In recent years, there has been a growing concern about the treatment of animals in various industries, including the leather industry. As consumers have become more conscious of animal cruelty, companies have begun to use buzzwords and marketing tactics to portray themselves as "green" or "sustainable" in order to appeal to environmentally and ethically conscious consumers. This phenomenon, known as greenwashing, can often be misleading when it comes to the leather industry, where animal cruelty remains a pervasive issue.
Leather is typically made from the hides of animals such as cows, sheep, and pigs, which are raised for food. These animals are often subjected to cruel practices, such as confinement in cramped and unsanitary conditions, routine mutilations like tail docking and ear cropping without anaesthesia, and inhumane methods of transportation and slaughter. Moreover, most leather production processes involve the use of toxic chemicals, such as chromium, for tanning, which can have harmful effects on the environment and workers' health.
Here are some common ways greenwashing can occur in the leather industry:
- False Claims of "Ethical" or "Sustainable" Leather: Some companies may claim that their leather is sourced from "ethical" or "sustainable" farms, but these claims are often vague and lack transparency. There are no standardised definitions or certifications for these terms in the leather industry, making it difficult for consumers to verify the authenticity of such claims. Look for brands that provide transparent information about where their leather comes from while having all certifications like Leather Working Group (LWG), Institute of Quality Certification for the Leather Sector (ICEC), Okeo-Tex®, SLF Transparency Dashboard™ etc that provide assurance.
- Misleading Labels: Leather products may be labeled as "real leather," or "natural leather," which can create the impression of an environmentally friendly and cruelty-free product. However, these terms do not necessarily indicate how the animals were raised or how the leather was produced, and the use of toxic chemicals in the tanning process may still be involved.
- Green Packaging or Marketing: Some companies may use environmentally-friendly packaging or marketing materials to create the perception of sustainability, while ignoring the harmful impacts of animal cruelty and toxic chemicals used in the leather production process.
It's crucial to be aware of greenwashing in the leather industry and to critically evaluate all claims. Supporting brands that prioritise animal welfare and environmental sustainability, exploring alternative materials, and staying informed about certifications and labels related to leather production can all contribute to making more ethical choices as consumers. By holding companies accountable and making conscious choices, we can help drive positive change in the leather industry and promote a more sustainable and cruelty-free approach to fashion. The power to make a difference is in our hands as consumers.