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50% of Consumers Believe That the Leather Production Process Is Poor… Here’s Why They’re Wrong!

With its long history and classic appeal, leather as a material is used extensively across a wide range of industries, including furniture, automotive, and fashion.

However, there’s a common misconception that leather production can be environmentally unsound.

In this article, we provide educational content on the key facts and figures behind leather sustainability and the importance of having a sustainable production process.

 

Q) Are animals just used for their leather?

There is a widespread misconception that animals are bred for their hides to make leather. 50% of buyers said they thought leather comes from animals that are specifically raised for the purpose of producing the material. Additionally, only 24% of participants knew that hides used to make leather come from the food industry, and if they weren’t given a second life, they would otherwise end up being burnt or in a landfill.

Although the meat and leather industries are synonymous, the majority of a cow’s ‘value’ is derived from its meat. In reality, 93% of a cow’s worth is found in its meat, while a mere 3% of the animal’s value is in its hide.

To calculate the mass of an average beef cow:

  • The hide makes is 7% of the total
  • Meat and edible make up 49%
  • 22% is split between animal feed, food grade bones and food grade fat
  • 22% is unusable waste

 

Q) Once produced, what is the life span of leather?

Products that are long-lasting significantly reduce their potential negative impact on the environment as they require fewer replacement purchases. The sustainable aspect is especially noticeable in products made of leather, as their lifespan is significantly longer than many other ‘substitute’ materials.

Focusing on the upholstery industry, furniture made using leather will last for decades, in comparison to alternative materials which can only last between 2 to 5 years. This means that genuine materials won’t need to be replaced as frequently, helping to reduce the product’s total carbon footprint.

 

Q) Are leather production tanneries up to standard?

It is reported that the leather industry is responsible for an estimated 18% of global industrial water pollution and is the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the textile sector, accounting for 5% of global emissions.

These figures clearly show how the leather manufacturing sector has historically been linked to practices that have negatively impacted the environment, animal welfare, and people’s working conditions.

The growing consumer awareness of these issues has put more pressure on businesses in recent years to adopt more ethical practices and evolve their production processes to reduce their impact on the environment.

However, our goal at Crest is not only to develop products that lead the world, but also to recognise our obligation to protect the environment. Since our establishment in 1996, we have continuously invested in our people, systems, and product lines to create and provide goods that are not only loved by consumers worldwide but also produced with the least amount of environmental impact. By implementing energy capture systems, minimising water usage, and creating safe environments for our workforce, we’re committed to an agenda that is ethical, transparent, and sustainable.

The leather we use is a by-product of the meat industry, utilising millions of tons of waste material that would otherwise be sent to landfills or burned. At a time when there is increased attention on a product’s lifetime value, good quality leather outperforms in this area.

 

Q) Has the industry got a bad reputation?

In 2021, Prince Charles met with multiple CEOs of the world’s biggest fashion brands at the G20 in Rome to see their work on making the industry more sustainable. He received a demonstration about a new digital ID that shows the origin of the materials.

Upon seeing the demonstration, the Prince remarked that he wished “people knew the value” of ethically-produced leather in the “circular economy” over plastic or “strange spun” synthetic material.

With Prince Charles stating his high regard for the industry, it proves that the production process is improving from the bad reputation it once had.

Studies show that 37% of people in the UK and 23% in the US believe that leather is an inappropriate material to use, meaning the perception of the industry has a long way to go for people to understand the true facts and figures behind the process.

 

Q) Are employees becoming fairly treated?

A positive employee experience is crucial in the leather tannery, as it directly impacts the overall production process. This includes ensuring fair pay, safe working conditions, and respect for workers’ rights, which are often lacking in many locations. By prioritising employee well-being, investing in training, and promoting equality, businesses can create a thriving and productive workforce that contributes to a sustainable and successful operation.

Following on from this, having a sustainable production process doesn’t always result in a lack of quality. Studies actually show that it can lead to better products and a competitive advantage too, as 24% of companies see sustainability as an area of competitive advantage. Sustainability can also reduce costs and affect operating profits by up to 60%, according to McKinsey & Company.

When it comes to consumers’ willingness to pay a premium for sustainable products, research suggests there is a growing trend of valuing sustainability practices. A 2015 Nielsen study found that 66% of global consumers are willing to pay more for products from brands committed to positive social and environmental impacts, which is an increase from 55% in 2014.

 

 

But, it’s not just about the production process…

Throughout the Crest organisation, we are committed to upholding high standards, fair treatment, and sustainability. Every employee in our tanneries is safeguarded by a Health and Safety Act, which is independently audited by relevant government agencies.

To build an exceptional team and equip them with the right tools and safety gear to perform to the best of their abilities, we are dedicated to ensuring that training and development opportunities are offered. This includes providing them with appropriate tools and protective equipment, ensuring they can work effectively.