Giving flight to environmental change

The future of our planet has perhaps never drawn so many headlines or been the subject of such widespread discussion. Earth Day recently celebrated its 49th anniversary and continues raise awareness of global environmental issues and is increasingly receiving support from some of the world’s best-known brands. Elsewhere, Netflix’s Our Planet series which looks at humanity’s impact on the planet’s habitats and species, will have been viewed by over 25 million households by the end of its first month of release. While industry legislation and governmental regulations are forcing a degree of change, there is an opportunity for airlines to benefit from a consumer’s heightened awareness of environmental issues. 

The aviation industry is responsible for around 2% of all human-induced carbon dioxide (CO2 emissions). When we look more closely at the data, around 80% of these are emitted from flights over 1,500 kilometres, for which there is no practical alternative mode of transport. Today’s jet aircrafts are over 80% more fuel efficient per seat kilometre than the first jets of the 1960’s so what else can the aviation industry do to address consumer concerns when it comes to sustainability?

Our engineered leather is used by over 200 airlines, including four of the world’s largest. Each has their own unique requirements when it comes to selecting materials for seating and cladding. To meet these varied needs, our engineered leather is available in an almost endless selection of colours and a wide variety of textures and grains. This versatility facilitates consistent brand representation while also providing the opportunity to differentiate areas of the aircraft through material selection. 

When we speak to airlines about the reasons for selecting our engineered leather, the motivations range from practical requirements (durability, hygiene etc) to the customer experience (comfort and style have never been more important). In addition, they must also consider the commercial impact that materials can have (our materials are significantly lighter than traditional leather – helping reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions) along with sustainability (our production process transforms leather into advanced materials while achieving a significantly lower environmental footprint).

This final point, sustainability, certainly isn’t unique to airlines. So, what can we learn from other industries that are addressing similar goals? When we look at the rail industry, which is widely considered to be the most environmentally-friendly form of travel, designers have needed to consider that eco-conscious travelers won’t appreciate a carriage fitted with unsustainable materials. To-date over 12,000 trains are fitted with ELeather materials. We’ve seen a similar trend in the bus industry where another 12,000 vehicles are using our engineered leather.

Nike Flyleather BoF feature image
Bus seats
Rail seat

Taking a step away from the travel industry, we see the same trends developing in fashion and sports. The sports footwear industry is just one example where leading brands are responding to this need to be more eco-conscious. Nike launched its Flyleather shoes in 2018, manufactured using ELeather materials, while other brands are producing 100% recyclable or vegan-friendly footwear.

In the fashion world, major luxury players are beginning to experiment with more high-tech sustainable fibres in response to consumer demand. A sustainable ethos can benefit the bottom line as well as the planet.

When we look at the travel industry as a whole, there is a growing number of ‘responsible travellers’ to cater for. Consumers are increasingly making a conscious effort to respect and benefit local people, their cultures, economies and the environment when they travel. This, in itself, has led to a whole new travel sector.

The aviation industry is already making positive steps when it comes to being more environmentally conscious. Whether they’re adding wingtips to their fleets to improve efficiency or offering travellers the opportunity to purchase carbon offsets for their journeys they are responding to changing consumer demands. There is of course always more that can be done. When building new aircrafts, or refurbishing existing ones, airlines have an opportunity to make sustainable cabin design decisions too.

At ELeather, we believe that airlines shouldn’t have to make a decision between high-performance, quality materials and environmentally-friendly solutions.  Our engineered leather enables brands to create extraordinary products and memorable customer experiences and crucially, our patented manufacturing process reduces waste and improves sustainability too.