Muirhead calls for 100% transparency on leather sourcing for the aviation industry


Muirhead, a trusted supplier of low-carbon high performance leather to the aviation, bus, coach, and rail industries, is encouraging airlines and passenger transport operators to ensure each hide they procure can be traced back to its origins. The advice from Muirhead follows the emergence of leather suppliers whose products – despite being marketed as sustainable, ethical, and European – come from a complex and blurred supply chain, with hides imported from as far as South America.

The Scottish firm says airlines and passenger transport operators deserve 100% transparency regarding the provenance of their leather hides and asserts that suppliers which fail to trace back their entire supply chain should be held accountable for potentially misleading customers. According to Muirhead, the lack of industry-wide traceability standards poses significant challenges for operators around Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting.

“Operators are facing mounting pressure to take responsibility for their supply chains and demonstrate the full environmental and social impact of the materials they use,” said Gareth Scott, Hide Procurement and By-Product Sales Director at Muirhead. “While leather is a natural by-product of the food industry, the finished product can only be considered sustainable if it is produced in an ethical way. Sadly, some European leather manufacturers import rawhides from cattle reared on deforested lands in South America before marketing their finished products as European leather. These practices are rather concerning, given that extensive cattle ranching is the foremost driver of deforestation in almost every Amazon country – accounting for an alarming 80% of the current deforestation rate, as per WWF.”

Muirhead, which has developed a unique circular process for leather manufacture, sources 99% of its hides from trusted farmers in the UK and Ireland. This enables the supplier to leverage the region’s exceptionally high animal welfare standards, keep hide miles to a minimum, and ensure Muirhead leather does not contribute to forest depletion. Through a variety of sustainable practices that ensure the preservation of global forests and biodiversity, Muirhead also complies with the new EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR), which requires leather manufacturers to demonstrate no involvement in deforestation or forest degradation.

“Unless the supplier can trace the hide across the entire supply chain, operators will have no valid insight into the product’s ‘hide miles’, the quality of the original rawhide, and whether their upstream suppliers such as farms and abattoirs uphold the highest ethical and sustainability standards. We believe radical traceability is the cornerstone of ethical leather production.”

Muirhead’s high performance leather products are trusted by more than 160 airlines, airframe, and seating manufacturers globally – as well as most European bus, coach, and rail operators. Last week, the company announced it had successfully returned to its pre-pandemic lead time of just six weeks, enabled by its unique end-to-end manufacturing process.

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