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Legal Definition, BS 2780 Definition

In the UK a definition of leather is set out in the British Standard Glossary of Leather Terms (BS 2780) and this definition is used as a guide in applying consumer protection legislation such as the Sale of Goods Act and the Trade Descriptions Act.

In short, if a product is made from reconstituted leather fibres or if the surface coating is too thick then it cannot be sold as ‘leather’.

Hide or skin with its original fibrous structure more or less intact, tanned to be imputrescible. The hair or wool may or may not have been removed. It is also made from a hide or skin that has been split into layers or segmented either before or after tanning.

Note 1: If the leather has a surface coating, the mean thickness of this surface layer, however applied, has to be 0.15mm or less.

Note 2: If the tanned hide or skin is disintegrated mechanically and/or chemically into fibrous particles, small pieces or powder and then, with or without combination of a binding agent, is made into sheets or forms, such sheets are not leather.

Consumer Protection

For assistance with consumer protection issues in the UK contact your local Trading Standards office which you can find via the Trading Standards Website.


In recent years the consumer market has moved towards requiring an enhanced level of responsibility from brands and retailers for their products. Purchasing decisions are based on factors such as quality, and increasingly on social, ethical, safety and environmental grounds. The Sure family of certification trademarks has been developed to satisfy this growing appetite for credible product assurance and has been derived using years of expertise and experience in leather. Each individual mark denotes a different level of assurance, which allows them to be used as stand alone certification marks or in combination as a suite to demonstrate a holistic view of responsibility and compliance. These marks have been designed to be used at point of sale (for example on a swing ticket or product labelling/packaging) or alternatively as supply chain trading assurance.


A significant part of the work of any industry body is to maintain and enhance the global reputation of the product created by that industry. The original hidemark (owned and policed in the UK as a certification trade mark by BLC) is still recognised by more than 60% of consumers as a sign of a quality leather product and has become a successful marketing tool for many brands. This mark can be used for all leathers which are tested at BLC and comply with BS 2780: 1983.


Leather has historically been understood by many as being a durable material, but it is a natural material and can fail from time to time. Even though the leathermark certifies that the product is made from genuine leather, it does not prove that it will perform well in the marketplace or necessarily denote suitability for purpose or quality. For this reason, the QualitySure mark can be used on any leather which withstands the suite of physical tests specified by BLC for individual products. The specifications will differ depending on the end product; for example a leather to be used for upholstery will have to withstand different criteria to a leather being used to make a handbag and so on.


Restricted substances are an important issue for both manufacturers and consumers due to extensive and complex legislation. Whether it is potentially harmful to the environment or to the user, everything should be checked in order to demonstrate due diligence and corporate social responsibility. Only leathers which have been tested at BLC and comply with specific requirements will be eligible to be awarded the ConsumerSure mark. This testing regime will consist solely of critical restricted substances including azo dyes, formaldehyde, pentachlorophenol and chrome VI. There are two different specifications for this leathermark; one for general leather and one for automotive leather.


With the introduction of more stringent restrictions for baby and child products, a further level of safety assurance is desirable. Although the MetalSure mark is not purely for children’s products, this is likely to be the industry which will benefit most from its presence on their labels. The testing needed for this leathermark is for compliance to limits on total heavy metal and chrome VI content within the leather. This mark may also be used to certify a leather or product as being chrome-free.


In the current climate of environmental awareness there is a requirement to understand the environmental credentials of a leather and the leathermaking process. The EcoSure leathermark is designed as a credible marketing tool to aid the sourcing of leather and to demonstrate environmental compliance at point of sale. The specification of testing includes an environmental audit, which is based on the Leather Working Group audit and a restricted substance testing regime.

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