BMW just announced that the luxury car company is supporting vegan leather for the future of the auto industry. The venture capital of the BMW Group, BWM i Ventures, recently invested in the sustainable material company Natural Fiber Welding. The environmentally-friendly brand develops plastic-free materials for foam and textiles, including completely biodegradable vegan leather. The company’s plant-based leather, MIRIUM, consists of byproducts from other industries, lowering waste across multiple markets.

“Natural Fiber Welding has developed an innovative process of converting plants into all-natural, 100 percent recyclable material that mimics all the properties of traditional leather, yarns, and foams,” Managing Partner at BMW i Ventures Kasper Sage said. “Having a scalable, cost-competitive alternative to leather with premium qualities is key to further advancing the decarbonization of the automotive industry.”

BMW i Ventures claims that the vegan materials rival the more conventional animal-based leather. The company wrote online that “traditional leather production is quite problematic and can be very harmful to the environment,” to show what vegan leather brings to the table without the environmental risk. The recycled material uses everything from coconut husk fiber - a by-product from coconut water and oil production - and cork powder from manufacturing wine stoppers.

The partnership is also meant to push BMW to lower its carbon emissions in the coming years. The push to promote vegan leather helps the company’s sustainability goals, advancing its attempts to redesign its place in the automobile industry. Although not yet promising to replace all leather in its models, the car company is pushing the entire industry to evaluate its production practices.

The investment also allows Natural Fiber Welding to expand its product lines and its distribution range. The company is aiming to scale up its development, reaching out to other car companies to advertise its vegan leather.

“BMW i Ventures’ commitment to high-performance companies across the manufacturing and transportation sector markets them an excellent investor and partner for [Natural Fiber Welding],” Founder and CEO of Natural Fiber Welding Luke Haverhals said. “We are honored to have their support as we continue to expand into new markets, like automotive, where all-natural, performance materials can have a huge impact in decarbonizing and creating a truly sustainable future.”

Natural Fiber Welding gained notoriety last year when United States fashion giant Ralph Lauren first invested in the company. As the fashion industry also begins to leave leather behind, the luxury giant partnered with the sustainable leather company to create environmentally-conscious clothing. A study found that 55 percent of Americans would rather purchase animal-free leather, showing a rising demand for plant-based leather products.

Earlier this year, Swedish automobile company Volvo announced that all of its cars would be vegan and electric by the year 2030. The company emphasized that the transition to leather would not jeopardize the style or comfort of its vehicles. Audi also promised to enact change and limit the leather used in its cars. BMW’s investment comes at a turning point for the entire automobile industry, as animal-based leather falls quickly out of fashion.

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