Leather and the circular (or Blue) economy
About this essayEssay number 11 in the Nothing to Hide series highlights a change that is taking place not just in business thinking but in business models, through the story of serial environmental entrepreneur Dr Gunter Pauli, founder of Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives and author of ‘The Blue Economy’ in 2009 and revised version ‘The New Blue Economy’ in 2015. Dr Pauli says he chose to put ‘Blue’ in the title because “green is no longer enough".
This essay tackles the following misrepresentations:
- MYTH: It is cruel to make leather from animal hides and skins.
- FACT: The hides and skins are a by-product of the meat industry and only become available after slaughter.
- MYTH: There are better uses for the hides and skins.
- FACT: There are some other uses, but for thousands of years, people have found making leather to be the best way to make the most of the material available. Our ancient ancestors changed their lives for ever when they began using animal skins to make bags that they could use to carry enough food to feed their families for days
Concerned about the high levels of unemployment that he feels globalisation has caused, Dr Gunter Pauli’s main aim is to find ingenious entrepreneurial ideas that use, in the most sustainable way possible, resources that we already have around us, put these ideas into practice, add value and create jobs, millions of jobs.
Examples that Dr Pauli has worked on recently involve making paper from stone, bio-polymers from thistles and food from coffee waste. He says the examples he has been able to highlight in his books so far have created three million jobs, with a critical added bonus of circulating the money from workers’ wages within local communities, often in poor parts of the world. He says these examples merely “scratch the surface” of what is possible in the Blue Economy. There is great potential in “regenerating” a culture of artisans all over the world using easily accessible natural materials to create value.
The leather industry is part of this picture and can proudly point to its long-standing history of making use of waste from another industry (the meat sector), adding very high levels of value to it to create a beautiful, desirable and highly versatile material. It creates jobs and solves a potentially serious waste management problem at the same time. It is one of the ‘bluest’ industries on the planet.