Is Leather Sustainable?

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.

Here’s how leather meets those criteria:

  • Leather is based on a raw material that is a by-product of animal meat and milk, which are required by consumers
  • It is a by-product of the food industry that is up-cycled, preventing 7.3million tons of waste each year
  • Leather is long-lasting
  • Leather products are eminently repairable
  • At its end-of-life phase, leather degrades through chemical and biological means

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

Sustainability in the leather industry

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 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
  • How customers can track a leather supply chain

There’s more detail of these processes and regulations in our fact sheets Everything you need to know about leather and The sustainability of leather.

How to source sustainable leather

If you want to make doubly certain that the leather you source forms part of the sustainable circular economy, there are a number of organisations around the world which audit and certify areas of leather production such as the processes, governance, social responsibility and environmental impact. Read our section, Certification to learn more.

Want to know more? Check out our wide range of articles and fact sheets created  to inform and educate.