Sustainability is a growing requirement, the demand for which is going to increase exponentially in the future. Sustainability is not just a trend in the footwear industry but a new normal. 

According to the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America (FDRA) sustainability in the footwear world is defined as “shoe design, development, manufacturing, distribution, and selling processes that minimize negative environmental impacts, conserve energy and natural resources, are safe for employees, communities, and consumers, and are economically sound”

The modern-day digital age consumer is getting more conscious of their choices and the wider impact they are creating on the environment and the planet. With access to information like never before, consumers can read about the devastating impact of fashion choices and how used shoes enter the landfill.  And we are talking about millions and millions of shoes. 

To get some perspective, let’s look at the size of the global sustainable footwear market. A research report from Grandview Research reported that “the global sustainable footwear market size was valued at $7.5 billion in 2019 and is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 5.8% from 2020 to 2027”

Almost 25 billion running and jogging shoes are being produced each year across the globe! The current global population stands at 8.1 billion people. This translates into three pairs of shoes per individual. A majority of these used old shoes enter landfills every year. And, because process of manufacturing shoes usually includes sewing component of plastics, synthetic and metal parts with industrial sewing threads and shoe polyester embroidery threads for logos and designs, it takes several years to biodegrade.  Nylon sewing threads can also an outstanding strength to shoes.

These numbers are astonishing, aren’t they? Wait. The story is far from over. We have not even started talking about the amount of carbon emissions and water used to manufacture these vast number of running shoes every year.

The global footwear industry accounts for 1.4% of greenhouse gas emissions in the world today! Adding to this, it requires about 8,000 litres of water to manufacture a pair of shoes!

Now that you know the numbers you also know how important it is to talk about sustainability in the footwear industry and be aware of the measures taken by the footwear industry participants to manufacture shoes using eco-friendly material and processes. 

Leading brands and top industry manufacturers are investing their time and money in research and development to come up with innovative solutions to produce sustainable and eco-friendly footwear. Right from raw material to manufacturing process, every step is being looked at to reduce the footwear industries carbon footprint and bring forward more sustainable solutions. 

Sustainable Raw Materials

  • Recycled Polyester: Recycled polyester threads for sewing shoes are made from consumer generated waste like PET bottles
  • Organic Cotton: Cotton is a natural fibre that is biodegradable. Organic cotton is grown using biofertilizers. Chemical pesticides and fertilizers are not used to grown organic cotton. This makes is a more sustainable choice for manufacturing shoes and sewing threads.
  • Recycled Plastic: Plastic waste is detrimental to the environmental health. Repurposed plastic bottles could be upcycled to turn them into yarn for sewing or transform them into the fabric component of sustainable shoes.
  • Recycled Rubber: Upcycled rubber from old, discarded tires and be used as an eco-friendlier alternative to manufacturing greener shoes.
  • Wool: Wool is a natural fibre. It is renewable and biodegradable as it is sourced from sheep. Using wool to produce threads is helping the industry offer more sustainable options to its end users. 

The above raw materials are preferred by the ever-evolving footwear industry manufacturers to offer cutting-edge innovative solutions that produce sustainable shoes for the eco-conscious customer and help the producers reduce their environmental footprints.

Eco-certifications to Look For:

There are several standards and certifications out there in the industry and it is important to know which ones are recognised by the top industry organisations so that the consumer can make an informed decision. 

Certain approved standards that a customer can look for when purchasing a sustainable shoe are listed below:

  • Blue Angel
  • Fairtrade
  • Fair Wear Foundation (FWF)
  • Oeko-Tex Made in Green
  • Bluesign
  • Cradle-to-Cradle Silver
  • Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
  • Global Recycled Standard (GRS)
  • Naturtextil IVN certified BEST
  • SA 8000 
  • The Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP)

Eventually every step towards sustainability in the footwear industry is a crucial imperative for the health of our planet and the wellbeing of our future generation. Our day-to-day choices have the power to shape the future of our world tomorrow. So, we must stop and think before every decision we take to make sustainability a priority when making footwear purchases. 

The footwear industry is brimming with innovative material option, ethical production processes and cutting-edge technology to produce sustainable shoe options to meet the changing demands of an increasingly conscious information age consumer. 

With brands, consumers, and investors working in tandem to bring about an impactful change, constantly innovate and come up with newer sustainable footwear options we can slowly yet steadily move towards a greener world.

Image Source: Pexels

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