How Environmentally Friendly is Tesla’s Vegan Move?
Tesla announced that its Model 3 would have a leather-free interior. This announcement is part of the attempts of the brand to appeal to vegans but has also prompted questions about the actual environmentally friendliness of opting for leather-free materials. Vegan as a product label, as many vegans know, is not always the same as sustainable.
Market Realist suggests that the move may appeal to animal rights activists, particularly those pointing fingers at the leather industry. Benefits such as animal welfare and sustainability should, however, be questioned as this doesn’t always look at the entire supply chain and its effects. And the question remains if Tesla is, in fact, offering a more eco-friendly option.
Climate Change scientists are increasingly demonstrating that environmental concerns over cattle rearing are mis-informed. This misinformation is impacting not only the leather industry, but the meat and plastics industries that it relies on, and as a result of the reduced demand for genuine leather, hides are being sent to landfill.
Plastics, however, which are the common replacement for leather, are currently a much more significant concern for environmentalists particularly since these are resourced from non-renewable resources and contribute to the microplastics pollution challenge. But one more point of interest is that replacing leather with other materials is, in fact, a form of decontenting car interiors. It reduces the value of the vehicle, to make it more palatable in a market where EVs are significantly higher in price. The vegan label may suggest an environmental motive, but it's simply a form of cost reduction.
Ultimately, the choice lies with the consumer, but stating that leather-free materials are more eco-friendly is currently highly debatable.
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