Society is littered with money-hungry supply chains and a plethora of fast fashion that leads to poor working conditions for producers and harmful impacts on the environment. So-called ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘green’ products focus exclusively on not harming the environment. Of course, this is important; however, it’s also crucial to consider the social element.
Thus, ethical footwear should encompass both the natural world and the people involved. There are some key things to look out for if you’re in the market for ethical footwear – whether that be skate shoes, hiking boots, or stilettos.
What makes products sustainable?
Various aspects can make products sustainable, including:
- Ethical production
- Minimal impact disposal
- Responsibly-sourced materials
- Efficient lifecycle
This firstly involves fair labor. That means that workers not only receive reasonable payment for what they do, but also that they can work in conditions that are safe, hygienic, and suitable for work. For shoes to be ethically produced, these conditions for workers need to be in place for the whole supply chain. There should also be minimal ecological impacts during production and transportation.
Minimal impact disposal
Landfill sites bursting with the leftovers of our consumer lifestyle are severely harming the planet. So rather than making products that can be easily thrown away and replaced, sustainable footwear companies make shoes that can be recycled, upcycled, or composted.
This involves the use of regenerated materials so as not to limit or remove their availability for future generations. It also means that elements aren’t grown using harmful chemicals or other such products and that the landscape isn’t degraded in the production process.
This essentially covers the product’s longevity and its long-term impacts, including low carbon footprint, practical use, positive socio-economic effect, and minimum waste generated.
Certifications to look out for
Look at the labels when you’re out shopping for new shoes. As well as telling you the size and material, there will also be sustainability certification shown if it applies. If they’re not certified, they’re very unlikely to be ethically sourced, produced, and transported. Marks to look out for in the footwear industry include:
- B Corporation: This organization supports businesses in successfully facing some of the world’s most notorious issues, such as climate change and poverty.
- Leather Working Group: This non-profit organization aims to improve the environmental conditions within the leather industry.
- Cradle to Cradle: A certification that establishes the acceptable environmental and social standards of product generation.
- Global Organic Textile Standard: This group certifies clothing, footwear, and textile supply chains that use materials produced and harvested organically (i.e., without chemical fertilizers or pesticides).