Check for the best

Check for the best

Check for the best

17th September 2021

The leather industry has taken a lot of criticism over the years. Some of it justified, a lot of it not. We are all about promoting best practice here at RLSD. So here is how to ensure what you buy is made from leather that is produced to the highest sustainable and ethical standards.

There is constant work by responsible leather producers and their trade bodies to improve standards and the industry is becoming ever more sustainable. Tanneries have become cleaner, using fewer chemicals and reclaiming them for re-use, and new techniques are constantly emerging to enhance sustainability. Processes have been refined so much recently that the amount of water used has reduced by 35% in the last 25 years. And, with the reuse of water, that reduction is continuing.

Leather industry bodies are working hard to establish farm-to-finish traceability, but as hides are a by-product of the meat and dairy industries, it is safe to assume they start their journey from production with a carbon footprint of zero. In fact, there is grounds to assert they start with a negative footprint, because each hide used is a hide saved from disposal, usually in landfill. Using the hides avoids the emissions caused by them decomposing.

In the U.S., hides are specially trimmed so that unusable product is not tanned or transported unnecessarily.  Some tanneries locate closer to the meat processing facilities which reduces transportation and transport related emissions.

Leading tanneries in the world’s largest leather tanning countries, including China, Italy and the U.S. have transformed the tanning process to reduce inputs and protect against hazardous discharge.   Some of these tanneries are rated by the independent Leather Working Group – an organisation that “assesses the environmental compliance and performance capabilities of leather manufacturers and promotes sustainable environmental practices”. Check them out here.

When it comes to the end product, public opinion has driven manufacturers and retailers to become more and more transparent about the sustainability and carbon footprint of the products they make or sell. Check their websites for their policy. If they talk vaguely about aims, or say nothing, this is probably a big sign they are avoiding the subject and you should avoid their products.