One 4 Leather consulted on Auto Express vegan car article
When Auto Express journalist Graham Hope wanted to write an article about how veganism and sustainability are shaping the latest car models, he turned to the experts for the facts. In addition to contacting all the big car manufacturers, Hope reached out to One 4 Leather to get the lowdown on why the rush for carmakers to go vegan might not be the answer they would like it to be. The article gave us the chance to put forward the case for leather in car interiors but, it also highlights some of the anomalies in the whole ‘vegan car’ proposition.
It seems everyone, from Audi to Volvo, are finding ways to respond to the vegan movement. This interesting and balanced article lists the various routes manufacturers have taken. On the whole, leather options are still offered alongside the alternatives, in recognition that many – if not most – people recognise the time-proven benefits of using leather in cars. Durability, comfort, aesthetics, fire retardancy, stain resistance, colour fastness and crack resistance are just some properties that come immediately to mind – as well, of course, as sustainability and minimal environmental impact.
The alternatives cover a wide range of materials. As we have reported before, many of these fail to match leather’s all-round, total lifetime performance. Most options labelled as ‘vegan leather’ or ‘synthetic leather’ are actually petroleum-based and better referred to as ‘plastic’. Polyvinyl Chloride, commonly known as PVC, or polyurethane (PU), are the most common forms of ‘vegan leather’. Unlike biodegradable leather, plastics can take thousands of years to break down while causing untold harm to wildlife, particularly marine animals. Similarly, alternatives that use microfibres to mimic the feel of suede also come with downsides. Microfibre materials (made of polyester fibres) are often associated with microplastic pollution, are highly flammable and release toxic fumes when incinerated.
Of course, people are free to make their own choices, but as the article points out, “the information available isn’t always particularly transparent”. It appears many people – and this especially includes non-vegans – are now enquiring about alternatives to leather in the belief that they are choosing a more ‘sustainable’ option. Manufacturers, too, are said to be looking “strongly at suppliers’ credentials when it comes to sustainability”. The irony is that genuine leather, a by-product of the meat industry and, by definition, 100% natural and biodegradable, is likely far more ‘sustainable’ than alternatives that will pose a much greater threat to the environment in the long run.