We wanted explain to you why at Ethical Stories Ethical Me, we took the decision very early on to not stock any leather that has been tanned using chromium sulphate (how 90% of leather is treated). The product could be stunning. It could tick some of our ethical badges such as being Made in Britain, or Empowering Women through the supply chain – but we just won’t do it. Why, we hear you ask?
The problem is that the actual cost is hidden away from us – not the cost in terms of how much we pay for our bags and shoes, but way, WAY beyond that. Pure Earth estimates that 16 million people are at risk due to exposure to chromium sulphate and the other chemicals that go into this process. Human implications include a high risk of disability, respiratory diseases, skin diseases and infertility. That’s not just for the people employed in the tanneries, but their children and the entire communities that rely on the ecosystem.
The reason for this is that tanneries pump their waste into the nearby rivers. In Kanpur, India, tanneries generate 50 million litres of highly toxic waste water a day. 50 million litres!!!! These rivers are the very places where local communities bathe, wash clothes and drink water every day.
So what’s the alternative? There are a few good options – but to be honest, none of them are perfect (yet!) There isn’t an environmentally neutral solution but at Ethical Stories Ethical Me, we are championing the brands that are making leaps and bounds in the right direction.
- Vegetable-tanned leather (so no chromium sulphate seeping into the water system or taking away the healthy lives of tannery workers; real, soft and naturally-dyed leather). Note: not suitable for vegans.
We are obsessed with Tribe Alive’s clutches and purses, which are all tanned using vegetables, fruits and tree barks. They are so chic, and made by female artisans in Haiti
- Vegan leather (cruelty-free because it's "faux" leather – but check the label carefully to make sure you’re buying PU and not PVC to limit the environmental impact and improve the breathability of your product)
Matt & Nat is the obvious answer for us here. In our opinion, they’re top of the class when it comes to vegan leather - driving innovation with recycled plastic bottles and cork