The majority, (approximately 99%) of the world’s leather is a by-product of the food and wool industry with the main sources being cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. It’s important to note that none of these animals are raised in order to make leather - it is a by-product that thanks to the skill of the manufacturer can be turned into a versatile material. For more information on the uses of leather check out our fact sheet, Leather is a Recycled Material.
The top three leather producing countries by volume are Italy, China, and Brazil but leather is made in almost every country across the world. Geographically close leather production remains an important part of the supply chain for many businesses. All together around 24 billion square feet are made annually.
The leather industry is an important global employer, with about half a million people directly employed in its manufacture. However that can be multiplied many time over by the numbers working in associated industries. Leather footwear, leathergoods, leather garments, gloves, furniture including automotive and aviation - all have leather at their core and have pulled millions of people out of poverty and into the tax paying middle classes that are so needed for viable economic development.
To learn more about the part that leather plays in a circular economy, read the Leather Naturally Sustainability White Paper
Leather Naturally promotes the use of globally-manufactured sustainable leather. Its website www.leathernaturally.org is a key resource for information about modern leather manufacturing and the part it plays in a more sustainable society.
Thanks to Leather UK for its help on producing this fact sheet.
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