June has finally arrived and as the sun shines on vibrant greens, what better time to to introduce you to BCFA Member of the Month, Muirhead. Leading the way with sustainability in the sector, we spoke with Chris Johnson, Specification Sales Manager, about the manufacturing process of their lowest carbon leather, what is being done differently to ensure sustainability throughout production, and next steps for Muirhead.
Please can you introduce Muirhead and your role within the company.
Muirhead leathers are specified by the global design community for commercial and residential projects worldwide.
Our unique leather is sustainably manufactured in Scotland with our hides procured locally as part of a fully traceable and circular process admired by the leather industry.
Specified by architects and the design community around the world; our leather provides a touch of luxury and a durability that is effective in any life cycle analysis across many interior applications.
Chris Johnson, Specification Sales Manager is part of the Upholstery Leather and Custom Projects team, collaborating with architects, designers and furniture manufacturers on interior project and product specification.
Has Muirhead always manufactured in the UK? Can you tell us a bit about the history?
Muirhead has been making fine luxury leather in Scotland for over 180 years. We have inspired the designers of the world’s finest fashion brands, aircraft, trains, furniture and more; our leather has graced the seats of the House of Lords, Concorde, the QE2 and the Orient Express.
Muirhead owns one of Europe’s oldest tanneries and remains a family business. Thanks to the foresight of Andrew Muirhead and the stewardship of seven generations of the family, the company is independently run and considered one of the finest leather makers in the world.
From our facilities rooted in Scotland, utilising our own loch, grass-fed farming, and natural resources, we export to more than 60 countries worldwide. We have facilities in Scotland and China, and sales offices in the USA, South America, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia.
Can you talk us through the manufacturing process for Muirhead’s lowest carbon leather?
Significant investments in circular manufacturing have made us arguably the most modern and environmentally focused leather manufacturer in the world. As part of Scottish Leather Group, our facilities on-site include a thermal energy plant, a water ultrafiltration plant, and a modern, cutting-edge tannery.
Our patented circular manufacturing process incorporates energy recovery, water re-use, renewable energy, locally sourced (and traceable) rawhides, and even a unique take-back scheme for end-of-life leather. We source our rawhides from low and net zero carbon farms. We reclaim energy from waste at our on-site thermal energy plant, and the energy we do buy in is 100% wind derived.
Addressing sustainability means much more than re-using and recycling. Can you tell us what Muirhead is doing differently to lead to way for sustainability in your sector? Are there any new or current projects/initiatives?
As the original upcycled material, our leather is a by-product of the food industry, and we source locally from responsible farms with the highest standards of animal welfare verified by the Animal Protection Index.
We make the world’s lowest-carbon leather. Since 2003, we have significantly reduced the carbon intensity of our leather per hide from 10.9kg CO2 to 1.1kg CO2 in 2020 and we’re constantly innovating to improve on that even further.
Our thermal energy plant generates heat from our process waste to power our tannery, in normal use, we reclaim enough energy to heat 2,250 households. Through our unique take-back scheme for end-of-life leather we can even use old leather to power the making of new, with only 10% of the carbon intensity of linear manufacturing.
We are committed to transparency and traceability in our supply chain and have adopted industry leading Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) to independently measure the impact of our manufacturing.
At the beginning of the year, Mulberry released their collaboration with Muirhead’s lowest carbon leather. Where else have you considered supplying the lowest carbon leather/what other industries might benefit from this?
With evolving requirements for transparency, responsibility, and circularity, we can help customers reach ambitious sustainability targets across all sectors – aviation, automotive, mass transit, fashion and luxury goods or of course furniture and interior design.
The carbon intensity of Muirhead leather is the lowest published anywhere in the world. Specifying Muirhead leather helps our clients to pursue their own low carbon targets.
What are the next steps for Muirhead?
We’re proud to make the world’s lowest carbon leather but we are committed to going further.
Our journey to zero carbon impact and zero waste to landfill leads the leather industry worldwide, and we’re just as proud to share the proof. We are committed to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), with our sustainability data independently verified through an ISO-accredited Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). The LCA accounts for our carbon footprint and quantifies impacts of all our activities, including the influence of upstream farming.
We continually measure and monitor our impact and we benchmark against internationally recognised standards.
We’re signatories to the UN Global Compact and regularly check our progress against the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The carbon intensity of our leather is the lowest published anywhere in the world, typically 30–50% lower than other leather manufacturers and significantly lower than the industry standard.
Nothing comes close to the feel, quality, and performance of natural leather. And we deliver that timeless luxury without compromising on sustainability.
Contact Muirhead through BCFA Product Finder
The BCFA Product Finder is a unique search engine created especially for interior designers to source contract furnishing companies. Utilising this platform will support your findings for upcoming projects, with over 200 members profiles showcasing the latest product launches, new materials available, industry news, and design trends.