The wider topic of Sustainability is a minefield. At the same time, thanks to often young and very vocal groups of activists and scientists it has never been more popular (as shown by Google here).

Unfortunately, the sad truth is that most of us don’t understand the ins and outs of what it means for something to be truly sustainable and this leaves brands and companies with a huge number of opportunities to capitalise on the good intentions and lack of knowledge of the average consumer.

In the past couple of years at ELeather, we’ve been working hard at educating our own team about what sustainability is, what it means to be a sustainable business and how our materials impact the planet. To find out more visit our simple guide to an LCA . We are now on a mission to educate wider audiences on the same topics.

The most common description for the term is “a process to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Simply put, sustainability is like a bank balance – if you withdraw an amount, you must pay it back. If you keep withdrawing without paying back, soon you’ll have no means to support yourself.

With the basics covered, let’s move onto the buzzwords themselves. And when you’re next out and about doing shopping see how many you can spot on the labels or advertising posters – just like a sustainability bingo!


Definition: a portion of a product made from materials diverted from a waste stream

But what is waste? And how do you establish a point where a resource becomes waste? For example: Is using leftovers from Thursday’s lunch to make Friday’s dinner considered using waste bearing in mind it’s still perfectly edible food?

At ELeather we always say we use leather waste in the production of our materials. So how come we call it waste? There are two major reasons for this:

  • If we don’t use it, those scraps of material will end up in the landfill
  • It’s certified as such by the Recycled Claim Standard


Definition: causing or resulting in only a relatively small net release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The ambiguity of this term stems from its lack of benchmark – how much carbon is considered “low carbon”? Well, there isn’t a standardised answer so every industry (or even company) will have its own benchmark.

This means that if their level of carbon dioxide was 100% one year 95% the following year, it can be considered low carbon.

So the advice is to always dig into the numbers, perhaps try and research an industry average and compare the result you’re given by a particular company against it.


 Definition: the quality of having an origin or course of development that may be found or followed.

Before traceability became a buzzword, it was a standard practice in a good supply chain to check “where stuff came from”, especially in the food industry where traceability could prevent large outbreaks of deadly diseases in livestock.

Nowadays with information tracking and flow we could potentially know everything about where things come from but the reality is that many people choose blissful ignorance over the uncomfortable truth (you only have to look at some of the recent documentaries like Seaspiracy and how it shocked so many people as to not only the fishing practices but the impact it has on certain communities).


Definition: A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude (as far as possible and practicable) all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.

In light of climate change vegan philosophy has evolved to look beyond animal exploitation and into the environmentally conscious way of life as the vegan diet is said to reduce a person’s carbon footprint by up to 73% (source).

But with the growing popularity of this lifestyle (and its reach beyond just the food industry) so is the demand for animal-free products, some of which are manufactured in more carbon-intensive ways or containing harmful plastics causing great damage to the environment than their animal-derived alternatives.

Fur and leather have been particularly shunned from the fashion industry. Many PU-derived faux leather types on the market cannot match the quality and durability of traditional leather, unlike ELeather which, although not vegan, is just and luxurious and durable as the real thing but has a significantly lower environmental impact.


According to the European Parliament, carbon neutrality means having a balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere in carbon sinks (which is any system that absorbs more carbon than it emits i.e. forests and oceans).

Let’s look at it in the context of agriculture and farming cattle.

Even 100% grass fed cattle with enough grassland around it to absorb the carbon dioxide it emits (think cows breaking wind!) is not going to be 100% carbon neutral as the cattle needs transportation and specialist care, all of which in some form or another emit carbon.

So if you look closely at an LCA of even grass fed beef, it will always cause more CO2 to be released in the atmosphere than the grass it grazed on could ever absorb.


Definition: LCA is a method used to evaluate the environmental impact of a product through its lifecycle encompassing extraction and processing of the raw material, manufacturing, distribution, use, recycling and final disposal.

An LCA written in line with industry standards such as ISO14090 and ISO 14044 is the single most effective way of assessing a product’s sustainability credentials. Having conducted an LCA analysis for our material we have written about the benefits of such exercise before.


This one is pretty self-explanatory as locally sourced means items that have been purchased in the vicinity of the area where they are farmed, grown or produced.

This term, no doubt, has been born of good intentions but has since, due to overuse and miscommunication, became a misleading synonym for the word sustainable. We all like to support our local communities and this eagerness has been exploited with the term ‘local produce’.

Our Head of Sustainability has previously explored and written about sustainability and scale with a fictitious example of two food producers: Mom and Pops organic farm and Big Food Inc . Perhaps surprisingly to some the Big Food produce was more sustainable due to scalability of their operations and growing the right product in the right environment.