At its core, Noskin is an ethical brand. This means that we consider many factors when designing and making our products, including sustainability, ethical production practices and animal welfare.
Leather, like fur, is undeniably an animal welfare issue, and therefore will never be featured in any of our products, as part of our commitment to being a 100% vegan company.
But as a company that also advocates for the use of sustainable materials, there is one key question we should address:
“Isn’t leather a byproduct of the meat industry, and therefore more sustainable than synthetic alternatives?”
For us, we understand that from a sustainability perspective, both materials have pros and cons, but we also want to prove that synthetic, or newer plant based materials, can be just as qualitative as their leather counterparts, which is why right now, we choose to use Microfiber PU, or “future-leather” for some of our products.
It is commonly believed that leather is a byproduct of the meat industry, and therefore animals aren’t farmed primarily for the profitability of their skins. By definition, a byproduct is; “an incidental or secondary product made in the manufacture or synthesis of something else.”
However, the leather industry is currently worth in excess of $50 billion dollars a year, meaning it can at best, be seen as a co-product of the meat industry.
We must also remember that it is not only cows who are used for the leather industry, with exotic skins frequently finding their way onto catwalks, so we feel it is not accurate to claim that the leather industry exists only as a byproduct of the meat industry.
How does leather impact the environment?
Putting animal welfare issues aside, there are undoubtedly environmental impacts in the production of real leather.
In recent years, more and more evidence has emerged to confirm that the livestock sector plays a significant role in climate change, estimating that 14.5% of all human-induced emissions on the planet are a result of the animal agriculture industry.
Further to this, the 2017 ‘Pulse of the fashion industry’ report from the Copenhagen Fashion Summit has placed leather as the most damaging material in terms of environmental impact, above synthetic alternatives such as PU.
At the current rate, livestock products are projected to grow by 70 percent by 2050, which is unsustainable, especially when considering “agriculture is estimated to be the direct driver for around 80% of deforestation worldwide”
It is also the production process that creates some of the most harmful consequences. Leather has to be tanned, or processed to achieve the desired look and feel. These processes often use chromium, which is a carcinogen still used by around 95 percent of the world’s tanneries. Where environmental protection standards are limited, the chemicals from the tanning process often get dumped into waterways or as solid waste, causing long-term health damage for thousands of people in surrounding areas.
So what about the impacts of vegan leather, or PU?
There are many fantastic alternatives coming to the market, assisting in the move away from leather as consumers acknowledge that the impact of leather is not only an animal welfare issue, but also unsustainable.
Pineapple, cactus and cork are all becoming more prevalent as leather alternatives with sustainability front of mind, but for durability and wide availability, it is still PVC and PU that remain at the forefront of alternatives that retain the appearance and durability of leather.
With PVC widely recognised to be the most damaging plastic, We recommend avoiding fashion and accessories made from PVC.
In place of PVC, there is the more favourable Polyurethane (PU), which we use for some items our collection of Noskin footwear.
Currently efforts are being taken to create polyurethane from vegetable oils, but at present, it is still created from oils, meaning it is not a truly sustainable material.
However, like many microfiber PU leather alternatives, the materials used in our future-leather collection are certified to be eco-friendly and contain no harmful ingredients with OEKO-TEX certifications, and are certified for workwear and PPE footwear under EU standards.
The best steps to take now
Whilst PU is a solution that solves the animal welfare issue, it can’t quite tick the boxes for true sustainability. However, as is the case with many of our purchases, increasing the sustainability of an item can come down to the buyer, and how we look after and care for the products.
Ensuring you maintain and care for your products during their time in your possession means they can more easily be passed on, or donated, extending their lifecycle before the product is recycled or thoughtfully disposed of.
When it comes to ethics and sustainability, transparency is one of the key factors to help us all make decisions that benefit the planet and those we share it with.
So, as we grow, we will continue to invest in research and development to identify the best materials that look after our planet all while still providing quality equal to, or above that found in less ethical or sustainable counterparts. And as we do progress on this journey, we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop - so head to the box below, and sign up to our mailing list for updates.