Mercedes-Benz clearly positions itself against all forms of illegal deforestation and also demands this from its suppliers.
It is a requirement of our supplier awardings that supply chains for products we source must be free from any form of illegal deforestation and do not contribute to the endangerment or loss of natural forests (high conservation forests). Mercedes-Benz requires its direct suppliers to adhere to its standards with regard to working conditions, human rights, environmental protection, safety, business ethics and compliance and to carry these standards into their upstream value chains and monitor compliance with them.
When awarding new contracts, partners must disclose their entire supply chain from the farm region to the end product. In addition, our suppliers are contractually obliged to take due diligence measures to support, among other things, the protection of natural forests in the deeper supply chain. These requirements are part of the Mercedes-Benz Responsible Sourcing Standards, which must be signed as a prerequisite for participation in all new contracts. This means that if a potential supplier does not sign our RSS, it cannot even take part in the selection process. We take reports of breaches of these standards very seriously and investigate them. Together with our partners, we are working towards our climate targets.
Regions of origin of our leather
Wherever possible, the regions of origin of the leather used in our vehicles are based on our principle of "local for local". This means buying close to where we produce. This enables us to achieve local independence, reduce both costs and risks and contribute to sustainability through shorter transportation routes. Hides used in our Mercedes-Benz vehicles therefore come from several European countries - including Germany and Austria - in addition to other countries such as South Africa and the USA.
Mercedes-Benz also follows the principle of " enablement before disengagement". This means that we do not generally exclude high-risk areas as sources of critical raw materials. Rather, the approach aims to improve the local situation for people and the environment. Mercedes-Benz is following the recommendations of NGOs, politicians and other relevant interest groups. We want to make an active contribution in our supply chains to better protect people and the environment - and not turn away from problems. That is why Mercedes-Benz works closely with relevant stakeholders in the raw material-specific supply chains. In line with this approach, we currently continue to source a small percentage of our leather requirements from Brazil, despite the country's association with illegal deforestation and the endangerment and loss of natural forests.
In order to improve the situation on the ground, Mercedes-Benz has signed a memorandum of understanding with a local supplier and an international non-governmental organization in which all parties commit to working together on solutions for deforestation-free leather supply chains. As part of the collaboration, data will be reviewed, further improvements will be implemented and tracking systems and platforms will be used to trace the finished leather back to its origin.
Sustainable processing of leather
We are striving to make our high-quality genuine leather even more sustainable. Traceability is just as important as the sustainable use of resources and CO₂ emissions along the leather supply chain. For a less environmentally harmful tanning process, only vegetable, organic mineral or alternatively sustainable tanning agents that are completely chrome-free may be used in future. Furthermore, the leather for Mercedes Benz products may in future only be processed in tanneries that are certified in accordance with the Gold Standard of the Leather Working Group. This covers important environmental aspects such as reducing the use of water, energy, and chemicals in the tanning process. In addition, Mercedes-Benz works together with suppliers to continuously improve the environmental compatibility of the leather product. To this end, the partners must, for example, submit a life cycle assessment covering the entire value chain from the farm to the finished leather. In this way, targeted measures can be taken to reduce the ecological footprint of the leather.
Diverse leather substitutes on offer
While we are working on making our high-quality genuine leather even more sustainable, we are also conducting intensive research into animal-free alternatives to genuine leather. They should not only conserve natural resources for future generations, but also offer the highest quality in all aspects. Various alternatives to genuine leather have already been presented in the Mercedes-Benz VISION EQXX.
We offer various leather-free equipment variants in our vehicles, including in selected compact models such as the A-Class. These include a high-quality imitation leather and a microfiber fleece made from up to 73 percent recycled material. It is used in the vehicle interior on the seat cover, steering wheel, center console and door trim. The percentage of recycled material is to be further increased in the coming years and the range of leather-free upholstery is to be extended to other vehicle models. The sustainability of the materials is crucial for us.
Recycled materials are already standard in many vehicles today. For example, in addition to a high-quality imitation leather and microfiber fleece, we offer various high-quality upholstery materials in the interior that are made from up to 100% recycled PET bottles. As part of our sustainable business strategy, we are also focusing on the use of natural fibers and textiles to replace conventional plastics with renewable raw materials.