A study measures the circularity of leather compared to alternative materials. A campaign to raise consumer awareness

[On the cover: The ‘Floor’ campaign promoted by Consorzio Vera Pelle Italiana Conciata al Vegetale

(the Vegetable Tanned Italian Genuine Leather Consortium)]

Vegetable tanned leather is green with an average bio-based carbon content of 95% versus 25% for alternative materials. This is demonstrated by a study commissioned by Consorzio Vera Pelle Italiana Conciata al Vegetale (the Italian Vegetable Tanned Genuine Leather Consortium), which was followed by a ‘Floor’ campaign on the pavements of Milan. The author of the study is the chemist Gustavo Adrian Defeo who, in the laboratories of Ars Tinctoria, specialised in radiocarbon analysis, measured the incidence of bio-based carbon (of biological origin) and the presence of petroleum derivatives in samples of the 20 associated Tuscan tanneries, comparing it with that in alternative materials. The leathers analysed, with 95% bio-based carbon, are, thus, just like other materials of biological origin such as wool and cotton, while certain alternative materials, sometimes declared sustainable because they derive from cacti, pineapples, apples or other types of plants, reach only 25% bio-based carbon. How do you explain this? “Because vegetable tanned leather” – confirms the President of the Consortium Leonardo Volpi – “is the result of an ancient artisan process, handed down from generation to generation with few modifications, based on natural materials: leather, tannins, fats, natural oils, and natural proteins. Furthermore, today, the manufacturing process is moving towards zero waste: hides, scraps and leather scraps can be transformed into fertilizers for agriculture with a very high carbon capture performance”.

The ‘Floor’ campaign in Milan

Since greenwashing is always hiding just around the corner, especially today when there is so much talk about sustainability in the fashion sector, the Consortium launched a ‘Floor’ campaign in February, through thirty graffiti pieces, on some pavements in Milan – around the Central Station and in on Via Solari, a reference point for fashion and design – to involve and sensitise an increasingly large number of people. The graffiti featured a handprint and an indication of the average percentage of bio-based carbon in vegetable-tanned leather, equal to 95%, compared with that of fossil origin derived from petroleum which, in alternative materials, accounts for around 75%. Furthermore, a QRCode invited those passing by to find out how sustainable the garments and accessories worn at that moment were, providing the relevant percentages: https://pellealvegetale.it/test-it/

For their part, the members of the Consortium guarantee quality through Production Regulation, which represents a guarantee tool that goes beyond sustainability. In fact, it details the origin of the raw hides and the vegetable tanning methods, details the Tuscan production of hides, and the environmental, social and health and safety legislative compliance of the tanneries that produce them. Compliance with the Regulation, certified by ICEC (Institute for Quality Certification for the Tanning Industry) after the 2022 audit, today guarantees the associated tanneries the license to use the ICEC Vegetable Tanned Leather in Tuscany and Sustainability brands.

Tanning, fattening in drums_ Italian Consortium of Genuine Vegetable-Tanned Leather