Guide to Sustainable Leather

Want to consciously shop for a new leather bag without harming the planet? This is your go-to guide on sustainable leather: what it is, how it’s different from traditional & vegan alternatives, and the process that makes it animal, people, and planet-friendly.

We’ll explain how the raw materials are ethically-sourced from local farms, then sent to production for non-toxic tanning, before finally being stitched by talented, well-paid artisans. We’ll also challenge preconceptions about vegan leather, comparing its impact to sustainable leather. Let’s explore the world of eco-friendly leathers.

WHat is sustainable leather?

Sustainable leather is a more environmentally-friendly method of producing leather, produced as a byproduct of local farms instead of commercial factories. It’s considered more environmentally & ethically-friendly because it is sourced from local farms with fewer emissions and better living conditions, and their hide is secondary to their status as farm animals. This minimizes waste and resource usage, another glaring environmental problem. Furthermore, the tanning process for sustainable leather is absent of the toxic chemicals that are common in traditional leather production.

But the production process of sustainable leather doesn’t end there. In addition to the environmental considerations, social equity plays a big role. Anyone involved in the supply chain must also be treated & paid fairly. This includes living wages, safe working conditions, and the promotion of long-term growth & wellbeing. Conscious consumers want to play their part in protecting the planet, and tend to prefer sustainable leather products because of its reduced carbon footprint, excess waste, and energy consumption.

At Latico, we ethically source our sustainable leather from local farmers who treat their animals with care & respect. These farms produce a higher-quality leather at a fraction of the environmental impact. We also offer prime fair-trade prices to these farmers, ensuring they’re compensated fairly to provide for their families. Similarly, every Latico bag is handcrafted by talented artisans in South America & India, every one of which is paid a living wage. From farm to closet, our process of creating handbags is sustainable and responsible.


The process of making sustainable leather prioritizes ethical & environmental considerations throughout the entire process: sourcing, production, and stitching.

Sourcing Sustainable Materials

Instead of using hides from mass-farmed animals, sustainable leather originates from small, regenerative farms that value animal welfare and biodiversity. The animals are raised as they normally would be, and the leather is a byproduct of the meat industry that’s already taking place on a local level – no part of the animal goes to waste.

We work exclusively with local farmers to ensure all animals are treated fairly and that the farmers themselves are running clean, safe and fair farm facilities. By doing this, we're able to ensure that your 100% leather product is not only sustainable, but the highest quality available.

Non-Toxic Tanning

Conventional tanning methods use toxic chemicals, like chromium salts, to stabilize the leather and make it usable for leather goods. But these types of tanneries and chemicals pose massive health & environmental risks to workers, consumers, and the planet, even being labeled as a carcinogen in some cases.

But sustainable leather production opts for more eco-friendly tanning methods that utilize recycled water & organic compounds to achieve the same result by hand. These processes have a much lower environmental impact and are safer for workers & consumers.

Human-Centric Stitching

After processing, leather is stitched into handbags and other leather goods. In many cases, the workers in these sewing factories are subject to unsafe conditions, low wages, and long hours. But aligned with our commitment to sustainability, each artisan is compensated & treated fairly, resulting in a higher quality of life for everyone involved.


The global impact of leather production is huge. Some of the biggest concerns of real leather production include water use, deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, and labor conditions. At Latico, we address each of these concerns head on working only with trusted, local farmers, safe manufacturers, and handcrafting artisans.

  • Water Use – The production of leather is water-intensive, especially during the soaking, fleshing, and tanning stages. Traditional processes use thousands of gallons of water to produce just 1 pound of raw hide. At Latico, we use recycled water to prevent waste and reduce energy consumption.

  • Deforestation – Most of the raw material leather for leather comes from cattle and calves, but is also made from sheep, lambs, goats, and pigs. Raising livestock requires plenty of space for grazing, growing, and breeding. As a result, forests are cut down to clear space for farming & other agricultural activities. The resulting loss in biodiversity and carbon sinks pose a significant environmental threat. We purchase our raw materials from pre-existing farms in rural areas, meaning we don’t contribute to any active deforestation.

  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Trees must be cleared to create pastures for cattle & other animals, but the damage doesn’t end there. Livestock farming accounts for an estimated 15% of all global emissions, with commercial, profit-first farms playing the heaviest role. We refuse to work with these types of farms, opting to work with small, family-run farms that place human & animal welfare above profit. As a result, they produce higher-quality leathers than those manufactured at scale.

  • Labor Conditions – The fashion industry as a whole has long been associated with poor working conditions, especially in developing countries where regulations are not well-enforced. Workers often face health risks from exposure to harmful chemicals used in tanning and are usually subject to unfair wages & labor practices. Each artisan that crafts Latico bags operates in safe conditions and is paid a living wage to support them & their families.

Sustainable Leather vs. Vegan Leather

Which one is better for the planet?

Sustainable leather is better for people, animals, and the planet than traditional leather, but many animal activists are still critical. Many assume that "vegan leather" and "eco-leather" products are safe, ethical options. However, that's rarely the case.

While there are some plant-based leathers, vegan leather is usually made from two different plastic polymers: polyurethane (PU) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). These “faux leathers” are made from plastic, an oil product, and treated with harmful chemicals. Plastic never breaks down naturally, and the harmful toxins are released back into the environment once the leather product ends up in the landfill.

So while vegan leathers don’t directly harm animals, there are other factors at play. The oil industry accounts for 30% of all global emissions (nearly twice that of farming) and indirectly damages animal habitats.

Durability & Longevity of Pleather vs. Sustainable Leather

True leather can last up for decades if it’s taken care of properly. But given its plastic composition, vegan leather goods may only last up to five years at best. If you’re planning to purchase a leather crossbody or backpack, you’re better off purchasing a sustainably-made bag that will last for generations as opposed to several pleather options that you’ll have to replace every other year. And for every new pleather good that’s purchased, one more ends up in a landfill. So though vegan may seem like the more sustainable option, it rarely is in the case of leather.

When taken care of, real animal leather can last you even more than a lifetime of wear. You can carry your real leather backpack on every trip and pass it down through generations for years to come, adding a new memory to it every time. Ultimately, choosing a real leather product will be more sustainable for you and the environment in the long run.


Each Latico bag is handmade with love by talented artisans throughout South America and India. We're passionate about environmental sustainability and giving back — our leathers are byproducts of the meat and dairy industry that would otherwise go to waste.

Additionally, we donate 10 meals to Feeding America for every purchase made on our website. Thanks to our loyal customers, we've been able to donate 100,000 meals and counting to this incredible organization.

At Latico, we're transforming the perception of leather with our focus on sustainable, ethically-sourced products. By prioritizing local farms and fair-trade practices, we've created a method that reduces waste and promotes animal & worker welfare. Our commitment extends through every step of the process: ethical sourcing, non-toxic tanning, and fair treatment of our artisans. As consumers increasingly place more value on responsibly-produced goods, sustainable leather stands as a durable, high-quality, and truly planet-friendly choice. Explore our collections and join us on this journey to redefine leather, fostering a more sustainable fashion industry.

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