The centralized supply chain of Alta Andina results in less environmental damage inflicted on the planet. To quantify the reduction in environmental externalities of Alta Andina’s supply chain, an analysis was conducted on the production, manufacturing and shipping of globally produced chrome tanned leather, versus Alta Andina’s locally produced vegetable tanned leather.
However, issues arose when researching the difference in production methods between vegetable tanned leather and chrome tanned leather. There is a significant lack of data from chrome tanneries globally, resulting in lack of quantifiable data over actual pollution levels and the danger posed to workers and residents working and living in hazardous conditions and communities. Chrome tanned leather is commonly produced in countries like Bangladesh and India, where regulations are lax or nonexistent, and the environmental pollution and human health risks are out of sight and out of mind. While data for the environmental and human cost of manufacturing chrome tanned leather is intentionally difficult to find, the differences in shipping impact of each production method can be quantified.
To statistically represent the difference in pollution between the tanning methods and supply chains, the shipping data (miles traveled, locations in supply chain, gas mileages, means of transport) were analyzed to generate a value for the carbon footprint reduction for each Alta Andina product. The shipping analysis was completed utilizing maps of the production supply chains of both industry standard chrome tanned leather, and Alta Andina’s vegetable tanned leather. The miles traveled in each supply chain was represented as a carbon footprint per product figure, by converting miles traveled, to gallons of fuel burned, (jet or diesel) to pounds of CO2 released. Given that the majority of both supply chains are dominated by air cargo transport, it was expected that the ratio between the total miles traveled by each product would equal the ratio between the pounds of CO2 released. The calculated results matched this hypothesis and concluded that Alta Andina vegetable tanned leather reduces the carbon footprint per product by 90%.
The analysis of the shipping data shows a stark difference in environmental impact between the two production methods. However, much data remains hidden in the undocumented manufacturing hubs of developing countries. Various journal articles have referenced the water and air quality of leather producing countries, like India, in only qualitative terms, which indicates the necessity for data collection and a deeper analysis of global manufacturing habits (Gallagher 2018). Calls for transparency from corporations who participate in these supply chains, and wider availability of important consumer information can result in better decision-making that protects the planet from further damage.
Alta Andina is able to reduce the carbon footprint per product by 90% just based on transportation alone. The local supply chain dramatically minimizes the impact of consumer purchases on the planet. The takeaway from this research is that if the shipping data is at all representative of the overall impact of leather production, the reduction in carbon footprint per product is likely much higher. The true difference between the carbon footprint of an Alta Andina product, and a chrome tanned leather product will remain difficult to quantify until the world pushes for more transparent practices and information about chrome tanned leather.
* Carbon footprint comparison between the supply chains of Alta Andina vegetable tanned leather and global chrome tanned tanned leather supply chain.
- (Distance (miles)/Fuel Economy (mpg))*Fuel Consumption Impact (pounds of CO2 per fuel gallon)= Carbon Footprint (pounds of CO2)
- Carbon Footprint (pounds of CO2)/Product per Shipment= Carbon Footprint per Product (pounds of CO2 per product)
Shipping Data for Miles:
Alta Andina vegetable tanning production:
- 2,820 miles
- Santander, Columbia to Bogota, Columbia: 220 miles by auto
- Bogota, Columbia to Cincinnati, USA: 2,463 miles by plane
- Cincinnati, USA to Erlanger, USA (warehouse): 11 miles by auto
Industry chromium tanning production:
- 26,370 miles by plane, given commercial production flight path of chromium tanned leather production
- Brazil to Bangladesh: 9,890 miles
- Bangladesh to Italy: 4,550 miles
- Europe to China: 4,700 miles
- China to US (warehouse): 7,230 miles
Transportation Data for Fuel Economy:
- Commercial ground transport: 8 mpg
- 16ft truck- 6-10mpg, average fuel economy
- Air Cargo: Boeing average- 2.75 gallons/mile or 0.364 mpg1
Transportation Data for Fuel Consumption Impact:
- Gasoline: 22.4 lbs.CO2/Gal
- Jet fuel: 21.1 lbs.CO2/Gal2
Product per Shipment:
- 601 products shipped in launch shipment
Alta Andina vegetable production line: 151,330 lbs.CO2
- Carbon footprint per product: 252 lbs.CO2/product
Industry chromium production line: 1,551,0008 lbs.CO2
- Boeing: Aircraft Technical Details. http://blueskymodel.org/air-mile#table-4
- Pounds of CO2 produced per gallon burned: https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/co2_vol_mass.php
- Gallagher, Sean (2014). India: The Toxic Price of Leather. Pullitzer Center. 1-5.
Research conducted by Rowan Doyle, Environmental Science student at the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities.