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Footwear retailers ramp up sustainability efforts

While the majority of plastic waste has been dumped in landfills, a substantial amount has been flooded into the world’s oceans. More than eight million tons of plastic enters the world’s oceans each year and most escapes from land. Recent years have seen traditional footwear and fashion retailers criticized as societal awareness has shifted to more eco-friendly, sustainable brands.

‘Sustainability’ and ‘green’ have been buzzwords for some time and while progress has been made, environmental pressures continue to mount. In 2015, Adidas and environmental organization Parley for the Oceans, manufactured a performance trainer with an upper layer made from recycled marine plastic waste. In addition to this, Adidas’ rival Nike, is looking to increase its sustainability efforts too. The company recently announced its Earth Day Pack which is made with recycled leather. Furthermore, particular focus has fallen on the use of exotic skins for high end shoes, most notably snakeskin and alligator skin. PETA has publicized the capturing, killing and skinning processes involved in a bid to deter consumers and this has had some effect. Veganism is currently big news; a number of celebrities are becoming increasingly committed to vegan clothing and footwear and the very first vegan fashion week was held in Los Angeles in 2019.

This has given rise to a number of eco, vegan friendly brands; retailers have identified a niche in the market and many are advertising their footwear products as vegan. In Fact, when Reebok first launched the Cotton + Corn NPC UK sneaker, it featured leather accents on the heel tab, but after receiving criticism from the organization, PETA, the brand took the initiative to make the shoe vegan. The updated sneaker features a 100% cotton upper, a sole derived from corn, and insoles made from castor bean oil. Even the packaging is 100% recycled.

Finally, traditional footwear retailer such as Adidas have pledged to only using eco-friendly elements in products by 2024. However, the company must race to achieve these goals as soon as possible because the degree of competition is strengthening as many players are tapping into this segment.