27 September 2021

Alternative Materials - Volvo turns in the wrong direction

Editor’s Note: Volvo appears to be on the same track as BMW and it will be interesting to see if the descriptions of “sustainability” these auto companies will use in their advertising will be questioned as greenwashing by the UK Advertising Standards Authority. Imagine -a Volvo with seats made from what is essentially plastic derived from CO2 polluting hydrocarbons!




Dr Kerry Senior, Secretary of the International Council of Tanners (ICT) and Director of Leather UK writes that is is sad to Volvo Cars degrading the term sustainability to empty greenwash, by removing leather from all of its electric vehicles (https://lnkd.in/didkex8n) Volvo claims it is ‘aiming for 25% of the material in new Volvo cars to consist of recycled and bio-based content’. Leather is recycled and bio-based, much more so than the PET that will be used instead.


This move has been driven by ‘a concern about the perceived negative environmental impacts of cattle farming…’. Not actual impacts, just impressions. Is that a rational approach to sustainability? It is irrational to generalise about cattle farming, when cattle can be part of the solution to climate change and other issues.


Volvo also claim that ‘Responsible sourcing is an important part of that work, including respect for animal welfare. Going leather-free inside our pure electric cars is a good next step towards addressing this issue.” The assumption that there is no respect for animal welfare in the leather supply chain is staggeringly ignorant. Particularly as they are happy to use wool, another animal product from farmed animals.


Leather is made from the unavoidable, renewable, biodegradable by-product of another industry, hides. Most cattle are not reared on deforested land. Animal welfare is a concern for all in the supply chain. Not using these hides will just create another problem to which leather is the solution. Nor will it prevent the rearing and slaughter of a single cow.


Volvo could easily source leather that is deforestation-free and high welfare and still drive towards sustainability.

This is not sustainability, it’s marketing.


Gustavo Gonzalez-Quijano Stephen Sothmann Egbert Dikkers Inge Flowers William Wise Dr Warren Bowden James Lang Luca Boltri

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