Sizing Up Vegan Leather: Just A Fad?

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Today’s consumer expresses their concern for the environment by the choices they make: what they eat and what they use. Yet, for some, it would appear that their choices are being fueled by sentiment rather than knowledge. Fortune asks: are the alternatives to genuine leather just a fad?

Major market players such as Tesla have taken firm stances on material choices, as mentioned in the article. Elon Musk wants to offer a full vegan car. But do we actually stop and think what that means precisely? Apparently, most of the time, we do not. While there are a variety of nature-based products available, containing cork, pineapple leaves, apple peel and numerous other substances, most of them have their own impact on the environment.

The majority of materials marketed as alternatives to genuine leather are made from plastic-based polyvinyl chloride—PVC—and polyurethane referred to as PU. There’s nothing new about these materials: they’ve been around for decades and their resourcing can hardly be called sustainable. This why natural-based materials like genuine leather are attractive. Genuinely sustainable materials are made with the latest green technologies and include state-of-the-art traceability systems, which may mean that when it comes to costs, consumers (and brands) often opt for affordable PVC and PU-based materials instead of more expensive materials.

The majority of materials marketed as alternatives to genuine leather are made from plastic-based polyvinyl chloride—PVC—and polyurethane referred to as PU.

Leather, in the meantime, is a sustainable choice that is readily available and, due to the globally increased demand for meat, can be available in abundance. The leather industry has worked hard to turn a new leaf on environmental responsibility in recent decades, creating unparalleled traceability in their supply chain. However, the lack of information on the origin of other materials is now becoming a major concern.

Read the full article HERE.

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    When is Leather not Leather?

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    From faux leather to terms like ultrasuede or pleather, there is a wide range of materials available that may appear to be what it definitely is not. But what are they and how can you distinguish between them? This is a question Leather Naturally asked, and they explored the different terms that float around in communication and advertising.

    One of the reasons for much of the confusion is the variety of terms created as attempts to rebrand faux leather: a material that was originally sold cheaply, and simply lacked the properties of genuine leather. Faux leather has for a long time sounded like an affordable version of the genuine article. Most certainly, this material has improved properties and offers various benefits, but it is not leather, no matter what you call it.

    However, some names are really confusing and don’t ring true. A term like ‘vegan leather’ is an oxymoron: contradictory and even misleading. True leather can only be produced from animals. Similarly, ultrasuede, artificial leather, and leatherette borrow on the reputation of genuine leather to imply those properties unto themselves. Borrowing on the implied luxury and reliability of genuine leather it has helped these modern plastics to elevate their status in the public perception.

    A term like ‘vegan leather’ is an oxymoron: contradictory and even misleading

    In this factsheet, Leather Naturally explains what is what, providing an easy tool for brands and manufacturers that want to know what is what and how it differs.

    Download the factsheet from Leather Naturally.

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      How Environmentally Friendly is Tesla’s Vegan Move?

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      Tesla announced that its Model 3 would have a leather-free interior. This announcement is part of the attempts of the brand to appeal to vegans but has also prompted questions about the actual environmentally friendliness of opting for leather-free materials. Vegan as a product label, as many vegans know, is not always the same as sustainable.

      Market Realist suggests that the move may appeal to animal rights activists, particularly those pointing fingers at the leather industry. Benefits such as animal welfare and sustainability should, however, be questioned as this doesn’t always look at the entire supply chain and its effects. And the question remains if Tesla is, in fact, offering a more eco-friendly option.

      Climate Change scientists are increasingly demonstrating that environmental concerns over cattle rearing are mis-informed. This misinformation is impacting not only the leather industry, but the meat and plastics industries that it relies on, and as a result of the reduced demand for genuine leather, hides are being sent to landfill.

      Vegan as a product label, as many vegans know, is not always the same as sustainable

      Plastics, however, which are the common replacement for leather, are currently a much more significant concern for environmentalists particularly since these are resourced from non-renewable resources and contribute to the microplastics pollution challenge. But one more point of interest is that replacing leather with other materials is, in fact, a form of decontenting car interiors. It reduces the value of the vehicle, to make it more palatable in a market where EVs are significantly higher in price. The vegan label may suggest an environmental motive, but it’s simply a form of cost reduction.

      Ultimately, the choice lies with the consumer, but stating that leather-free materials are more eco-friendly is currently highly debatable.

      Read the entire article HERE.

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