Did you know that around 25 billion pairs of shoes are produced annually? If there are currently seven billion people on the planet, each of us purchases around three pairs of shoes annually. According to some estimates, nearly all of these shoes will be discarded in landfills (Source). This raises a crucial issue: How can the shoe industry contribute to environmental protection?
Manufacturers of footwear are becoming increasingly conscious of the advantages of collaborating on environmentally friendly production techniques. Exploiting the sustainable footwear business has advantages for consumers, the environment, and good brand image.
The market for eco-friendly shoes is examined in this article. We examine market data for shoes generally and for eco-friendly footwear specifically. We examine how consumers can continue to enjoy the leather shoes they are accustomed to as producers adopt more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient production techniques.
Only with cooperation from customers and manufacturers can sustainable footwear be realized. We will thus wrap off this article by discussing some suggestions for what to do with your shoes when you believe they are at the end of their useful lives.
SUSTAINABLE FOOTWEAR: WHAT IS IT?
Sustainability in the footwear industry is defined by the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America (FDRA) as “processes for shoe design, development, manufacturing, distribution, and selling that minimize adverse environmental impacts, conserve energy and natural resources, are safe for employees, communities, and consumers, and are economically sound” (Source).
It is obvious from the definition of sustainable footwear given above that sustainability does not occur at a single stage of the process. It involves the methods used to obtain raw materials, the means through which they are transported, and the manufacturing procedure. Additionally, it considers what happens to the shoes after they are no longer usable.
AWAY FROM SUSPENSIBLE FOOTWEAR
Image of Eco-Friendly Footwear
A substantial industry is emerging around sustainable footwear. The global market for sustainable footwear was estimated to be worth USD 7.5 billion in 2019 and is projected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.8% from 2020 to 2027, according to research company Grandview Research (Source).
According to data from a poll of 120 footwear industry professionals provided by the FDRA-sponsored website ShoeSustainability.com, the globe is moving toward sustainable footwear in 2019:
44% of businesses in 2020 will have a team or individual devoted to sustainability, up from 39% in 2019.
A 6% rise over 2019 was seen in the percentage of businesses in the shoe manufacturing sector that have sustainability programmes.
Companies said that 48% of them were considering implementing sustainability-related initiatives.
70% of employees said that the company’s sustainability talks have become more intense at times.
Despite the fact that time, affordability, and quality are still competing factors, 70% of the sector believes that sustainability is important.
Grand View Research’s report, which claims that sustainability has recently become a popular trend, supports the statistics above. According to the same group, “many experts think that production-related innovations will continue to gain speed.”
The statement continues, “Many well-known market players, including Nike and Adidas, contributed to the sustainable ways of production, such as reduced labour expenses and waste” (Source).
Grand View Research identified protracted production procedures as one of the issues the sustainable footwear market is facing. Additionally, it mentions that the resources required to make sustainable footwear are frequently more expensive than those required to make traditional footwear.
Grand View Research does state, however, that “technical developments in terms of recycling fabrics more efficiently are projected to cut the cost of purchasing raw materials in the foreseeable future.” It predicts that recycling will give the market for sustainable footwear hope (Source).
The results of the survey conducted by ShoeSustainability.com confirm that sustainability in the shoe sector has a bright future. For instance, it states that in 2019, the goal statements of 26% of shoe companies included sustainability. By 2020, this percentage had increased to 31%. Sustainability was a major issue for 23% of businesses in 2019, but that number increased to 32% in 2020.
Technology is anticipated to make the process of finding sustainable materials easier and more affordable, notwithstanding the difficulties producers now face in this area (Source). Sustainable leather could be used to accomplish this.
Modern technology has allowed us to realize that leather can be sustainable. In the past, leather that had been chrome-tanned predominated in the production of shoes, but the introduction of vegetable-tanned leather in recent years has changed that.
The tanning agents used to produce vegetable-tanned leather include gall nuts, quebracho wood, mimosa trees, and others. Vegetable-tanned leather is produced without the use of hazardous compounds like chromium III, in contrast to conventional chrome-tanned leather. Vegan leather is an additional substitute for chrome-tanned leather. Polyurethane, a substance derived from plastic, is the main component of vegan leather.
However, there are processes for producing vegan leather that are regarded as environmentally benign. For instance, it can be produced using cactus and pineapple plants. These plants are regarded as sustainable raw materials since they can be grown.
Production of leather that is both resource- and energy-efficient
The AC Tech Leather & Footwear Alumni Association was founded in 1987 by graduates of the University of Madras/leather Anna’s technology department in India (ALFA). According to the organization’s charter, it works “to address societal issues such a safe environment, animal care, workplace safety, and safe and proper disposal of worn leather products and non-leather footwear”.
SUSTAINABILITY BENEFITS FOR THE FOOTWEAR INDUSTRY
Consumers, manufacturers, and the environment all benefit from sustainability in the shoe sector. In large part, thinking about footwear sustainability prompts us to consider how we may continue to wear our leather shoes with confidence.
The cost of acquiring sustainable raw materials is higher. However, they ultimately save resources for manufacturers because they are made to cut waste and safeguard the environment. The usage of waterless dye by Nike, for instance, is said to “save energy and reduce the need for additional chemicals in the fabric dying process” for the corporation.
The treatment of the animals used to produce the raw materials is another issue that is brought to light by sustainable footwear. Fewer animals are killed for our fashion needs since sustainable leather is manufactured from recycled materials and vegetable-based sources, aiding in the preservation of the ecological balance.
Eco-friendly goods encourage leading healthier lives. They contain less ill-effecting compounds that are dangerous. Such goods generate significantly less toxic waste, which, if improperly disposed of, can be devastating to human health if it enters the air and water supply.
REUSE IDEAS FOR OLD SHOES
You may contribute to the development of a sustainable footwear business as a consumer. A “take-back” policy is becoming more popular among businesses for their products.
We concur with Kapas Paduka’s “Take-Back” Policy.