22 September 2023

ICT asks Apple to retract its stance on leather

The International Council of Tanners (ICT) has written to Apple to express its deep disappointment at the recent decision to remove leather from its range of accessories, reports ILM.

It is claimed by Apple that the move will “protect the planet” as FineWoven, the company’s new recycled material, allegedly has significantly lower emissions compared with leather.

In an open letter addressed to Lisa Jackson, VP of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives at Apple Inc, the ICT said that no supporting evidence for this claim has been made available, nor is it clear what FineWoven is actually made from. As such, the ICT reports that it is difficult to assess the validity of the claims but the available evidence suggests that they are, at best, misguided.

The statement continued: “A large part of the footprint of leather is associated with the rearing of livestock from which hides and skins are sourced. However, livestock are reared for meat and dairy and the hides and skins are unarguably by-products of those industries. As demonstrated by research at the University of Montana, the production of leather does not drive or otherwise influence the number of animals reared and slaughtered and indeed, nearly half of the hides and skins produced annually are thrown away.

“This matters as replacing leather with other materials will do nothing to change the number of animals reared by the food industry or to reduce their climate impact. As there is no information available on the environmental footprints of FineWoven, it is impossible to compare it with that of leather. However, it is clear that suggestion substitution of allegedly carbon-intensive leather will do nothing to mitigate the large part of its footprint. In fact, it may actually increase emissions as a new raw material is manufactured to replace hides and skins that will still be produced and may ultimately be thrown away.

“It is also claimed that FineWoven will incorporate 68% post-consumer recycled content. Recycling waste is to be supported but it this also implies that the material will contain 32% new material, presumably constituted of fossil fuel-based synthetics, i.e. plastic. This at a time when the world should be moving away from plastics and all negative impacts associated therewith.

“Furthermore, recent studies have shown that leather is longer lasting, more durable, has higher biobased material content and is more biodegradable at end-of-life than synthetics. This means that leather products will last longer, be replaced often and will be readily disposed of at end of life than synthetic alternatives. Using less and keeping longer are ethics embedded in current policy making, such as the EU strategy for Sustainable Products and replacing leather with a synthetic is clearly at odds with this.

“The International Council of Tanners is wholly supportive of providing consumers with choices of materials and we recognise that not all will want to use leather. However, we do not accept the misrepresentation of leather as harmful to the environment, particularly not when juxtaposed with a wholly synthetic, fossil fuel-based alternative. Apple Inc are clearly free to use any material that they choose but they should not unfairly discredit other materials in the interest of marketing.

“As such, we ask that you retract all claims regarding the sustainability of leather in regard to its replacement in your products.”

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