8 September 2022

Recently, the World Economic Forum (WEF) published an article, supposedly about leather titled:

“The future of leather: How pineapple leaves, cacti, and mycelium are revolutionizing the industry”



Here is the link to this article if one wishes to read it: WEF article

Director of Leather UK, Dr Kerry Senior, responded with facts to this loosely written piece as being misleading and agenda-driven and a sop to the anti-leather lobby.

Here are Dr Senior’s comments in full as published on Linkedin and which serve to put this sort of uninformed propaganda in its place:

He writes:
World Economic Forum once again demonstrating that it is driven by agenda rather than facts, by mindlessly regurgitating the empty propaganda in a recent article in @ecowatch, https://lnkd.in/ef8axDfB. To briefly address some the falsehoods in the piece:

Billions of cows are not slaughtered each year for leather because there aren’t billions of cows on the planet. The global cattle herd is about 1.5 billion, of which just under 300 million were slaughtered in 2020 (source: FAO). All of which were slaughtered for meat. If leather was the driver, there wouldn’t be an estimated 40% of hides lost as waste.

The livestock sector does not produce leather, they produce cattle. Farmers receive no premium for hides as animals are sold on the carcass weight, i.e. the meat. Hides are a by-product of the meat industry and without leather, would simply be thrown away.

Tanneries are subject to the same health & safety, chemical and environmental regulation as every other manufacturing industry, all of which will use hazardous chemicals. There are bad actors in the sector, but these are in no way representative of the vast majority of the world’s tanneries. One could also point to the devastation of the Citaram River in Indonesia by the textiles industry, but this does not mean that all textiles manufacture is bad.

Using waste and providing alternatives is a good thing, but claiming plastic-based plant products are more sustainable is highly questionable. They are short-lived, fossil fuel-based and when disposed of, will behave like plastic.

Of the alternative materials, cactus leather is at least 65% PU and definitely does not save 164,650% of water compared to leather because that is mathematically impossible – once you’ve saved 100%, there is no more to save… This is just greenwashing.

Pinatex , palm leaf and apple leather also require plastic binders to achieve functionality.

All of the plant-based synthetics have been found to fall short of leather in performance terms, meaning they will not function as well or last as long (source: FILK, https://lnkd.in/de7hw9Y).

Mycelium leather is tanned and finished in tanneries – if there were any truth in the claims of ‘dangerous conditions and machinery’ and ‘cancer-causing chemicals’, these would also apply to mycelium. Fortunately, as previously noted, tanneries are subject to the same health & safety requirements as every other industry, and these are rigorously enforced.

WEF claims to that ‘It is independent, impartial and not tied to any special interests…’ and ‘Moral and intellectual integrity is at the heart of everything it does.’; the unconsidered promotion of an agenda-driven attack on leather suggests that it is none of these things.

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