Muirhead, a leather supplier for the aviation, bus, coach and rail industries, has advised the passenger transport sector to consider suppliers’ lifecycle emissions, to raise standards in carbon footprint reporting.
The Scottish firm, part of the Scottish Leather Group, has developed a circular process for leather manufacture and published an independently verified lifecycle analysis (LCA) earlier this year. Muirhead argues that third-party assessment could become a new standard in passenger transport, helping companies to quantify the environmental impact of their activities, verify their supply chains, and back up their sustainability claims with rigorous analysis – leaving no room for ‘greenwashing’.
The assessment estimates the environmental impacts attributable to the entire lifecycle of a product – including the influence of upstream farming, the manufacturing process, distribution, transportation and end-of-life disposal. Muirhead said that according to the ISO-accredited analysis, its 8kg CO2e/m2 LCA is currently the lowest in the world published for genuine leather and is typically 30-50% of the impact stated by other leather manufacturers.
“The need to take lifecycle emissions into account is now widely recognised in carbon footprint reporting – but its adoption in the passenger transport sector has been relatively slow,” said Dr Warren Bowden, head of sustainability and innovation, Scottish Leather Group. “As the producer of the world’s lowest carbon leather, we encourage operators and manufacturers to request transparent and measurable assessments of their suppliers’ overall environmental impact – from raw material consumption, through production, to end-of-life disposal. Equally, we encourage other suppliers to ramp up their carbon accounting with a comprehensive impact assessment, and to ensure their sustainability credentials are backed by independently verified, rigorous analysis.”
“By subjecting our own products to a lifecycle analysis, we were able to provide Muirhead’s customers with independently verified sustainability data – empowering them to make a tangible impact on their own journeys towards net zero,” continued Bowden.
“As a by-product of the food industry, real leather is naturally sustainable – and so it should be produced responsibly too,” said Archie Browning, sales director, Muirhead. “Our unique end-to-end process means we have a fully traceable, transparent supply chain, and can optimise our carbon footprint at every stage of the leather’s journey – from farm to cut material and seat covers, and beyond.”
Thanks to its 100% circular manufacturing process, Muirhead and the Scottish Leather Group have been able to reduce their footprint without resorting to carbon offsetting initiatives. As stated in its 2022 Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) report, the group is now 90% on its way to achieving net-zero by 2025 – 20 years ahead of Scotland’s net-zero ambitions – and is on track to deliver zero waste to landfill by the same year.
The leather-maker’s long-term commitment to responsible and sustainable manufacturing has been driven by a series of multimillion-pound investments implemented over the past 20 years. The process involves a patented thermal energy plant that generates heat from waste to power the tannery, locally sourced traceable hides, ‘borrowing’ and recycling water from its very own loch, and the Take-Back Scheme for end-of-life leather products.