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Correct Labelling of Leather

The definition of leather is “a material made from the skin of an animal by tanning or a similar process”. By this definition, it is therefore inaccurate to refer to any item as ‘leather’ if the product is not made from the skin or hide of animal. PU and PVC products are however routinely marketed as synthetic or imitation leather. In the EU, the inaccurate use of the term leather can be viewed as false advertising, which could result in legal action.

Synthetic materials with leather-like properties are often incorrectly referred to as synthetic leather.


What do we mean by synthetic material?

Synthetic materials (also known as synthetic, faux, imitation, vegan or PU leather) is a synthetic material that holds the appearance of leather but is not made from animal skin or hide like genuine leather. The synthetic material consists of natural and/or synthetic fibres, coated with a plastic polymer or similar. Synthetic material is usually made from polyurethane (PU), polyvinylchloride (PVC) or textile-polymer composite microfibres.


Are ‘synthetic materials’ more sustainable than genuine leather?

Both leather and synthetic material undergo chemical processing in order to manufacture the material. This means that both materials do not biodegrade easily, however since leather is produced from an organic material, it has a greater capacity to biodegrade at the end of product life. As an example, Greenpeace has labelled PVC as the “single most environmentally damaging type of plastic”.

The manufacturing of both materials use chemically intensive processes, and, in many cases, the finishing chemistries are nearly identical. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that synthetic materials have not used potentially damaging chemical processes. In fact, it is the control of the manufacturing process (or lack of) that causes the most environmental damage in any industry.

For more information on the differences between leather and alternative materials please contact us via: info@leathersustainability.com or +44 (0)1604 679999.


How can BLC verify the authenticity of leather?

If your business wants to advertise products as ‘genuine leather’ then BLC can verify the leather content of your products in accordance with BS EN 15987:2015

Authenticate your leather

Using the Leathermark (Hidemark) on Retail Goods

Is your business considering retailing leathergoods in the UK? If so, BLC can test your products to ensure compliance against the Leathermark requirements which state that the products functional area must be made of at least 80% leather in order to bare the mark.

BLC is the licence holder of the Leathermark in the UK, which means that BLC is the only facility in country that can permit the use of the mark on approved products, labels and tags.

The Leathermark is available to licensed users only.

Want to use the Leathermark? Find out more

Need Support with Leather Labelling or Alternative Materials?

BLC has over 95 years’ experience in the leather industry so who better to provide support and guidance to your company than BLC?

For more information on how BLC can support you with the terminology of leather, or alternative materials, please contact us via: info@leathersustainability.com or +44 (0)1604 679999 or complete the contact form at the bottom of this webpage.

Are Synthetic Materials More Sustainable than Real Leather?

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