Global leather resource.
Get the facts, understand leather.
Learn more about the benefits of leather and its place as a material for today
A series of downloadable fact sheets about the origins, uses, benefits and sustainability of leather
A guide to how cow leather is made in the 21st century
The latest news and articles from the international leather world
You may also like to read our white paper on The Sustainability of Responsibly Made Leather. Read it here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Leather making is generally referred to as tanning, but actually has five key operations:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Responsibly made leather is a valuable alternative for oil-based products such as plastics – including PVC and Polyester – adding value to an important renewable material, via efficient and modern processing techniques. Leather Naturally believes that the promotion of sustainably made leathers supports a continuous effort and the development of best practices supporting a circular economy.
Read and download all our informative fact sheets, answering all of the key questions you may have about leather.
Leather is a natural by-product
Good leather ages well and lasts
Leather is easy to repair and maintain
Leather and leather by-products can be recycled
Leather has many varied end uses
Leather has a natural comfort
Leather is naturally beautiful
The handle of leather adds luxury
Leather naturally is a not-for-profit industry members association that focuses on education and the promotion of leather. We promote the use of globally manufactured sustainable leather and seek to inspire and inform designers, creators, and consumers about its beauty, quality and versatility.
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