21 Jul 2022

【D&A Knowledge Hub】Material Sustainability Trends

July 21, 2022

After the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) late last year, the sustainability world has renewed its focus on tackling climate change.  The fashion industry – and related sectors – have an opportunity to take real, meaningful action to address climate challenges and reduce the sector’s carbon emissions.


Leather Working Group forecasts and analyses the sustainable development trend of materials. It is expected to see an industry start to shift towards embracing a fully holistic ESG focus – covering all environmental, social and governance aspects of global supply chains, from raw material producers to retailers of finished products. Some of the key focus areas that will see more this year are:


Increased Regulation

We’re already seeing pressure on multiple industries to revolutionize the approach to resource preservation and waste disposal, as well as pushing for greater transparency in consumer messaging.


Indeed, both the EU and UK have announced plans to introduce legislation on deforestation due diligence, which would require that companies selling products in these regions demonstrate that none of their materials have contributed to deforestation.


In addition, the EU Sustainable Products Initiative is driving changes to create more durable, reusable, recyclable, and energy efficient products, forcing businesses to reassess their product design, material sourcing, and packaging.


We’ll also see new legislation from the EU on substantiating environmental performance claims, which will drive more evidence-based consumer communications.


Focus on Circularity

As recyclable products, repairable materials and resale platforms grow in importance, it’s likely we’ll see a renewed focus on durable and long-lasting materials — which includes leather. Making global supply chains circular will also force major brands to re-evaluate their sourcing options by investing in more durable materials, giving greater product life and more repairability options.


A recent study by the FILK Freiberg Institute compared leather to other bio-based alternative materials and found that leather outperformed all nine in terms of its technical performance. As a durable, long-lasting material, leather has a significant role to play in the conversation on circularity, with increased repair offerings popping up from major brands to give leather products a second life.


Reducing Emissions

After COP26, major global powers committed to limit global warming through emissions reduction targets. This year, expect to see brands establishing their carbon footprints, as well as assessing how they can work towards meeting their science-based targets. We can see that, some major brands on the supply chain is conducting the lifecycle assessment (LCA) for the their products, as well as developing a Carbon Footprint Calculator to aid manufacturers in achieving targets to reduce their impact.


Tackling Deforestation & Land Conversion

Deforestation is at the forefront of all sustainability-minded people and businesses. With a growth in the number and scope of regulations designed to tackle deforestation (such as the EU proposal for regulation on deforestation-free products), many companies will be kicked into gear to make sure they are not sourcing materials and products that expose them to deforestation risk. We’ll likely see an uptick in public commitments to reduce deforestation through organizations such as the Accountability Framework, as well as a push for greater traceability and transparency in global supply chains.


Science-led Decision Making

The first step to minimizing our impact on the planet is measuring our impact. Without data on our current performance, it is impossible to set future targets for reduction. In this vein, we’ll likely see more brands commit to the Science Based Targets (SBTs) and focus on better monitoring, data collection and analysis to facilitate informed decision making.


Data Source: Leather Working Group