Tomorrow’s zero-carbon, high performance leathers, today.

New leather is not the same as old leather. Nowadays, the leather industry is driven by cutting-edge technology and responsible innovations.

[Find Muirhead through BCFA Product Finder]

For years, leather has been synonymous with luxury, comfort, and durability in furniture upholstery and vehicle interiors. Innovation is essential to move closer to our ultimate goal of zero-impact leather manufacturing. Our journey to zero is leading the leather industry.

The passenger transport industry speeds to an electric future of net-zero goals, and the interior design and fashion industry are looking for planet-friendly solutions.

At Muirhead, we constantly challenge ourselves to respond to the growing need for sustainable, low-impact natural products that don’t compromise on quality. Interior designers need to innovate, and we think genuine leather is a natural fit. Modern problems can often have traditional solutions. There are many ways that leather can be harnessed to address some of the issues we face as a society today.

Muirhead ActiveHygiene, the most hygienic leather

We answered when the world asked for leather to cope with post-pandemic demands. As consumers, we’re being more careful than ever, and Muirhead developed an Active Hygiene Leather for the passenger transport sector and any custom projects incorporating ViralOff® technology from Polygiene® AB.

This sustainable leather has built-in antiviral properties. It took off for the aviation industry, and we’re exploring further developments for other sectors. Even without cleaning, our recent innovations mean leather will be virus free within two hours of viral contact. It’s proven to reduce tested viruses by over 99%, including SARS-CoV-2, H3N2, H1N1.

Muirhead LightCore™, the lowest weight full substance leather

Muirhead’s latest product innovation, LightCore™ is a low carbon, reduced-weight full substance leather is re-engineered for the next generation of aviation. Made with a unique, durable, micro-light core, LightCore™ is up to 33% lighter than standard leather – without sacrificing thickness or strength.

It is not about making the leather thinner and inferior. Simply shaving off grams or making the leather thinner has a dramatic impact on performance, reducing durability and increasing the chance of ripping.

We have re-invented our high performance leather from the inside out using a pioneering tanning process to create a true full substance leather with a reduced weight that maintains the strength, quality and technical performance the aviation industry expects from Muirhead.

Stephen Hems, Innovation Manager, Muirhead: “We knew we wanted to cut weight – but we refused to cut corners. To create true performance full substance leather with reduced weight, required our innovation team to rethink the entire process, from the exact hides we choose, to pioneering new manufacturing techniques, to the rigorous testing that ensures every leather meets the highest safety standards.”

Muirhead CareGuard™ , genuine leather with superior protection

Designed to deliver superior protection for Muirhead’s performance leather, our CareGuard™ product provides a protective seal that prevents dye transfer and dirt build-up – making it easier to clean and look better for longer.

Free from Fluorocarbons, CareGuard™ is flame resistant, durable, and provides added protection against UV light, soiling, and staining. And as you’d expect from Muirhead – CareGuard™ continues to build on our commitment to creating the world’s lowest carbon leather.

Sustainable tanning

Tanning is the crucial part of the leather-making process that prevents its natural breakdown and makes it one of the longest-lasting materials. Nature itself is innovative – so often, we find ourselves coming back to the incredible things it can offer us.

Historically, leather used to be vegetable tanned (with methods dating back to 6000 BC), but was largely replaced with chrome tanning due to its speed, effectiveness and colour fastness. Also, chrome tanning is more efficient in water use and requires less re-tanning to achieve the final result than non-chrome options.

The innovation team at Muirhead are developing more sophisticated biobased tannages, exploring a range of new techniques, including non-chrome and non-aldehyde tannages, cleaner and more environmentally friendly processing, lightweight leathers, advances in anti-soiling and dye ingress technology. We’re working alongside our customers who have stringent specifications to test, investigate and understand if these new generations of biobased tannages perform across the sectors we serve.

Having our own crystal-clear loch helps. But our water-efficient tannery uses 50% less water per hide than our competitors, and we filter and recycle every drop we use. Our ultrafiltration plant recycles up to 40% of our wastewater back into leather production.

Zero Waste

“Leather is one of the oldest manufactured products and the original upcycled material, the by-product of the meat industry.”

For us, leather is an upcycled material from a waste product. All our rawhides are a by-product of the local meat and food industries, which would otherwise end up in landfills if we didn’t upcycle them into our beautiful, sustainable leather.

And we have powered our own progress by taking our process waste as fuel in a patented circular manufacturing process. Our thermal energy plant reclaims energy as steam or as a biofuel co-product from our waste streams and uses some of this heat to directly power our tannery. This minimises waste to landfills and radically reduces our carbon footprint, which in turn, helps our customers reduce their carbon impact.

Future-looking innovations

At Muirhead, we’re constantly finding new approaches to reinvigorate one of the world’s most loved materials in sustainable ways. We have set up innovation hubs that bring together our teams, external specialists and customers – ensuring we help customers keep up with increasing pressures on carbon output and environment protection.

Archie Browning, Sales Director, Muirhead, says: “Muirhead has been manufacturing the finest sustainable Scottish leather since 1840 – and innovation is at the heart of what the business does. We are proud that our low carbon, high performance product innovations lead the leather industry, and support our valued customers in achieving their own technical performance and sustainability targets.”

Muirhead is the lowest carbon leather

Together, with our circular manufacturing innovations, we currently make the lowest carbon intensity leather in the world.

We are British and sustainable; we source rawhides locally from grass-fed cattle that are a by-product of the meat industry, saving them from landfills.

We provide 100% traceability, using hides from suppliers who share our values and meet the highest animal husbandry and welfare standards.

We recover energy from our waste and reduce waste to landfills.

We use renewable energy and find value in other industries for our co-products.

But we’re not stopping there. We are on a journey to carbon neutral leather by 2025.

Find out more about 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, nd design trends.


About Phoebe Train

Phoebe is a Marketing and Events Executive, who joined the BCFA as an English graduate in 2021. Working closely with designers and BCFA members, Phoebe has published an array of content for Design Insider.
View all posts by Phoebe Train →