Auto Interiors Made Healthier With Lower VOC Emissions

In Article9 Minutes

Month: June 2020

What do you think of when you hear ‘new car’? Big chance it’s that ‘new car smell’ springing to mind right now, this smell of a brand new, pristine interior. You are not the only person to do so. A large part of American (86%) and European consumers (69%) find the new car smell appealing. Many are convinced that different car brands have distinct smells (Lindstrom, 2008). Unfortunately, we’re going to ruin that experience for you here, as we tell you more about VOCs.

By the way, the thing about distinct smells is partly true. Various brands have used odor sprays to enhance the sensory experience of a new car.

Cultural differences and VOCs

The way we perceive the ‘new car smell’ varies widely. Particularly American consumers love it so much that they restore it with interior perfumes and sprays. On the other hand of the spectrum are Chinese consumers who will not buy a car with a distinct smell, according to research by J.D. Power (2017). The reason is embedded in Chinese consumer culture and the nature of the new car smell, which stems from volatile organic components (VOCs). The presence of which can sometimes be noticed in fogging of the windows and a distinct smell when stepping into the car.

These are organic chemical compounds that easily become vapors or gases at regular room temperature. Chinese consumers are, according to various surveys, more concerned about VOCs and hazardous substances. They associate the odor in a new car with health risks. VOCs are all around us and occur naturally (think of food and flowers) and synthetically (cleaning products, paint thinners). They are a large part of our sensory experience of the world around us. Yet, though these occur everywhere, high concentrations of VOC emissions have been associated with various health issues, which explains the concern about them.

VOCs in car interiors

Automotive cabins are enclosed spaces that often see an increase in warmth. This accelerated process of off-gassing is more strongly present than it would be in one’s home or workspace. Over 60 different VOCs have been detected in car interiors. These come from plastics, moldings, carpeting, upholstery, adhesives, lubricants, gasoline, and leather and vinyl treatment. Some common compounds found in car interiors are toluene, ethylbenzene, styrene, alkanes, xylenes, and trimethyl benzenes. Though research has not seen much toxicity in car interiors, new cars can still cause problems like headaches and irritations (Chien, 2007).

Plastic materials, in particular, emit VOCs because often they are kept flexible with plasticizers. These are also used in coatings that need to retain their flexibility. When vinyl seats, for example, start to crack, the plasticizers (phthalates, a carcinogen) have been depleted. Where plastic materials inherently have an issue concerning VOCs, leather is a slightly different matter as its base material is organic. Due to coating and treatment, leather is emitting VOCs too. Surfaces require solvents, which off-gas over a long period, and automotive leathers, in particular, require these to give them their organoleptic qualities. Yet, comparative research has shown leather interior elements emit significantly fewer VOCs than plastics (Faber et al., 2014). New methods of leather treatment and coating show that the number of VOCs can be significantly reduced with different chemical formulations and other solvents. Water-based and bio-based chemicals are making a world of difference, also for plastics.

What do you think of when you hear ‘new car’? Big chance it’s that ‘new car smell’ springing to mind right now, this smell of a brand new, pristine interior.

VOC standards and measuring methods

The general opinion is that VOCs are bad. As they can cause health issues, this is something to respect. The challenge for OEMs is a lack of universal standards, so many OEMs set their own. VOC emissions in Europe are subject to the Paints Directive (Directive 2004/42/CE) and testing methods have been standardized, either by the industry or international ISO standards (ISO 12219). The German VDA (Verband der Automobilindustrie) also developed various testing methods that set a high standard. However, as compliance is key, most producers will look towards the Chinese standard GB 27630. China has stringent requirements and is one of the largest car markets in the world.

An example of a testing method is the 10L Bag Method (ISO 12219-2). Here one uses a 10-liter bag to determine aldehyde and ketones emissions, both substances with a low boiling point. By heating the bag for two hours at 65°C, without oxygen change, the amount of VOCs can be analyzed using High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) or Thermal Desorption-Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (TD-GCMS). 

Towards better in-air quality for vehicles

The push for the Chinese market means good news for the in-air quality of our cars, as OEMs and manufacturers strive for lower VOC emissions in interiors. For years, Ford used experts to ‘sniff out’ offensive smelling car parts and even developed a technology to bake-out volatile compounds. Mazda has claimed a reduction of their overall VOC reductions by 78% with their paint technologies. These examples show the industry is driven towards further limiting the number of VOCs. Leather may play a vital part in this as an already sustainability option.

Selected sources:

  • Domestic and International Brand Vehicle Initial Quality Gap Continues to Narrow, J.D. Power Finds (2017, 28 September). Retrieved from: [Accessed: 5 June 2020]
  • Lindstrom, M. (2008) Brand sense: Sensory Secrets Behind The Stuff We Buy. Simon and Schuster
  • Chien, Y. (2007) Variations in amounts and potential sources of volatile organic chemicals in new cars. Science of the Total Environment. Retrieved from: [Accessed: 5 June 2020]
  • Testing the VOC emissions of flexible materials in car interiors: How Stahl measures VOCs in products using VDA system testing. (2018, 22 November). Retrieved from: [Accessed: 5 June 2020]
  • Directive 2004/42/CE of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004 on the limitation of emissions of volatile organic compounds due to the use of organic solvents in certain paints and varnishes and vehicle refinishing products and amending Directive 1999/13/EC
  • Cha, Yingying. (2019). In-cabin VOCs: Sources, health effects, and control methods. 10.13140/RG.2.2.23935.15521. Retrieved from: [Accessed: 5 June 2020]
  • Truong, A. (2018, November 2018) Ford’s found a way to appease Chinese consumers who hate the new-car smell. Quartz. Retrieved from: [Accessed: 5 June 2020]
  • Packing Heat: How Ford’s latest tech helps police vehicles neutralize COVID-19 (2020, 27 May). Retrieved from: [Accessed: 5 June 2020]
  • Faber, Joanna & Brodzik, Krzysztof & Golda-Kopek, Anna & Łomankiewicz, Damian & Nowak, Jan & Swiatek, Antoni. (2014). Comparison of Air Pollution by VOCs Inside the Cabins of New Vehicles. Environment and Natural Resources Research. 4. 10.5539/enrr.v4n3p155. Retrieved from: [Accessed: 5 June 2020]

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    Stop using leather? Let's do the math

    We consume a lot of meat globally and a large part of that is sourced from cattle. If we would stop making leather today, what would happen? If we completely switched to vegan leather and other alternative materials, this animal by-product would still be here. This video shows the numbers and what impact this would have on our global waste pile. Find out more in this article about the use of food industry leftovers in our car interiors and many other applications.

    Health And Safety Are A Top Priority For Tanners

    In Article9 Minutes

    Month: June 2020

    You may have heard claims about the dangers of tanneries. Unsafe working conditions, dangerous toxins and chemicals, and manual handling risks are some of the terms that come up. But walk into a modern tannery, and you'll find a clean, state-of-the-art facility. That's because the health and safety of working conditions in modern tanneries are a top priority for tanners and subject to the same legislation as other businesses in their location.

    The public image of a tannery

    If you look up information about the working conditions, you are likely to find footage of tanneries in places with lax rules about worker safety. You also are likely to see the famous Chouara tannery in Morocco, often used to illustrate how bad things are. And yes, there are places that lack modern safety precautions. But let’s debunk the most misleading image here: Chouara (and a few other traditional tanneries) remain open as tourist attractions, often described as vibrant, romantic, and exuding ancient craftsmanship (this traditional tannery was established in the 11th century). Morocco has plenty of modern tanneries.

    It goes to show that these pictures don’t represent modern tanneries, particularly not the automotive leather tanneries. These need to supply leathers that live up to the highest quality standards and are audited a lot by environmental custodians (like the Leather Working Group), original equipment manufacturers, but also governmental institutes and let’s not forget their internal quality management teams. It comes as no surprise that most tanneries are close to obsession concerning process control and risk management. The leather industry is no different than other sectors when it comes to health & safety, even though it’s more under scrutiny.

    Working towards occupational health & safety

    In December 1979, representatives of 26 countries met to find solutions to improve the working conditions and working environment in the industry (Ebel, 1982). Specific guidelines were created, based on existing model codes from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) 1956. As an illustration, this document on industrial establishments states the following about tanning drums:

    22. Paddle vats and revolving horizontal drums, used in the tanning of leather, shall be enclosed or guarded, and provided with interlocks and locking devices conforming to the requirements relating to tumbling barrels of paragraphs 97 to 99 of Regulation 91. (ILO, 1956, p. 68)

    Today, we think of international standards as something completely natural. Yet, it took the emergence of the World Trade Organization (WTO) for these safety standards to be enforced in other parts of the world.

    Their modern facilities operate following the highest EU-set standards, and many of the riskier tasks are now automated.

    European standards and self-audits

    Like any industry, leather production is subject to a variety of standards by which it must abide. One example is REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals). Not only does this legislation push for the removal of harmful chemicals, but it also employs various directives to protect workers from chemical agents. With chemical suppliers developing more eco-friendly and safe process chemicals and workers receiving full disclosure on substance use, the standard is already very high. EU standards keep moving forward, and you’ll not see anyone working in risky sectors without prescribed safety measures, like ear protectors, gloves, safety glasses, masks, and safety garments.

    Similarly, careful monitoring of processes, maintenance, and cleaning is now second nature to the process. The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work works closely with the industry sectors to assess and resolve risks for workers. A recent example concerns the use of carcinogenic and neurotoxic solvents in Spanish tanneries (EU-OSHA, 2018). An unprecedented level of transparency allows a single case to contribute to the general improvement of OiRA (Online Interactive Risk Assessment) tools for the sector (EU-OSHA, 2016).

    But the extensive levels of cooperation within the leather sector and even initiatives with other industries have raised the bar higher with strict self-audits. The Leather Working Group rates tanneries primarily on their environmental standards, but this has become closely connected to workplace safety. Many industries have formed coalitions to improve conditions, and most European tanners have strict, self-imposed standards and comply with various ISO standards on good management.

    The next step for the leather supply chain?

    Automotive tanners already comply with extremely high standards, inherent to the product they create. Their modern facilities operate following the highest EU-set standards, and many of the riskier tasks are now automated. Chemicals are applied by computer-directed systems, through closed piping, to avoid health hazards. Transparency and traceability within the facility is part of risk assessments. Quality inspectors and R&D teams frequently make their way onto the factory floor to look for new opportunities to reduce waste, improve process efficiency and workplace safety. As the use of chemistry is more and more using safe, non-hazardous substances, this also contributes to safety levels and better protection for workers and the environment.

    Yet, there are still opportunities. In the celebrated due diligence report of 2019, which pushed for OiRA implementation globally, COTANCE found a low level of awareness in many tanneries on workplace safety. European-run tanneries, who already abide by the current standards we consider best practices, could lead the way in this. Another point is an organized set of standards carried by the whole industry. Know The Chain reported various encouraging initiatives, but usually in small workgroups or supplier-manufacturer collaborations. Though this has provided flexibility in moving forward, a concerted effort could be the next big leap. There’s always more to do, of which tanners are well aware. Safety and health in the workplace are a project that never ends.

    • Ebel, K. (1982) Occupational Safety and Health in the Leather and Leather Products Industry. United Nations Industrial Development Organization ID/WG. 386.2. Retrieved from: [Accessed 28 May 2020]
    • International Labour Organization (1956) Moral Code Of Safety Regulations For Industrial Establishments For The Guidance Of Governments And Industry. Retrieved from: [Accessed 28 May 2020]
    • Corrigendum to Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH). Retrieved from: [Accessed 28 May 2020]
    • EU-OSHA (2018) Case Study: Substitution of carcinogenic and neurotoxic solvents used in tanning. Retrieved from: [Accessed 28 May 2020]
    • EU-OSHA (European Agency for Safety and Health at Work), 2016, ‘Leather and tanning’, OiRA tool. Available at: [Accessed 28 May 2020]
    • Cotance (2019) Due Diligence For Healthy Workplaces in the Tanning Industry. Cotance. Retrieved from: [Accessed on: 20 March 2020].
    • Know The Chain (2017) How footwear companies and luxury brands tackle forced labor risks in their leather supply chains. Retrieved from: [Accessed 28 May 2020]

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      Leather Is Under Environmental Scrutiny, And That’s A Good Thing

      In Article8 Minutes

      Month: June 2020

      People who buy leather products want to feel assured that their choice of materials and products is the right one; sustainable for people and planet alike. Increasing social consciousness and environmental activism are placing the ancient art of leather making under scrutiny. Are the animals from which the hide is used treated well? Are the people who produce the leather treated fairly? And are the tanners and manufacturers doing everything with the environment in mind?

      The European leather industry is actually at the forefront of the conversation and innovation towards lower impact and circular practices. It’s closely involved in advancing legislation, safe and healthy practices, and strives for traceability and guarantees of high standards in animal welfare.

      Leather making: the inception of waste management

      Leather is considered a luxury material, yet not a single animal is raised for its hide. There’s no economic sense to it as all leather is produced from meat industry by-products. Historically, it’s always been this way and leather precedes the concept of recycling (and to this day leather is recycled itself). The hides are there, easily available. Even if everyone would stop eating meat today, the global pile of hides still available would constitute an overwhelming amount of waste. If not for leather making, it would all go into landfills or get incinerated and be replaced with plastics. 

      To be clear, according to the FAO (2016), we are talking about 6,5 billion kilograms of bovine hides. And we can add about 0,8 billion kilograms of sheep and goatskins to this pile. ‘A lot’ would be an understatement.

      Unlikely champions of animal welfare

      Leather tanners and artisans are highly invested in all aspects of sustainability, including the way animals are treated, as this directly impacts the quality of the leather they receive. This is especially true of the automotive industry. Not only must the hides be large and thick for luxurious car upholstery, but they also need to be free of blemishes that come from bad conditions or treatment. Quality-conscious automotive tanners, for that very reason, hold high standards for ethical leather sourcing and have an economic interest in animal well-being.

      A 2011 Cotance (Confederation of National Associations of Tanners and Dressers of the European Community) report on the transparency and traceability of leather hides revealed that customer queries and requests for reassurance spiked whenever the media published shocking stories. European tanners understand the public’s ethical concerns about animal welfare. They may not directly be involved in the treatment of animals, but feel the ethical obligation to push for better treatment as awareness grows with every scandal. In that sense, the push for even higher standards and scrutiny is a good thing, as it mobilizes the entire supply chain. ILM stated in 2019 that, for leather animal welfare must be at the heart of the narrative, and transparency and traceability are key to realize this. For the food industry itself, however, it is an uphill struggle as low price competition and reduced margins make implementing changes a challenge.

      Change is also coming from inside the supply chain, where automotive leather producers lead the charge.

      Demanding change from inside the supply chain

      Change is also coming from inside the supply chain, where automotive leather producers lead the charge. These large, often multi-national organizations are governed by institutional standards such as OHSAS 18001 and ISO 14001, regardless of whether they are in Europe or not. Their high standards affect the meat producers that supply the automotive leather makers, as well as the markets that are served by their final, high-quality product.

      In Europe, tanneries can also apply for certification through bodies such as the Institute of Quality Certification for the Leather Sector (ICEC). They have an online database of tanneries that adhere to standards, based on environmental, ethical, social, product and economic sustainability. ICEC reports significant improvements in their 2018 sustainability report on all levels.

      Raising the bar on health and safety

      There are several other institutes setting standards and ISO norms that leather manufacturers comply with on quality management of product and production. This is important, because health and safety in leather production is another topic often misrepresented in the media. While there are still abysmal industry standards in some developing countries (leather manufacturing is no exception to the norm there), the European leather industry puts safety and health standards as a top priority. Cotance has been working tirelessly with partners like industriAll and affiliates to create uniform standards and implement due diligence (2018). The report also acknowledges the fact that no industry can do it all by itself. Change is a supply chain-wide effort.

      Traceability from field to seat

      Some of the world’s leading leather processing companies are working on systems that enable full traceability from farm to finished product. The challenge is often in the overview of the supply chain and only the biggest companies, with full control, are able to realize that for part of the process. Transparency and cooperation are needed to make this a reality. Consumers and brands want to be able to determine what farm the animal was raised on, the slaughter date and the chemicals used in the tanning process. While not yet available, this is the ambition for future development, where accountability will inform every aspect of the leather supply chain.

      There is still a lot to be done in countering the damage done to the leather industry, as it has become an unjustified target for many critics. Yet, automotive leather producers believe that the widespread awareness and attention for better, more sustainable, and safer practices will, in the end, benefit leather production as well as life on our planet.

      • Cotance/ETUF:TCL (2011) Transparency of the origin of hides & skins: European report. Retrieved from: Euroleather. [Accessed: 20 March 2020].
      • Cotance (2019) Due Diligence For Healthy Workplaces in the Tanning Industry. Cotance. Retrieved from: Euroleather.[Accessed on: 20 March 2020].
      • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2016), World Statistical compendium for raw hides and skins, leather and leather footwear 1999-2015. Retrieved from: FAO. [Accessed on: 20 March 2020].
      • Griffiths, I. (2019, 16 September) Animal welfare must be at the heart of the leather narrative. International Leather Maker. Retrieved from: International Leather Maker. [Accessed on: 20 March 2020].
      • UNIC (2018) The Story of Italian Leather Goes On – Sustainability Report: Updates And News. Year 2018. Retrieved from: ICEC. [Accessed on: 8 April 2020]

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        Animal Welfare Matters To Leather Manufacturers

        In Article8 Minutes

        Month: June 2020

        Most people are quite aware that leather comes from animals, just like the meat they eat and various other food products they consume. Yet, more and more, people ask themselves questions about animal welfare. What about the animal itself, its life, and welfare? It’s not just a minor group of consumers, but businesses, organizations, and political institutes desire clarity on the topic for a wide range of reasons.

        Animals and sentience

        People care about animals, and if businesses want people to buy their goods – or if politicians want people to vote for them – they need to care as well. This is not new! The treatment of animals has been subjected to growing scrutiny for most of the last century. Public outcry resulted in legislation concerning the humane treatment in slaughterhouses in many countries, culminating in legislation from the European Commission in 1974. In 1999, however, animals were recognized as sentient beings, which lead to the Strategy for the Protection and Welfare of Animals, published in 2006 and frequently subjected to improvements.

        The strategy aims to improve the way farm animals in the European Union are housed, fed, transported, and slaughtered. Today, the EU is recognized for having some of the most humane farming, transport, and slaughtering practices in the world. Legislation and conditions are still being improved further, the more we learn about animals.

        A new standard  

        The EU rules cover the entire logistical chain. Farms, for example, must have enough staff to look after the animals, they should be inspected at least once a day and records must be maintained meticulously. The animals must also be able to move around, even if confined or tethered, and their accommodation must be clean, with good air circulation and appropriate lighting. Equipment must be checked regularly, with backups available in case of failure, and the animals must be fed a wholesome diet in sufficient quantities.

        On transportation, animals should have appropriate space, water, feed, and rest, and the journey should be kept as short and swift as possible. This is why, for example, veal crates were banned in the UK as early as 1990. When it comes to slaughter, the animals must be kept comfortable, clean, fed, and protected from injury and distress during the process. The goals set for animal welfare and the reality still is often showing a gap, but through cooperative efforts throughout the supply chain, improvement is continuously taking place.

        People care about animals, and if businesses want people to buy their goods – or if politicians want people to vote for them – they need to care as well

        Animal welfare and leather

        Legislation, however, is not the only factor improving animal welfare; the leather industry, too, is keen to do so. This is especially the case for automotive leather. These hides need to be thicker and larger than most, to meet the strict quality standards. They also need to be flawless to meet the quality required by car manufacturers. For this reason, automotive leather is usually sourced from some of the happiest and most well cared for cows in Europe.

        Typically, this means farms in temperate climates, such as southern Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, where there are fewer mosquitoes and bugs (mosquito and bug bites can cause damage to the hides). Animals there can generally range freely (no barbed wire) and benefit from high-quality grass, hydration, and nutrition that are needed to achieve a full, thick and luxuriant hide. These animals get the kind of care and attention usually reserved for pedigree pets. Many leather producers also strive for traceability, to tackle one of the most persistent problems in every supply chain of product origin. Transparency is a definite value in the leather industry as it enables each link in the chain to have peace of mind on the animals’ quality of life.

        As One 4 Leather, we believe firmly in abiding by the Five Freedoms for Animals, as described here

        A changing supply chain from field to seat

        As leather goods are derived from the agricultural industry, knowing that they’re sourced responsibly with the animal’s welfare in mind matters to customers. The combination of EU regulations and manufacturer demands for ethically sourced meat and hides has changed the way farms operate and directly affects the leather industry. Leading the field are big corporations such as McDonald’s, whose Flagship Farmers program is changing the face of best practice when it comes to animal welfare. Another example is the regenerative organics movement, which explores how soil and free-range cattle can help reinvigorate farmlands.

        Tanneries and their regulatory bodies are further ensuring that individual hides can be traced from farm to manufacturer, so helping to ensure that legislation is upheld. The Leather Working Group (LWG), a UK-based online resource for stakeholders in the leather industry, has a section in their audit protocol to assess a supplier’s ability to trace their raw material back to the slaughterhouse. This ensures that member leather manufacturers clearly know where their raw material comes from.

        And then there are the automotive companies. Here too we see a shift to sourcing humane products they can be proud of. Rolls-Royce sums it up neatly on its website: “The superior finish of Rolls-Royce leather begins with the hides from which it comes. The cows live freely – and their welfare is fundamental to the quality of their hides. Our carefully selected farmers understand this and genuinely care about the leather that comes from the cows they raise for food.”

        As the supply chain unites behind this shared goal, we can be certain that animal welfare remains a top priority.


        • European Commission (2012) EU Animal welfare strategy: 2012-2015. [Accessed: 24 February 2020]
        • European Commission. 40 Years of Animal Welfare Infographic. Available at: 40 Years of Animal Welfare. [Accessed: 24 February 2020]
        • European Commission (2018) Guide to good practices for the transport of cattle. Available at: Animal Transport Guides. [Accessed: 24 October 2019]
        • European Court of Auditors (2018) Animal Welfare in the EU: closing the gap between ambitious goals and practical implementation. Available at: Animal Welfare in the EU. [Accessed: 24 February 2020]
        • Leather Working group (27 august 2019) LWG on Traceability. Available at: Leather Working Group. [Accessed: 24 February 2020]

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          Misleading Leather Labels And Consumer Confusion

          In Article10 Minutes

          Month: June 2020

          Genuine leather is a much sought-after commodity. It offers qualities that make it the best choice for products like upholstery, car seats, shoes and accessories. Yet, when you go out to buy something there’s a fair chance a product, labeled ‘leather’, is not what you expect it to be. Misleading and even false labeling of products has become a widespread practice, confusing and confounding consumers everywhere.

          Genuine leather or something else?

          Leather has certain benefits when it comes to resistance, durability and tactile properties that no artificial material offers. Quality leather is also costly and labeling upholstery or other items as “leather” legitimizes boosting the price. If you buy a desk chair of leather, that looks scuffed and scratched after only months, you’ll think twice about investing in leather, wouldn’t you? It denigrates the whole industry to throwaway, low-price products, and that’s a shame.

          What causes much of this misuse and confusion is the usage of certain leather labels, namely: genuine leather and bonded leather. So what do these terms actually mean?

          Genuine leather label

          British Standard Glossary of Leather Terms (2015), aligned with the centralized European standards, defines leather in the following manner: hide or skin with its original fibrous structure more or less intact, tanned to be imputrescible, where the hair or wool may or may not have been removed, whether or not the hide or skin has been split into layers or segmented either before or after tanning and where any surface coating or surface layer, however applied, is not thicker than 0,15 mm 

          • Note 1 to entry: If the tanned hide or skin is disintegrated mechanically and/or chemically into fibrous particles, small pieces or powders and then, with or without the combination of a binding agent, is made into sheets or other forms, such sheets or forms are not leather.
          • Note 2 to entry: If the grain layer has been completely removed, the term leather is not to be used without further qualification, e.g. split leather, suede leather.

          Cosumers are often misled in creative ways. Leather Dictionary displays some examples of leather fibres glued onto a fabric base, trying to pretend to be genuine leather. Marketing reconstructed materials, split leathers and other materials that don’t fit the above definition as the genuine article has become a wide-spread practice.

          Bonded leather is not leather

          Leather shavings and leftovers from the leather production process are often used to create what is called ‘bonded leather’ (also reconstituted leather, blended leather or leatherboard). According to the above-mentioned British Standard, bonded leather can’t be called genuine leather, as shredded material is not “more or less intact”. Nevertheless for products containing this material the word leather frequently used, while ‘bonded’ is conspicuously missing from labels.

          The automotive industry has had its share of cases on falsely claiming interiors are leather

          Damaging the reputation of quality leather

          Misuse of these labels occurs frequently. Not just for mixed material products, like vinyl-matched upholstery or the use of bonded leathers, but also by changing or leaving out words out when marketing artificial leathers, like in this example. Often products marketed as such, are of inferior quality and can’t even be classified as leather. Not only is this misleading consumers about the nature of their purchases, it also has a negative effect on the good name leather has, its heritage and craftsmanship.

          These bad practices have been subject to various court cases and trade organizations have been cracking down on misleading or comparative advertising. Yet, the damage appears to have been done and the current confusion about materials labeled ‘vegan leather’ is only amplifying the confusion on what real leather is.

          Customer confusion in data

          In surveys, the effect of misleading labeling becomes abundantly clear. Consumers are unclear what leather actually is and how to distinguish it when purchasing products. A few examples:

          • 20% of consumers believe materials like MB-Tex and NuLux are leather (they are man-made plastics).
          • 30% of consumers believe vegan leather is (partly) made of animal hide.
          • 55% of consumers believe PU (polyurethane, which is plastic) leather is (partly) made of animal hide.
          • 20% believe bonded leather is genuine leather.

          The legal case for proper leather labeling

          False advertising has been under scrutiny for decades and clear laws have been set down in every country concerning the nature of deception. The United States Federal Trade Commission defines deceptive advertising as follows:

          It is unfair or deceptive to misrepresent, directly or by implication, the kind, grade, quality, quantity, material content, thickness, finish, serviceability, durability, price, origin, size, weight, ease of cleaning, construction, manufacture, processing, distribution, or any other material aspect of an industry product. (Federal Trade Commission, 1996)

          Other legal institutions provide statements of a similar nature. The European Commission (2006) states misleading and comparative advertising is not allowed when it concerns the nature, composition and material features. Similar standards are found everywhere. For this reason, for some products like footwear, labeling has very specifically defined by part and material type (European Commission, 1994).

          It comes as no surprise that there have been many court cases already concerning misleading advertising. Particularly the furniture industry has seen its share of issues concerning the labeling of composite materials with well-defined terms (Roth, 2018) and even selling 100% polyurethane items as ‘leather’ (LaFreniere, 2017).

          A leather car interior

          Like in other industries, the automotive industry has had its share of cases on falsely claiming interiors are leather. The use of bonded materials was an issue for Toyota for example (Zalstein, 2013). The lack of a clear definition of a leather interior trim has caused problems though, like a more recent case concerning the Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet seats, which contained an artificial material (Wilde, 2019). In some cases, the percentage of leather for a full, half or simply leather trim is clearly defined (BS EN 16223:2012* sets 80% for a leather trim), but in many cases, it isn’t. This lack of clarity and product transparency is the root of the problem. Luckily, this is rapidly changing.

          Italy’s Council of Ministers approved the “leather” decree on the use of the term in 2020. COTANCE has called on the EU Commission to follow the Italian example. 

          *BS EN 16223:2012, ‘Leather — Requirements for the designation and description of leather in upholstery and automotive interior applications’,
          5 Requirements
          5.1 Where the term “Leather” is used as a descriptor, at least 80 % of the expected surface area (or volume, as appropriate) of the component being described should be leather.


          • British Standards Edition (2015) Leather — Terminology —Key definitions for the leather trade [BS EN 15987:2015]], BSI Standards Limited.
          • European Commission (1994) Directive 94/11/EC Of European Parliament and Council on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to labeling of the materials used in the main components of footwear for sale to the consumer. Available at: EUR-Lex. [Accessed 5 March 2020]
          • European Commission (2006) Directive 2006/114/EC Of European Parliament and of the Council concerning misleading and comparative advertising. Available at: EUR-Lex.[Accessed 5 March 2020]
          • Federal Trade Commission (1996, October 3rd) Federal Register. Vol. 61, No. 193. Rules and Regulations 51583
          • LaFreniere, M. (2017, June 29th) Target Class Action Says ‘Leather’ Furniture Falsely Advertised. Top Class Actions. Available at: Top Class Actions. [Accessed 5 March 2020]
          • Roth, K. (2018, April 8th) Misleading labels fool furniture buyers. Lethbridge Herald. Available at: Pressreader. [Accessed 5 March 2020]
          • Wilde, D. (2019, February 24th) Man Gets Payout On Mercedes Leather Seats That Aren’t All Leather. Motor1. [Accessed 5 March 2020]
          • Zalstein, David (2013, February 12th) Toyota Australia forced to act on ‘leather’ issue by ACCC. Caradvice. Available at: Car Advice. [Accessed 5 March 2020]

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            Italy’s Council Of Ministers Approves The “Leather” Decree

            In Article2 Minutes

            Month: June 2020

            In Italy, the leather industry has made a major breakthrough. As we discussed in our article on false labeling, the misuse of terminology for materials is causing significant issues for the leather industry and confused customers who want to buy quality products.

            Leather has been, in many countries, pretty clearly defined as a material. Our world has changed over the decades, and the existing Italian law from 1966 no longer meets the current situation. Terms like vegan leather, bonded leather or even faux leather, have created a rampant misuse of the term. The new decree announced on 28 May 2020, finally protects the term “leather” adequately against misappropriation.

            Terms like vegan leather, bonded leather or even faux leather, have created a rampant misuse of the term. The new decree announced on 28 May 2020, finally protects the term “leather” adequately against misappropriation.

            As UNIC states in their press release: “The new law […] will finally replace the now obsolete law of 1966. Among other measures, in addition to a more correct definition of the terms “pelle” e “cuoio” and in line with the EU and the technical legislation, the culmination of the association’s long battle to ensure the correct use of leather terminology, it will expressly forbid the use of the words “pelle” e “cuoio”, even as prefixes or suffixes, to identify materials not having animal origin, as we find today with the unorthodox terms faux leather, vegan leather and the like used for synthetic or other alternative materials.”

            The aim is to have a clear, unambiguous indication of the materials used and eliminate potential obstacles to proper market operation,” writes La Conceria on the topic. UNIC, the Italian tanner organization, is very happy with this result. The decree offers solid proof for other countries about the necessity of a clear policy on how to identify and label materials.

            Read the entire article about the leather decree.

            Following the Italian decree, COTANCE has called on the EU Commission to regulate the use of the term leather. 

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              Cattle And The Carbon Footprint

              In Article6 Minutes

              Month: June 2020

              We’ve previously discussed what the carbon footprint actually means and how important it is to look at it from more than one standpoint. In order to really grasp the complete impact, there are several methods in place. LCA and CO2 equivalence (CO2-e) play an essential role to help us grasp the full issue, also when it comes to leather. In this article, we look at the actual impact of cattle rearing and meat consumption on global warming.

              CO2 equivalence as carbon standard

              Carbon Dioxide Equivalence uses CO2 as a basis to establish the potential impact of emissions. The base value for CO2 is therefore a CO2-e of 1, which represents one metric tonne of CO2. This form of conversion is very useful, but also creates controversy as the global warming potential of different gasses changes over time. The best example is methane in comparison to CO2, the first has a CO2-e of 28, but its effect only lasts for 9 years. CO2 stays active in the atmosphere for a 1000 years, so has a much longer warming period and therefore a bigger impact. The current method of calculating the CO2-e doesn’t take this difference in longevity into account.

              The carbon footprint of livestock farming

              The global footprint of animal agriculture is measured using direct measurement in the air, but the contribution different sectors make are estimated. These estimates are continuously improved as better data comes in. As mentioned before, most of the livestock carbon footprint comes from methane a short-lived gas.

              In 2005, the total amount of GHG emitted by the world was 49 Gt CO2-e. Cattle accounts for 7.1 Gt CO2-e, which breaks down like this:

              Methane 3.2 Gt CO2-e
              N2O 2 Gt CO2-
              CO2 Gt CO2-e
              Total 7.1 Gt CO2-e

              The exact breakdown differs per country, feed and rearing methods.

              Of the 7.1 Gt CO2-e total emissions, 65% comes from cattle rearing (4.6 Gt CO2-e). This represents 6% of the total global GHG. High-income countries have up to 36% fewer cattle, but still produce the same amount of meat. Beef contributes 2.9 Gt CO2-e and milk is 1.4 Gt CO2-e. Estimates of how much carbon footprint is associated with a kilogram of aggregated meat and milk protein is placed at 160.3 kg CO2-e/kg protein.

