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Sustainability is a buzzword that has taken the fashion industry by storm. The growing awareness around sustainable fashion is not just limited to clothing, but has also made its way into footwear.
The vogue is such that the concept has established itself in one of the newest Indian airline uniforms. Recently, Akasa Air, backed by Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, unveiled its crew’s durable uniform which has been praised by netizens.
Innovation in the durable footwear industry has undergone many changes over these years and current trends speak for casual sneakers and canvas shoes. These are made with recycled rubber soles, recycled products and sustainable or eco-friendly materials that match the consumer philosophy.
About 300 million pairs of shoes are thrown away each year, which can take hundreds of years to completely decompose in a landfill. Ethylene vinyl acetate, found in most sneakers as a shock-absorbing component, is reported to take over 1,000 years to break down. In addition, due to their method of assembly, the shoes are quite difficult to recycle.
Many factors influence the environmental impact of a product. Virgin plastic, rubber and petroleum were the primary components of footwear for most companies until recently. These materials have a high carbon footprint, so companies have started exploring alternatives.
PUMA, a German multinational manufacturer of sports and leisure shoes, is trying to find new ways to reduce the environmental footprint as part of its Always better sustainability strategy.
In 2021, the company announced a project that finds solutions for the afterlife of products. The RE: SWEDEN is the experimental version of the iconic suede sneaker created by the company from the best sustainable materials. “As many as 500 participants were selected to wear the shoes for six months before sending them back to PUMA. Together with Dutch waste management specialist Ortessa, we will test whether the shoes can biodegrade in a controlled environment to create compost,” said Stefan Seidel, Senior Corporate Sustainability Manager, PUMA.
“We want to ensure that by 2025, 90% of our products contain more sustainable materials and components. For footwear, this means that at least one major component will be made from more sustainable sources, such as leather from tanneries that have been awarded a Leather Label, Task Force Medal Ranking or recycled sources such as recycled polyester, leather or rubber,” Seidel added.
The RE: SUEDE The range is made with materials such as zeology tanned suede, biodegradable TPE and hemp fibers. Compared to other biodegradable materials that have been evaluated by PUMA, these materials provide better comfort.
The line of biodegradable shoes must be produced taking care to create the least possible damage to the environment. Nike, the American multinational specializing in the manufacture of footwear and clothing, strongly believes in sustainable practices.
“Since 2008, all Nike Air soles have been made from at least 50% recycled manufacturing waste. As of 2020, all Nike AirMI facilities in North America are powered by 100% renewable wind energy. We reuse over 90% of waste materials used for our air soles to make innovative new cushioning systems Shoes labeled “sustainable materials” are made from at least 20% recycled content by weight quoted Nike’s official website.
In 2015, Adidas partnered with environmental organization Parley for the Oceans. They have teamed up to help end plastic waste through the power of sport. “Through our collaboration with Parley for the Oceans, we want to inspire and mobilize an entire generation to help shape the future of our planet. We are rethinking the standard materials we use and expanding our portfolio to include recycled and natural materials, while exploring new, more sustainable material innovations,” Adidas quoted on its website.
Glimpse the future
By 2024, Adidas aims to replace virgin polyester with recycled polyester, where possible. “We are rethinking the way we work to bring innovations and services to keep products longer, such as Made to be redone. Thanks to this, the products will be redone and not thrown away. You wear it and you give it back.”
Reebok has raised the bar to push the idea of sustainability forward. The brand believes it is in the business of inspiring positive change with pioneering innovation of its plant-based performance running shoe.
The Forever Floatride GROW is an update to Reebok’s award-winning model Floating energy forever shoe. The shoe is made up of four key ingredients: an upper made primarily of eucalyptus, an algae insole and a natural rubber outsole and the plant-based mission hero, a midsole made up of seeds castor oil.
“The earth is a runner’s arena, and we have a responsibility to help detox the world for the athletes who run there,” Reebok brand president Matt O’Toole said in a statement. Reebok plans to ensure that each of its products will be sustainable by 2030.
Young consumers are more aware of the environmental impact of their choices. Sustainability has been an important topic for PUMA since it first introduced a Supplier Code of Conduct in 1993. “Over the past five years, consumers have become more aware of sustainability, especially the young generation,” PUMA’s Seidel added.
According to a report by Startview Search, the sustainable footwear market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.8% from 2020 to 2025. In terms of regions, Asia-Pacific is estimated to be the largest and fastest growing sustainable footwear market globally. over the forecast period, with China and India being the main growth drivers in the region.