Sustainability Initiatives - Performance Athletic Wear
Every year sees more than 23 billion pairs of sneakers being made. The sad news is that over 300 million pairs are tossed in the garbage annually. To make matters worse it can take 30-40 years for a pair to fully decompose in a landfill. However, consumer sentiment surrounding sustainability has made many top performance athletic wear brands sit up and take notice. As shoppers become increasingly informed surrounding environmental issues associated with producing the clothes and shoes they wear, brands have no choice but to become motivated to offer sustainable alternatives. Eleven sustainability statistics and/or pieces of information surrounding performance athletic wear brands, with a special emphasis on athletic shoes, have been provided below. Rather than focusing on each brand, which is not in the scope of this request, this is a broad view of the whole industry where these brands sit, and these statistics and pieces of information are surrounding any sustainability measures being undertaken in this space specifically.
- Circular is the new buzz word in sustainability and footwear companies like Nike are now making this part of their business model. In other words, this means that they are using their waste to create new shoes or incorporate the waste into making other products such as a track court, a playground or another athletic padding surface.
- HuffPost reported that seventy-one percent of Nike's footwear is produced by incorporating the waste products from their varying manufacturing processes. The unwanted materials can consist of scraps from Nike's factories or even ground-up pieces of old, discarded shoes. The brand recycled 92% of its trash, in 2015.
- Converse has now launched its Canvas-Upper model in 100% recycled polyester, which is made from used plastic bottles. These sneakers are made of 100 percent recycled polyester and come with the campaign tagline “Life’s too short to waste”. Each pair of Chuck Taylor All Star sneakers takes 11 plastic bottles to make. These plastic bottles are sourced from developing countries. This is a significant move towards sustainability as the brand apparently produced 100 million pairs of shoes each year.
- The term "recycled" is being used much more frequently, with the term being used 642% more for men and 388% more for brand with a female focus. 2020 will see brands continue to focus and re-imagine the least sustainable aspects of performance footwear. As an example, Adidas and Reebok have joined forces with Mississippi-based startup, Bloom, to incorporate foam compounds made from algae into sneaker midsoles to reduce the amount of EVA used.
- The performance athletic wear industry will continue to stop producing virgin plastics with brands following in Adidas's footsteps. Adidas promised to use only recycled plastics in its products by 2024. Kanye West has unveiled a Yeezy prototype made from environmentally-friendly algae scheduled to go on sale in 2020 for seventy-five dollars US.
- Performance athletic shoes have been an important category that is contributing to the rise of the resale market and circular economy, as consumers seek to purchase limited-edition styles.
- "Sustainable activewear is a trending keyword, seeing an 151% increase in queries compared to 2019. The words “sustainable” and “recycled” are increasingly being used in searches for sneakers."
- Footwear is responsible for one-fifth of the impact made by the apparel industry as a whole, with more than 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide produced as a byproduct of its manufacturing and raw material extraction each year.
- One way for performance shoe brands to accelerate their sustainability initiatives is through partnerships and collaborations, like the Vans and Finisterre partnership, for example. Building upon an initial partnership in 2017, Vans recently teamed up with B Corp certified, Cornwall-based brand Finisterre to launch their most environmentally-conscious shoes to date.
- "Adidas has moved towards a philanthropic path to sustainability by donating about $1.68 million US to the sustainability nonprofit Fashion for Good, an amount it says is equal to the environmental cost of the plastics it uses in its supply chain."
- "Reformation announced a game-changing collaboration with cult-favourite sneaker brand, New Balance. According to Reformation Founder & CEO, Yael Aflalo, shoes were always the goal, but the company hesitated given the heavy environmental footprint. With New Balance, we saw a huge opportunity to push the boundaries of innovation and educate consumers about the impact we all have on our planet."