              Meat plays a vital part in feeding our growing population and the land livestock occupies (around 70% of farming land) is unsuitable for crop farming

              Regional differences in COfootprint

              A clear assessment of the cattle-farming footprint has been provided by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations in a report on the relationship between livestock and climate change (Gerber et al., 2013). It states that livestock contributes around 14.5% of global emissions. Obviously, there is not one standard for emissions from cattle rearing and regional differences can be significant. For example, livestock plays a smaller part in the total of GHG emissions in the USA, with only 3.6%. In high-income countries almost 85% of the GHG comes from transport and energy generation. The type of animal (ruminants vs. non-ruminants), type of farming, manure management and animal age all affect the final emissions. The longer life an animal has, the greater the emissions.

              A necessity for a growing world

              What does this all mean? One obvious conclusion is that CO2-e helps to show that the food industry is only one of the marginal contributors to global warming. Even more important, according to Haniotis (2019) global beef consumption has increased by 0.6%. This would seem contradictory to the previous statement, but we have to look at the growth of the global population, which is at 1%. This means beef consumption is relatively dwindling. 

              Yet, meat plays a vital part in feeding our growing population and the land livestock occupies (around 70% of farming land) is unsuitable for crop farming. Many plants that livestock consume are inedible for humans and many other mammals. These plants contain cellulose and cattle can break this down and release the solar energy contained in this vast resource.

              Globally, 1 billion people make a living through agriculture. This includes leather production, which uses the leftover hides in a circular way. Our world may be changing, but cattle remains a vital part of our lives.


              • FAO. (2018). Global livestock environmental assessment model (GLEAM). Available at: FAO. [Accessed: 7 January 2019]
              • Gerber, P.J., Steinfeld, H., Henderson, B., Mottet, A., Opio, C., Dijkman, J., Falcucci, A., and Tempio, G. (2013). Tackling climate change through livestock – a global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), Rome.
              • Haniotis, T. (2019). Opinion paper: Beef, climate change and a slice of common sense. Animal, Volume 13, Issue 9. September 2019, pp. 1785-1787.

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                Auto Interiors Trump Exteriors As Consumers Deciding Factor

                In Article3 Minutes

                Month: June 2020

                Car interior experts Asahi Kasei Europe conducted a survey among car owners concerning the future value of car interiors. Mobility, in general, is going through vast changes thanks to concepts like connectivity, autonomous vehicles, shared mobility and electronic driving. The key question here was, what makes consumers decide which future car they will buy.

                Exterior design has played a major role in consumer decisions for many years. Current preferences, the survey found, are shifting more and more to interiors. This is vital knowledge for OEMs, as more than half of car users will need to be persuaded again when their next purchase arrives (53,2% will not buy the same brand or is undecided). The most notable finding here, was that for most buyers, they selected their previous car based on exterior, but value interior more for their future purchase.

                Interior materials play a vital part in the future, and according to the survey 57% of respondents, value sustainable materials. At the same time, 44,8% admitted willingness to pay more for a high-quality look and feel.

                Interior materials play a vital part in the future, and according to the survey 57% of respondents, value sustainable materials. At the same time, 44,8% admitted willingness to pay more for a high-quality look and feel.

                In our view, there is nothing more luxurious and sustainable than responsibly manufactured genuine leather. It is a naturally occurring (non-plastic) material that is a by-product of another industry, benefitting from cutting edge developments in green chemistry. However, Asaki Kasei’s research suggest that, based on their findings, the demand for quality leather will lower. When it comes to sustainable materials, considering alternative materials as the better choice is a common and persistent error. After all, non-leather materials are non-circular, newly created, non-degradable plastics.

                When it comes to luxurious look and feel, no material equals leather. But this surface material, that has been with us for untold generations, is also a sustainable solution to some of the major waste issues our world is facing. It has the technical functionalities to deal with interior challenges, like sound and noise, but also is much more durable than others.

                Read the full article about the interior research.

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                  Cotance alls for use of the term leather to be regulated

                  In Article1 Minutes

                  Month: June 2020

                  Following the recent approval of the Italian “leather” decree, COTANCE (Confederation of National Associations of Tanners and Dressers of the European Community) has called upon the European Commission to take similar action on a European level. The pan-European leather organization considers protection of the term ‘leather’ as one of their top priorities at the moment.

                  The rampant use of the term leather, the use as prefix or suffix, has become a widespread issue for leather-using industries and leather producers. In turn, the misleading use in labeling has lead to significant forms of consumer confusion. Buying fake leather products, after all, leads to negative experiences with materials that claim to be leather, soiling the good name of the material. European legislation on this front could certainly help set a clear precedent.

                  Consumers expect higher expectations from car leather compared to other leather types.

                  “I only regret that the European Union does not grant to leather this protection across all member States, while it does it for the textile sector and milk products,” says COTANCE President, Andreas Kindermann. Some countries do have separate leather authenticity standards, like Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Lithuania and Spain, but for the international trade, this does not suffice. Particularly now, after the COVID-19 lockdown and Italy’s leading example, it’s time for this regulatory development.

                  Read the full article here.

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