22 February 2022

Industry body Leather UK has highlighted the need for better labelling and information, suggesting a quarter of people would feel ripped off if they bought a ‘vegan leather’ product and it was made out of plastic. More than 10% would want their money back, writes Leatherbiz



The research was commissioned as part of Leather UK’s recently published report, Leather and the consumer, which surveyed 2,000 adults in the UK.


Three-quarters agreed it should be easy to see what they are buying and that labelling should not be misleading when it comes to leather and imitation leather.


Asked which materials were animal, plant or synthetic in origin, many shoppers also seem to be unaware where leather, leather alternatives and other commonly used textiles come from:

  • 23% thought silk was plant-based
  • 13% said they didn’t know the origins of wool, and 10% thought it comes from plants
  • 11% say they don’t know what real leather is made from
  • 21% and 47% didn’t know what is used to make PVC and polyurethane respectively
  • 13% thought the plant-based fabric linen was synthetic in origin


More than half (54%) admitted that they had no idea what ‘vegan leather’ is made of – a catch-all term for material that’s often marketed as a sustainable alternative to the real thing but can be 100% plastic.

Kerry Senior, director at Leather UK, said: “Buying leather or imitation leather goods sustainably can be difficult and confusing, especially when shoppers are increasingly presented with everything from a range of plastic/plant combinations such as apple, cactus or pineapple ‘leather’, ‘mushroom leather’ to the meaningless catch-all terms ‘vegan leather’ and ‘plant-based leather’.

“Many also don’t realise that real leather is actually a by-product of the food industry and those hides would otherwise be thrown away, which means it might be a more sustainable option than they realise.

“The findings suggest that shoppers need better information on the products they are buying, especially if they want to know what it is that they are taking home with them. But equally UK legislation should follow in the steps of countries such as Italy, Portugal and Brazil where consumer protection laws mean that the word leather can only be used for real leather.”

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