At the moment, the footwear industry doesn’t have a great reputation when it comes to being ethical or sustainable. Here are just a few statistics by the Better Shoes Foundation, a not-for-profit organization set up to promote sustainable practices by providing an open-source platform for those who want to work towards a better way of making shoes.
* 24.3 billion pairs of shoes were produced worldwide in 2014
* A single shoe can contain 65 parts that require 360 steps for assembly; this makes it also difficult to separate and recycle
* Less than 5% of waste from post-consumer shoes is recycled
* Just 2% of the final price of a shoe goes to the workers who made it
* 87% of the global footwear production occurs in Asia
* 85% of the world’s leather is tanned using chromium, which is considered to be the fourth worst pollutant in the world.
As for the rest of the fashion industry mass production and cheap labour cost have led to a dramatic increase in resources use, poor environmental practices, waste – an average of three pairs of shoes per person go to landfills every year – and the exploitation of vulnerable workers through long hours, low pay and dangerous working conditions. At the same time, the market for sustainably made shoes is now booming driven by consumers’ awareness and visionary entrepreneurs. As a result, there are many emerging and established brands that have built sustainable practices from the ground up.
The app Good on You can be of help in looking for sustainable shoes, and the website of the Better Shoes Foundation has a pretty comprehensive list of sustainable brands. Here I list two sneakers brands that I like and that are getting pretty well known among sustainable fashion buyers.
With a brand promise that states “we believe shoes should be things you fall in love with, and they should be created to last. We also believe you should be able to buy your shoes guilt-free, safe in the knowledge that they were created with love for people & planet” Po-Zu represents a leader brand in the sustainable fashion arena. As we always say, sustainability does not mean to compromise on design and style as you will immediately see when visiting their website. Last year the brand launched a new chrome-free leather RESISTANCE sneakers in Black and White with the Star Wars Rebellion logo embossed on the side of the shoe and the organic cotton Star Wars label on the tongue. This sleek sneaker has been worn by Star Wars fans and celebrities alike, including Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose) Anthony Daniels (C-3P0), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Warwick Davis, Kevin Smith and Youtuber Casey Neistat. When designing for sustainability Po-Zu starts with raw materials sourcing and design (see its biomimicry design for the revolutionary Foot Mattress) to then move to manufacturing where only solvent-free glues are used to protect workers’ health and nearly all waste products are recycled. The company also gives 10 per cent of its net profit to three environmental charities. To know more and shop for Po-Zu sneakers and shoes: https://po-zu.com
Photo Credit: Veja Instagram
I got my first pair of VEJA for my birthday and I simply love them! I have been flirting with the idea of buying them for a year, but as I had other two pair of sneakers I decided I could wait. VEJA is a French brand founded by two friends François-Ghislain Morillion and Sébastien Kopp in 2005 . After the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, wore a pair of VEJA when visiting Australia, sales boomed and the French ethical brand quickly became one of the most talked-about sneaker brands around. What is special about the Brand VEJA though? Quoting the brand itself: “Since 2005, VEJA has been making sneakers differently infusing each stage of production with a positive impact.” VEJA’s ethical approach starts with raw materials sourcing: 100% organic cotton is sourced from Brazil and Peru from cooperatives where farmers are fairly paid; the rubber used for VEJA outer soles is from the Amazon rainforest and by increasing the economic value of the forest it helps the fight against deforestation; leather is traced so that it does not come from areas of deforestation and tanning is performed limiting chemicals and water to the minimum; the vegan leather comes from Italy and is made of corn waste applied on a cotton canvas. The same thorough approach is used for the production cycle and right through to packaging and distribution (the logistic hub in Bonneuil sur Marne is managed by atelier sans Frontières, a reintegration association that fights against exclusion through work). To know more and shop for VEJA sneakers:
To explore other eco/ethical/vegan shoe brands: http://www.bettershoes.org/brands