We have learned from global data that one of the most significant drivers of impact is the land use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with animal rearing. Other important impacts are energy use and water requirements of tanneries as well as water pollution resulting from chemicals used in the tanning process.
In Brazil, the cattle industry has been a big driver of deforestation and land conversion, which results in the loss of important ecosystem services. As a result, Brazilian calf leather has a high environmental impact of around €17 per kg compared to polyester which has an average impact of €1 per kg of material.
We make the comparison between Brazilian calf leather vs. polyester as it clearly highlights how high the impact of leather can be, however even when comparing a low impact source of leather such as leather from France a synthetic alterative has 1/4th of the impact per kg of material.
Although our decision to avoid leather enables us to have a lower environmental impact than those that do choose to use leather, we openly acknowledge that the synthetic alternatives are not without concern.
The global data has shown that the most damaging impact of polyester production is the extraction and processing of oil into yarn. However, the shedding and environmental impact of microfibers from synthetic materials has been significantly undervalued in LCA datasets that the fashion industry relies on.