JBS Couros has released the results of the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study carried out on its sustainable “Kind Leather” by an Italian specialised company. Results that confirm the high sustainability profile of its production process along the entire supply chain. The study was commissioned by the Brazilian giant in partnership with Asiatan, a tannery based in China, very committed to sustainability issues and promoter of solidarity projects towards the local community.
The innovative concept behind the production of Kind Leather, announced for the first time in 2019, provides for a radical revision of the traditional manufacturing process, starting with a more efficient hides cutting system which – by eliminating peripheral parts – allows to save energy, water and chemicals, producing less waste. “Changing the traditional leather preparation system – challenging the most deeply-rooted habits – turns out to be the correct way to minimise the environmental impact of the tanning process”, explains the Brazilian giant. It should also be noted that those parts of the hides discarded at the beginning of the process are sent to other sectors, such as pharmaceutical, beauty and food industries, thus also helping to reduce the environmental impact in terms of circular economy.
Carried out on leathers intended for sports shoes, the comparative study showed that the production technique of Kind Leather is more sustainable than the one traditionally used. The life cycle assessment took into consideration all processing stages. To establish the comparisons on the same technical and methodological basis, the analysis also included the traditional production method used by Asiatan, which had not implemented optimisations for the use of natural resources and used wet blue full substance as raw material. The comparison results showed that the methodology proposed by the Kind Leather concept – which redesigns the initial stages of the process, proposes splitting the leather before tanning and reduces the use of chemical products – is environmentally more efficient.
The LCA of Kind Leather was the first to use primary data from farms and meatpackers, becoming one of the most detailed studies ever undertaken in the leather industry. “In most cases, these studies use default values to reflect the allocation of the environmental footprint from farm to leather, which are by far less precise when describing the real impact of the product. This differential is especially important, since the cattle raising stage accounts for a considerable slice of the total footprint. By using primary and auditable data, it has been possible to use precise allocation factors for leather”, explains Guilherme Motta, CEO of JBS.
The methodology was developed and applied by an Italian company, which specialises in undertaking life cycle evaluation studies in the leather supply chain. The model developed by JBS was totally based on the analytical evaluation of the manufacturing processes, taking into account more than 10,000 data points aggregated in 220 variables, representing the contribution to eight different impact categories.
“We have studied and worked a lot in recent years to improve the management of our sustainability platform. The next phase will consist in carrying out process optimisations based on this study to implement increasingly efficient solutions in our production system”, added Motta.
The study on Kind Leather is part of the broader company’s strategic sustainability planning and implies the adoption of a scientific approach to exponentially minimise the environmental footprint of leather processing. Additionally, it complies with ISO 14040 and is based on the most up-to-date Product Category Rules (or PCRs).
WHO IS JBS COUROS
JBS Couros, leather business unit of the Brazilian food industry giant JBS, is the world’s largest leather processing industry with 21 manufacturing units, three cutting units, five distribution centres, three showrooms and four sales offices on four continents and 7,000 team members.