Following a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and a fashion industry environmental evaluation ranking based on the Higg Material Sustainability Index (Higg MSI), JBS Couros has shown it is possible to continuously improve leather production and further reduce its environmental footprintfootprint
One of JBS Couro’s main tenets is that for a material to be truly sustainable, socio-environmental responsibility must be present (and seen to be present) across the entire production chain. The company submitted its Kind Leather product to a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in partnership with Asiatan and received the highest score on the Higg Material Sustainability Index (Higg MSI). The LCA study aims to identify hot spots and highlight opportunities for continuous improvement in the production chain. The LCA is used to optimize the production system and minimize environmental impacts. The results of the study confirmed that introducing design concepts to find sustainable supply chain solutions – challenging traditional production system methodologies – is the correct way to minimize the industry’s environmental impacts.
Since 2019, Kind Leather is made using a more efficient and innovative production process that removes the parts of the leather that won’t be used at the very beginning of the process; this material can later be sent to other companies - such as pharmaceutical and food manufacturers – to convert this waste into raw materials and make a significant contribution to sustainability across the entire value chain. The LCA study helps us assess the benefits of the Kind Leather concept and better understand, develop and improve leather’s sustainability strengths and weaknesses.
The global environmental impact ranking of fashion industry materials, the Higg Material Sustainability Index, recently analysed and uploaded the LCA results onto its platform and Kind Leather obtained the best score in the industry. The Higg MSI, created by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, evaluates many materials such as cotton, leather, plastics, textiles, metals and rubber. The systems used to produce these materials is assessed in various categories such as Global Warming Potential and Water, Fossil Fuel, and Chemical Usage.
The lower the index score, the lower a material’s environmental impact. For example, Kind Leather scored an 8 in the Global Warming Potential category, which significantly improved leather's sustainability credentials. The industry’s global average score had been 34.3, a poor result for leather. As a reference, wool scores 45.2, cotton scores 8.8 and Glass Fiber Fabrics score 4.3.
The Kind Leather LCA was the first to use primary data from meatpackers and is one of the most detailed studies ever performed in the leather industry. “In most cases, these studies use default values to reflect the way the environmental footprint is distributed from farm to leather; these figures are a far less accurate description of the product’s actual impact. This differential is especially important, as the cattle breeding stage accounts for a considerable proportion of the total footprint. By using primary and auditable data we have been able to allocate these factors more accurately across the industry”, said Guilherme Motta, CEO of JBS Couros.
The methodology was developed and applied by Spin360, an Italian company based in Milan, which specializes in life cycle evaluation studies and sustainability initiatives across the leather supply chain. The model JBS developed was based on an analytical evaluation of the sourcing and manufacturing processes, collecting more than 10,000 data points grouped into 220 variables that represent leather’s contribution to eight different impact categories.