You buy a product marketed as sustainable, but what does that mean? It will say “uses biodegradable materials” or “sustainably sourced materials”. But if it travelled 10,000 miles to get to you and only lasts a year because it degrades quicker due to its biodegradable nature, is that sustainable?
Unless you have been hiding under a rock, sustainability is on-trend in the footwear industry. Every brand is looking for options to sound or be more sustainable, more that sound like they are, versus doing, but it’s a start. Mother nature has had enough and is starting to fight back, and it is becoming more and more real every year. And finally, governments and markets are beginning to notice while also using the opportunity to market something new to try and stand out from, let’s be honest, a stagnant industry in terms of innovation. Nike came close with their Marty McFly inspired Adapt trainers, but I haven’t seen many around, so I guess it ended up a novelty.
Footwear brands are currently on a massive drive to try and be more sustainable, but the reality is that they have a long road ahead to be environmentally friendly, if ever. Why? Well, because the only way to be sustainable is to buy less and make what you have purchased last longer. As of 2020, Asia produced 87.4% of the world’s shoes but only consumed ~40%, and with the USA alone consuming 10% of the world’s shoes, the west is the biggest consumer, especially by value vs units. All those units travelled a long way to return value to the brands who sold them, but at what environmental cost?
Billions of pairs of shoes consumed in the west have travelled on container ships, lorries, and vans to reach their destination (never mind when you add up the carbon cost of returns). Is this sustainable?
To make a truly sustainable product, can it be produced 1000s of miles away?