How Muirhead can help you future-proof your supply chain

By Rhona Lawson, Marketing Insights Manager

We work closely with trends intelligence agency Stylus, who track and analyse global, cross-industry consumer trends to shed light on what we can expect in the next 3-5 years. This, in turn, helps us to learn how and why the material landscape is changing and what that means for our business and our customers.

Balancing Act

Their research highlights consumer awareness of the need to shift everyday habits to contribute towards a more sustainable future; however, the economic impact of major disruption coupled with rising energy prices and inflation means we are in an era of balancing financial needs with renewed values and life outlook. To complicate matters further, greenwashing and misinformation infects products and services across industries and lead to confusion

Understanding the impact of these societal shifts on material trends provides a framework for ourselves and our customers to assess what we, and other suppliers, are doing well and what more we need to do to meet the needs of tomorrow’s consumers.

Transparency Demands

As we become hyper-aware of manufacturing and operational processes, brands must offer complete transparency and traceability, both environmental and ethical, through their supply chains to meet the needs of responsible purchasers.

Considering our performance against these criteria, our latest ESG Report, which has been independently verified by BSI Assurance Ltd UK, explains how we have achieved a 100% traceable supply chain. This is further endorsed by the Leather Working Group. Our recently completed SMETA Audit (Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit), which entails highly qualified Sedex auditors carrying out on-site observations, conducting interviews with factory management and workers, inspecting documents provided by the factory, and the presentation of all findings, further demonstrates our commitment and progress.

Responsible Sourcing

Responsibility in sourcing spans further than supply chain transparency, as consumer awareness of how and where products are grown and sourced, the need for regenerative and contributive practices is surging, as reported in Stylus Look Ahead 2023

At Muirhead, we are privileged to be able to source and trace our rawhides within the UK and Ireland as regulated by the Cattle Tracing Scheme. British Cattle Movement Service and ScotEID (Livestock Traceability). This ensures we can provide our customers with guaranteed provenance and ethical practices which are independently rated by the Animal Protection Index at one of the highest standards globally.

In addition, agroforestry, a land management approach that combines trees and shrubs with crop and livestock farming systems, plays an important role in climate change mitigation and adaptation and supports several goals in the UK government’s 25-Year Environment Plan and Clean Growth Strategy as reported by the Woodland Trust.

Currently, 72% of land in the UK is farmed, and 3% of UK farmed area practices agroforestry. 10% is required to help hit climate change targets.

While we cannot directly influence agroforestry uptake, by sourcing from the UK, where this system is recognised, encouraged, and measured, we can reassure our customers that our leather comes from an area that not only has no deforestation, the highest standards of animal welfare and that seeks to make a positive difference.

Nature Reimagined

The next generation of consumers will challenge the idea of natural as a proxy for ‘good for me’ and instead include considerations such as ‘good for my community' and 'good for the planet’ while evaluating products. Waste will play a part here as a smarter solution to material sourcing. Local ingredients and specialities will also come into play

At Muirhead, our leather has a 76% bio content which we seek to increase via innovative tanning methods. Natural fibres such as leather can be readily recycled in a closed-loop system and transformed into ‘new’ fibres. They can also biodegrade and nourish the soil at the end of useful life, this is nature’s own circular economy.

Our leather is also a 100% by-product of the food industry. While we understand and respect that, for some, animal products are off the table, our research showed that future direction for dietary choice is likely to be varied and local. Both are key to an ethical diet, and a focus on where you are in the world will determine what that looks like.

For example, in the UK, locally, ethically produced red meat that is locally and responsibly sourced will continue to form part of a balanced diet. Terms like topsoil-friendly, grass-fed, and water footprint will become increasingly important.

Repair & Aftercare

As the fight against waste gains pace, brands need to realise that designing for longer product lifespans is not anti-consumerism but a way to stay in favour with a critical and conscious audience.

Consumers are starting to reject built-in obsolescence, forcing brands to rethink and actively promote a longer product lifespan on a material, mechanical and aesthetic level.

Companies are working hard to develop systems that keep materials in constant use. This requires a holistic approach, taking into account each product’s full life cycle and afterlife.

Stylus Fashion’s Sustainability 2022 round-up highlights the focus on repair and aftercare initiatives and identifies several brands from across the industry experimenting with new services and programs, such as Italian fashion house Bottega Veneta’s lifetime warranty programme for its bags.

This initiative is not limited to fashion, however, for example, Air Canada turned old Muirhead seats into tote bags; others created notebooks and furniture. There is no limit to creativity and longevity when recycling leather.

Muirhead’s ongoing collaboration with our partners helps to extend the life of our leather while our latest innovations aspire to deliver material that can compost at the end of life, as we seek to deliver on the climate goals of ourselves and our customers.

We hope that sharing this research and framework provides you with a simple yet effective way to identify if your material choices will meet the demands and expectations of tomorrow that we endeavour to achieve at Muirhead. Please get in touch if you would like to learn more about any of the learnings outlined above.