Leather (Natural)

One of the oldest known materials with a key role in the fashion and automotive industries.

Leather (Natural)

Leather is created through the tanning of animal rawhide or skin, primarily from cattle. There is evidence that humans have used leather derived from various animals dating back to prehistoric times.[1] Today, leather is widely used in various industries, including the fashion and automotive industries. In 2020, the global leather goods market was valued at $394 billion.[2] The production of leather is widespread worldwide.[3] The global market share is relatively diversified but led by China followed by India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Brazil, and the United States.[4]

Leather has many desirable characteristics for use in multiple functions in the fashion and automotive sectors, including durability, flexibility, and aesthetic appeal. However, it is important to note that the material is linked to certain environmental and social risks along the value chain, including animal welfare concerns, chemical pollution during the tanning process and waste by-product phase. Further, deforestation risks are linked to the grazing of animals used for leathermaking in countries with tropical forests, and climate change impacts are closely associated with this activity.[5] [6] [7] [8]

Main Uses and Attributes

Leather is used for many manufactured products due to its physical and aesthetic properties.[1] The creation of leather from animal hides involves various processes that subject the collagen in the hides to chemical and mechanical modifications that treat and soften the material while minimizing damage to the hide’s toughness and strength.[2] The output of these processes is leather.

Leather is a versatile material that is used in various industries thanks to its durability, flexibility, and aesthetic appeal. Its application is extensive in fashion and apparel, where it is utilized to craft an array of items ranging from jackets, coats, skirts, pants, to dresses. It also serves as a favoured material for accessories like belts, wallets, and handbags. Furthermore, leather’s attributes make it a popular choice in the footwear sector. With its strength, breathability, and ability to mould to the foot’s contours, it is commonly employed in the production of shoes, boots, sandals, and other types of footwear.

Looking beyond fashion and footwear, leather also plays a significant role in the furniture and upholstery industry. In the manufacturing of sofas, chairs, recliners, ottomans, and other seating options, leather emerges as a favoured choice. Its luxurious appearance, comfortable texture, and remarkable durability contribute to its appeal in upholstery applications. In this vein, the automotive industry heavily relies on leather for crafting car interiors. Leather is extensively employed to create seats, steering wheel covers, gearshift knobs, and other interior components.

Main Uses

  • Apparel & Footwear
  • Automotive
  • Furniture and Upholstery
  • Luxury Goods

Key Industries

  • Automotive
  • Fashion and Apparel
  • Furniture and Upholstery
  • Luxury Goods

Key Countries

Top Producer China

Supply Chain Risk

TDi assesses Leather (Natural) for key risks affecting the security of supply, and for its association with artisanal and small-scale mining.

Overall Supply Chain Resilience Risk
Strength of Association with ASM
Very Low Moderate Very High

Country Governance Risks

Leather (Natural)'s association with countries experiencing:

Violence and Conflict
Weak Rule of Law
Poor Human Rights
Poor Environmental Governance
Very Low Moderate Very High

Association with ESG issues

TDi Sustainability's data rates Leather (Natural)'s association with the following issues as high or very high:

Disease Prevalence in Affected Areas
Occupational Health and Safety
Child Labour
Labour Rights
Negative Biodiversity and Conservation Impact
Degraded/Fragmented Landscape
Very Low Moderate Very High

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