Guest Blog Ethically Sourced Leather - Doc Cotton

Guest Blog: A Guide To Ethically Sourced Leather And Where To Find It

Written by Stuart Cooke, Blog Editor at specialists in hand-engraved jewellery.

As we become increasingly aware of the impact we’re having on the world around us, consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious. This has led perhaps to the over-marketing of words like ‘green’, ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘sustainability’. Nevertheless, it’s important that these words do become part of our everyday vocabulary if we hope to save our planet and reverse the damage humans have done to it so far.

One of the main industries affected by this wave of eco-conscious consumers is the fashion industry. The fashion world has quickly had to find ways to promote sustainable and more environmentally friendly practices. One industry in particular that has been faced with questions is the leather trade. After all, this is never going to be an animal friendly product, but it can be more ethical and sustainable.

If you’re keen to do your bit for the planet, or you want to be more aware of where your leather clothes and accessories are actually coming from, check out our guide below. We’ll look in more detail at what ethically sourced leather actually is and which brands are embracing more sustainable practices.

What is ethically sourced leather?

Ethical fashion takes into account a number of issues behind the manufacturing of clothing including working conditions, fair trade, the sustainability of the materials, its impact on the environment and animal welfare. In terms of ethically sourced leather, this will take into consideration the treatment of the animals used to make the leather, the working conditions and fair trade of those who produce it and the impact these products have on the environment.

Taking all this on board, for leather to be ethically sourced this means the animals need to be well cared for. It also means that the craftsmen and those who reared the animals are working in fair conditions and receive adequate pay for their products. Additionally, ethically sourced leather should have less of a damaging impact on the environment, usually through using natural dyes and substances to tan the leather.

So, to summarise, ethically sourced leather should be fair trade, sustainable and as environmentally friendly as possible.

What about vegan leather?

You may have heard about vegan and faux leathers, which use natural and synthetic fibres to create a leather appearance, but without any animals being harmed in the process. These cruelty free alternatives are becoming increasingly popular, with more companies finding interesting new ways to create a leather look. Thanks to their cruelty free nature, these materials can also fall into the ‘ethically sourced leather’ bracket, despite not being made from actual leather.

The problem with faux leather alternatives is that some of these are actually made from harmful plastics. As such, many argue these are equally as damaging for the environment as the real thing. In response to this a number of brands have sought to find more ethical and environmentally friendly ways to create faux leather. This has resulted in the use of materials like apples, pineapples, recycled tyres, paper, mushrooms and even wine, to create fake leather alternatives.

Where can I buy ethically sourced leather?

With demand for more sustainable and ethical clothing on the rise, a number of new startups and individual stores have popped up selling recycled, vintage and natural clothing. Not only this, but big name brands that were once the height of fast fashion are having to change their ways in order to keep their customer base. As consumer wants and needs change, retailers have to do the same, particularly when it comes to the war on pollution and waste. The good news is that this makes finding ethically sourced clothes and leather much easier than it was two decades ago.

Unfortunately, supply and demand often means that retailers or designers buy in bulk and aren’t always truly aware of where the leather is coming from. For example, they don’t know where the animals were from, if they were treated well, if the material is fair trade and whether the working conditions of those producing the leather were humane. That’s why there are brands out there specifically designed to mapping supply chains and using only organic cattle. What does this mean? Put simply, mapping the chain of supply means being able to trace your material right back to the source, right back to the very cow it came from and farm it grew up on.

In fact, brands like Natureally Organic Leather ensure every piece of leather they sell can be traced directly back to its origin. They choose to use organic British cattle, so they know they are well cared for and a by-product of the animal being used for meat. They also ensure that their tannery uses completely natural ingredients, so they aren’t emitting any harmful chemicals into the environment. What’s more, other brands such as SKIIM and Paradise Row make sure their leather adheres to globally recognised standards and don’t use harmful chemicals for tanning. If you want ethically sourced leather look for specialised companies like Natureally Organic Leather for peace of mind. 

That said, if you’re going to opt for the more ethical option of choosing fake leather, make sure you read the label to find out what materials this is made from. If it’s mostly harmful plastics, while it may not be real, it certainly isn’t sustainable and is still having a negative impact on the planet. As such, it’s better to choose brands such as Happy Genie and Veggani who produce naturally made faux leather. That way you know it’s ethical.