Why green is the new black in passenger shipping

Elmo Leather distinguishes itself as one of the most environmentally friendly producers of leather. Jimmy Ahlgren tells us how this vision became a reality

Why green is the new black in passenger shipping
Elmo's production process returns clean water to the nearby river

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2017 issue of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Elmo Leather may offer its customers a virtually unlimited choice of colours to choose from – 300 that are ready to ship, to be precise, not to mention the unlimited palette available to those who want to customise. But its best seller is… black.

“It’s always black!” Jimmy Ahlgren, sales and marketing director at Elmo Leather, says. “But we need the pink, the yellow and the blue to sell the black.”

Aside from its impressive colour range, the company has another way of standing out from the crowd. It produces, quite possibly, the most eco-friendly leather in the world.

Recognising that many designers today are motivated to use high quality and durable materials which are both luxurious and sustainable, Elmo Leather is committed to being the leading manufacturer of exclusive yet environmentally friendly leather.

Elmo’s tannery, located on the west coast of Sweden, produces leather of the highest technical properties, exceeding all existing international standards. In 2004, though, the company took this a step further, making a €5 million (US$5.9) investment in a new cleaning facility.

“Many claim to produce environmentally friendly leather, but they are only talking about the leather itself, not the process behind it,” Ahlgren says. “A tannery should not be measured simply by the levels of chemicals in its leather, but also by the chemicals in its wastewater.”

Previously, the wastewater from Elmo’s tannery was discharged to the local treatment plant together with the wastewater from the rest of the surrounding area. Although Ahlgren admits that the majority of the water load was coming from the tannery. “Over time, this became an obstacle, preventing further increase of the tannery’s leather production and company growth,” he says. The environmental authorities of Sweden were also putting additional pressure on the tannery to reduce its nitrogen pollution levels.

Elmo’s goal for its new cleaning facility was clear: to dramatically reduce the nitrogen pollution in the wastewater and become one of the greenest tanneries in the world. The result was a revolutionary filtering processes, which far surpassed the reduction targets. Between 2005 and 2006 the EU Life Fund identified the 22 best Life-Environment projects in Europe. Elmo’s plant for treatment of wastewater, was recognised as one of them. Today that success continues as the reduced amount of water used in the tanning process is taken from the nearby river and is later returned back into the river, cleaner than before.

“We’re proud to say that we clean our wastewater so well that it becomes drinking water,” Ahlgren explains. “We believe that we’re the first to accomplish this achievement, making us the greenest tannery in the world.”

Rebecca Lambert
By Rebecca Lambert
25 January 2018