Ethics: Falling Grey on a Black and White Scale

   Ethics is defined as the moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity. The definition alone leaves room for discrepancy. Point being, there is no "set in stone" code of ethics. It varies person to person. 

   As a brand engaging with consumers in 2018, ethics and transparency are more important than ever. Consumers have a right to know how and where the products they purchased came to fruition.

   I believe in the ethical treatment of beings and environment – humans, animals, and planet alike. With that being said, let’s address ethics.
If only this were a black and white topic- either materials are ethically-sourced or not. However, there are many factors at play that lead to the justness of goods.

   While it’s important that, we, as humankind are becoming progressively more conscientious about what we are putting IN our bodies, we also need to be cognizant about what we put ON our bodies. That leather watch, belt, and bag you are carrying came from somewhere. The elephant- or should I say, cow in the room, is: the leather that goes into manufacturing the products we wear is often the result of an abused, beaten, or poisoned cow whose sole purpose was to become your accessory. Moreover, leather sourced for goods predominately comes from overseas markets. Namely, India and China. India; a land where the cow is considered sacred. Much of India’s meat and leather trade takes place on the black market. This means the leather is procured from unlicensed abattoirs. Thus, resulting in a lack of ethical standards by which the cow hide must be procured. The path to production is windy, uneven, and many times, completely off the google-marked road. For example, a cow might be raised to die in India’s black leather market and turned to tanned hide. That hide is then sold to China, the number one importer of hides and skins and then turned into designer leather shoes. This is where America comes in as we are the number one importer of finished leather goods. As you can see, It can become quite tricky if not impossible to trace leather’s origin.  

   One element that is binary in this discussion is the makeup of the leather itself. Either leather is a hide of an animal, or it isn’t, and therefore, is vegan. Due to the many discrepancies when sourcing leather overseas, we have consciously chosen to make our products with 100% vegan PU Leather.

   Vegan leather, also known as faux leather is a 100% man-made synthetic product. However, the reason I mentioned grey-ness on a black and white scale is because faux leather doesn’t come packaged squeaky-clean with a bow. There is some reticence in the discussion. It’s “easy” to play the cruelty-free card and glaze over other topics. An unfortunate byproduct in the production of synthetic leathers is the release of toxic chemicals into the environment.
There are two main players in the vegan leather game: PVC and PU.
PVC: Short for Poly-Vinyl-Chloride. PVC leather is made of chlorine and petroleum and mixed with stabilizers, plasticizers, and lubricants. PVC production produces harmful dioxins that enter waterways through waste-water. PVC has been labeled the “single most damaging type of plastic” as it simply does not degrade.
PU: Short for Polyurethane. PU is much less toxic than PVC, yet it is still made from fossil-fuels, meaning carbon dioxide is emitted during production. According to Beyond Skin, “If PVC and PU were in vegan Top Trumps, PU would win every time.” From both a quality and an environmental stance, PU takes the Cake.

Luckily, the social awareness surrounding meat and hides industries has brought about a much needed surge for innovation and iterations in this GREY AREA (*hello potential business opportunities/investments*) Textile scientists are actively developing new vegan leathers that, not only perform and look more like the authentic thing, but are much less, if at all, environmentally-damning. Very exciting stuff!

I would like to note that CECY is not opposed to the use of Genuine leather down the line. It’s the ethical treatment of animals that is at the foreground. If a cow lived a happy cow life and dies a natural cow death, then using the byproducts of the cow [in my opinion] would be honoring it. Our mission is in line with the ethical treatment of beings.


Sources:

https://www.investindia.gov.in/sector/leather

http://finetrain.com/export-of-leather-products/

https://www.drovers.com/article/tough-china-us-trade-talk-not-about-leather

https://ms-bay.com/real-fake-ethical-cruel-leather/

https://www.beyond-skin.com/blog/2016/02/08/vegan-leather/


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