leather, and Trendy Alternatives.

Rosegrant M. W., et al. 2009 Looking into the future for agriculture and AKST (Agricultural Knowledge Science and Technology). In Agriculture at a crossroads (eds McIntyre B. D., Herren H. R., Wakhungu J., Watson R. T.), pp. 307–376 Washington, DC: Island Press.

Steinfeld H., Gerber P., Wassenaar T., Castel V., Rosales M., de Haan C.2006 Livestock's long shadow: environmental issues and options. Rome, Italy.

Thornton P. K., et al. 2006 Mapping climate vulnerability and poverty in Africa. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI; See http://www.dfid.gov.uk/research/mapping-climate.pdf 



14 June 2021

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