Purpose: Burgeoning challenges of climate change and poverty alleviation across many parts of the world have enforced the policy makers and researchers to develop an alternate system for performance assessment of an individual, a country, and a corporate. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the sustainability strategies of three leading states in the Indian leather industry – Tamil Nadu (TN), West Bengal (WB) and Uttar Pradesh (UP) – to gain insights into their efforts and progress in generating economic, social, and environmental values. Design/methodology/approach: This study used case study approach for investigative analysis, and triangulation method – interviews and field visits, for data verification. The study examines the various sustainability strategies by applying economic value creation (evaluation of growth in total turnover, evaluation of the growth in profitability, evaluation of leverage), social value creation (evaluation of the growth in wages, evaluation of the growth in employee welfare expenses), and environmental value creation (conservation in raw material consumption, conservation in energy consumption, evaluation of waste management practices). Findings: The findings reveal that the three states differ significantly from each other both in terms of efforts made and progress achieved during the period of study, 1998-2013. UP seems to be making the most consistent progress in achieving economic value, while WB shows the most progress in creating social value, and TN leads the pack in terms of creating environmental value. Thus, the three leading states in the Indian leather industry have been allowing trade-offs to get competitive advantage over others. Research limitations/implications: The opaqueness with which the Indian leather Industry conducts social and environmental practices clearly limits the sources of accurate and reliable data, and the ability of researchers to precisely identify the problems and suggest solutions. Practical implications: The opaqueness with which the Indian leather Industry conducts social and environmental practices clearly impacts the policy makers, practitioners, and researchers to continue such initiatives and improve the lives of people in India for whom continuing this profession is a big challenge and a hurdle to accomplish their livelihood. Originality/value: The paper gives a theoretical explanation of the sustainability in the leather industry with respect to its strategies in terms of economic value, social value, and environmental value. © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited.