Sustainability Matters: Koio Launches Sneakers Made With Vegetable-Tanned Leathers + More

FN highlights the latest sustainable initiatives this season, including product launches, material innovations and corporate strategies. Send your news to web@footwearnews.com.

Jan. 14, 2022: Koio is launching its first capsule collection using vegetable-tanned leather sourced from regenerative farms in Surselva, Switzerland. Called Capri Regenerative, the line includes the brand’s bestselling Capri sneaker in the Onyx and Castagna colorways featuring the new finish. The styles will be available in men and women’s sizes and retail for $328 on koio.com starting Jan. 21.

koio capri
CREDIT: Courtesy of Koio

Dec. 20, 2021: Alibaba Group has pledged to achieve carbon neutrality in its own operations by 2030. The company also introduced a Scope 3+ target, which will help the company achieve 1.5 gigatons of decarbonization by 2035. “We aspire to be a force for positive, innovative change in society. Our ESG strategy is predicated on our mission to be a good company that will live for 102 years and it is the vital foundation for Alibaba’s future development,” said Daniel Zhang, chairman and CEO of Alibaba Group.

Nov. 18, 2021: Macy’s will soon sell shoes from Stardog Loungewear on Macy.com and in stores, expanding its commitment sourcing products made from sustainable materials. Stardog is known for offering sustainable sneakers made of 100% hemp. Starting Dec. 1, Macy’s will launch the collection with the Startonic House Shoe and Expedition Sneaker with plans to expand to include more products in the future.

Nov. 11, 2021: Cariuma is now a Best for the World B-Corp Certified brand. In a statement, Cariuma stated it is the first skateboarding shoe company to hold the certification.

“Becoming a B Corp has been a goal for Cariuma since day one, a natural fit with our mission to spread positivity and reshape our industry through the best sustainable products and ethical practices while recovering and restoring the environment,” Cariuma co-founder David Python said in a statement.

Cariuma, which was founded in May 2018 with a vision of creating a sustainable brand that skateboarders and surfers would want to wear, said the certification validates its mission to create better products and support the people working within the brand. Also, it said the milestone illuminates its work in the Brazilian rainforest, which includes planting two trees for every pair of shoes sold.

“We are so excited to be bringing a conscious and positive mindset with more sustainable and ethical practices into the skate space for maybe the first time. As someone who started skating at 9 years old, I am immeasurably proud to be able to show other skaters it can be cool to care, and that by nurturing our planet and one another, we can create truly meaningful change” Cariuma co-founder Fernando Porto in a statement.

Nov. 4, 2021: Adidas has been awarded an ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) Profile Score of 79 out of 100, following an assessment from rating agency S&P. Adidas also scored 6 points for “Preparedness,” which brings its overall ESG score to 85. This high score ranks Adidas as the sixth top performing company in ESG across all others rated by the S&P. “We have doubled down on our commitment to sustainability as a focus area in our ‘Own the Game’ strategy and are proud to see this being recognized externally”, said Martin Shankland, an Adidas executive board member responsible for global operations.

Nov. 4, 2021: As part of its mission to reduce the environmental impact of its footwear, Ugg is now addressing the lifecycle of its products. The California-based brand has launched Ugg Renew, a refurbishment program for its boots, which will operate in partnership with repair company NuShoe. The partners are offering three levels of service: Renew (which costs $80), Restore ($60) and Refresh ($40). Currently NuShoe’s capacity is limited to 100 pairs per day, but the company aims to reach a quarter million pairs by 2023. Customers can book an appointment at Ugg.com.

Oct. 19, 2021: Blundstone has released two Chelsea boots that are fully vegan. The Tasmanian footwear brand’s new shoes, prompted by a demand for leather alternatives, are modeled after its Original Chelsa boots in black and brown tones. Vegan, water-resistant onMicro uppers, removable Comfort Lite Footbeds and XRD Technology heels have all been included for added comfort. Best of all, they’re also certified vegan by laboratory testing service Eurofins | Chem-MAP through its Vegan Verification program. The boots are available for pre-sale on Friday, October 22, where they will retail for $190 on Blundstone’s website.

Blundstone, boot, Chelsea boots, vegan boots
Blundstone’s new vegan Chelsea boots.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Blundstone

From Oct. 18 to Oct. 24, Rothy’s is launching their first customer take-back program in stores as the next step in their commitment to achieve circular production by 2023. As part of its recycling program pilot, Rothy’s customers are able to give back their old Rothy’s shoes across stores nationwide for $20 off their next purchase. This large-scale collection will be instrumental in furthering the program and determining what a fully-fledged customer takeback program could look like in the future. By the end of 2021, the brand is on track to upcycle 20,000 pairs.

Oct. 18, 2021: From Oct. 18 to Oct. 24, Rothy’s is launching their first customer take-back program in stores as the next step in their commitment to achieve circular production by 2023. As part of its recycling program pilot, Rothy’s customers are able to give back their old Rothy’s shoes across stores nationwide for $20 off their next purchase. This large-scale collection will be instrumental in furthering the program and determining what a fully-fledged customer takeback program could look like in the future. By the end of 2021, the brand is on track to upcycle 20,000 pairs.

Oct. 4, 2021: Mizuno has launched its first apparel line made from recycled materials, dubbed Alpha Eco. The lineup, which is available now via Mizunousa.com, features 10 selections total in men’s and women’s sizing that are made with up to 90% recycled materials. It includes shorts, singlets, tanks, T-shirts, half-zip tops and more. Prices of Mizuno Alpha Eco range from $35 to $65.

Additionally, Mizuno announced it has signed an agreement with the National Forest Foundation as a tree-planting partner, and the company has committed to planting 10,000 trees in U.S. forests in the first year of the partnership.

Sept. 30, 2021: As a followup to its Plant Power capsule that launched in March, Ugg has debuted a new series of sustainable shoes for fall, dubbed the Icon-Impact Collection. The line includes three styles: the Fluff Sugar Cross Slide (retailing for $100), Fuzz Sugar Slide ($110) and Classic Sugar Ultra Mini ($150), available now at Ugg.com. Similar to the Plant Power capsule, the Icon-Impact shoes feature eco-friendly components such as SugarSole foam (made from sugarcane) and recycled PET (diverting two plastic bottles per shoe from landfills). And for the first time, the brand is utilizing two new innovations: UggPlush and UggCycle, which use 98% reclaimed wool, saving energy, water and carbon emissions. Additionally, the company has purchased carbon offsets for the collection, making it climate neutral.

Ugg Icon-Impact Sustainable Collection
Ugg Icon-Impact Collection.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Ugg

Sept. 30, 2021: Keen released its debut Field to Foot sneakers today, which were created using the company’s new manufacturing method that utilizes agricultural waste to create footwear with plant-based soles without chemical solvents. The first two limited-edition styles, created by the brand’s Advanced Concepts Team, are the Eldon sneaker for men and Elsa V sneaker for women, both coming with a $120 price tag. The sneakers, which can be purchased via Keenfootwear.com, will also introduce Keen’s “Unbox,” which it said uses 63% less cardboard than traditional shoeboxes and is 100% biodegradable.

Keen Eldon
The Keen Eldon sneaker.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Keen

Sept. 14, 2021: Crocs announced that as part of the company’s commitment to achieve net-zero by 2030, it has begun introducing a new bio-based Croslite material into its product lines. The shoe company is targeting a 50% reduction in its carbon footprint per pair of Crocs shoes by 2030. Instead of creating a new sustainable line, Crocs is modifying its existing product to create a shoe that looks, feels and functions exactly like the Crocs consumers are used to, but with fewer emissions.

Sept. 2, 2021: As a continuation of its corporate sustainability commitments, Portland, Ore.-based Keen has created the Harvest Certified Program, which specifies how much industrial waste is upcycled into its shoes. The tiered program features three levels of certification: Gold (greater than 50% upcycled materials); Silver (greater than 25%); and Bronze (greater than 10%). Keen first launched its Harvest products 15 years ago using industrial waste from the rice industry. Erik Burbank, VP of the brand’s CSR initiative, The Keen Effect, said that by launching this certification it hopes to “provide transparency to fans and to demystify and encourage other brands to help attack the industrial waste problem.” The first certified shoe will be the Howser Harvest launching in November. The Gold-rated slip-on uses upcycled car seat leather in 80% of the upper. More certified Harvest styles will debut for spring ’22. And in 2022, Keen aims to make details about this process available to other companies.

Aug. 25, 2021: Leather manufacturer Isa TanTec announced that its newest facility, TransAsia TanTec in Vietnam, has been certified as a gold-rated tannery by the Leather Working Group, an organization that promotes environmental best practices throughout the leather supply chain. LWG’s audit assesses water and energy usage, waste and chemical management, air and noise emissions, health and safety and other factors. TransAsia TanTec was built in adherence with the company’s own internal sustainability program, dubbed LITE (Low Impact to the Environment), and it will continue to invest in additional improvements, such as a Photo Voltaic Solar system for in-house electricity generation. This marks Isa TanTec’s third gold-rated tannery, with two other facilities in Vietnam and one in China. It also has a silver-rated tannery in the U.S.

Aug. 11, 2021: Twisted X Global Brands announced that it has achieved its goal of net-zero emissions ahead of schedule. The Decatur, Texas-based footwear company had expected to reach the milestone by 2022. The determination was made after assessing 2020 emissions from business operations at its headquarters, as well as its contract factories in Mexico and Asia, and third-party distribution warehouse in Texas. Those emission levels, calculated with the GHG Protocol, were then mitigated by retiring 3,000 tons of carbon offsets through the American Carbon Registry in partnership with One Tree Planted, supporting a 5,408-acre forest in Vermont that will remain “forever wild.” Aside from its carbon-neutral initiative, Twisted X also continues to innovate in sustainable product — seen most recently with its Zero-X line of no-glue shoes — and proprietary materials such as EcoTWX and EcoTweed, which incorporate fibers made from upcycled plastic water bottles. By the end of 2021, it aims to upcycle 6.5 million plastic bottles from landfills and oceans.

Aug. 10, 2021: Reef is launching an eco-friendly sandal style later this month. The new men’s style Paipo is made with 100% real wood and full grain leather that has been ethically sourced by tanneries that are gold-and silver-rated by the Leather Working Group. In addition, the sustainable sandal is made with a footbed featuring the brand’s bio-based EVA made from renewable sugar cane. The 51% bio-based shoe will be available, in black and brown colorways, online at Reef.com on Aug. 24 for $150.

Aug. 10, 2021: For the first time, Clarks Originals is offering vegan versions of its most iconic styles: the Desert Boot and the Wallabee. Retailing for $150, the shoes feature uppers made from a durable and flexible microfiber material that mimics the look and feel of suede leather, but with a much smaller environmental impact. And the classic crepe soles are composed of Forest Stewardship Council-certified rubber, meaning it came from responsibly managed forests. The vegan styles are available now at Clarksusa.com.

Clarks Vegan Desert Boot Wallabee
Vegan versions of the Clarks Desert Boot and Wallabee.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Clarks

July 27, 2021: By Far has unveiled its “future-friendly” Rodina sneaker, composed of eco-minded materials. The low-profile casual shoe boasts an upper and lining made from 100% post-consumer recycled polyester, which requires less energy and water to produce than virgin polyester and reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Its laces are recycled poly-cotton, the sole contains two-tone compostable rubber that can biodegrade within a short to medium timeframe, and the leather panels come from tanneries that meet the highest standards. The sneakers are retailing for $355 at Byfar.com and Luisaviaroma.com.

By Far sustainable Rodina sneakers
By Far’s sustainable Rodina sneakers.
CREDIT: Courtesy of By Far

June 24, 2021: Boot brand Xtratuf is introducing more sustainable alternatives to two of its core styles: the Ankle Deck Boot Eco and the Sharkbyte Eco for spring ’22. The Ankle Deck Boot Eco features Yulex Foam, a plant-based alternative for the brand’s standard neoprene product, made from the sap of the Hevea tree. The style is built for sport and recreational fishermen, so features Xtratuf’s SRA-rated non-marking and slip-resistant outsole and is 100% waterproof. Meanwhile, the Sharkbyte Eco has an all-new upper constructed with Econyl fiber, regenerated nylon fiber made from fishnets and other nylon waste.

May 13, 2021: Regenerative footwear company Vivobarefoot has partnered with The Oxygen Project to release an activism campaign, Stop Harmful Algae Blooms, with research on the effects of agricultural and industrial techniques causing an influx of algal blooms in the environment’s water systems. The campaign urges consumers to sign a petition lobbying UNESCO, addressing director-general Audrey Azoulay to pressure governments to take action on those poisoning the world’s waterways. To support the campaign Vivobarefoot released the Ultra Bloom, which was the first footwear to be made using Algae in 2017. The footwear has been designed in a special edition color to mark the project and is available on Vivobarefoot’s website as of May 13.

April 27, 2021: Allbirds released a slip-on shoe bearing the Dasher name today, dubbed the Tree Dasher Relay. The company said the new look comes with all the same performance running features found in the Tree Dasher, but features the ease of the its slip-on Loungers. And, as always, Allbirds delivered the shoe with eco-friendly materials such as one-piece uppers made from eucalyptus trees and dual-density SweetFoam midsoles made with carbon negative green EVA. The Allbirds Dasher Relay is available now in men’s and women’s sizing, retailing for $125.

Allbirds Tree Dasher Relay
Allbirds Tree Dasher Relay.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Allbirds

April 24, 2021: Although Stadium Goods is known for stocking hard-to-find sneakers, the secondary market giant also has a premium apparel collection, dubbed Stadium. Its most recent drop is Eco Sweats, a line featuring hoodies, sweatpants and sweatshorts made from 50% recycled cotton and 50% organic cotton, and incorporates yarn from Spanish cotton mill Belda Lloréns. Stadium Goods said that Eco Sweats — which is both designed and produced in Los Angeles — is the company’s first larger eco initiative. The looks are delivered for men and women in 12 colors, feature tonal “Stadium” embroidery and are executed with a modern, boxy fit. Eco Sweats is available now via Stadiumgoods.com and ranges in price from $110 to $150. The collection can also be shopped at Stadium Goods stores in New York City and Chicago, at Fred Segal Sunset and on Farfetch.com.

Stadium Goods Eco-Sweats
Selections from Eco Sweats, the sustainable clothing line from Stadium by Stadium Goods.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Stadium Goods

April 23, 2021: Kodiak will be the first footwear brand to use PrimaLoft P.U.R.E. insulation, which stands for “produced using reduced emissions.” The eco-friendly insulation is made with 100% post-consumer recycled PET plastic, which reduces carbon emissions by at least 48%. Kodiak will be incorporating PrimaLoft P.U.R.E. into four styles in its fall ’21 products, including the Kindersley, Stave, Tagish and Chadsey hiking and lifestyle boots. The partnership is part of a larger sustainability initiative for Kodiak, called Built for What Matters, through which it is collaborating with its suppliers to incorporate less harmful manufacturing practices and materials.

Kodiak Fall 2021 Boot PrimaLoft PURE
Kodiak’s fall ’21 Stave boot for men will feature PrimaLoft P.U.R.E. sustainable insulation.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Kodiak

April 23, 2021: Aerosoles has released a vegan collection called Aerosoles Aware, featuring a range of flats and sandals made with premium Italian vegan materials. The brand will donate 1% of proceeds from sales of the collection to nonprofit organizations vetted by 1% for the Planet — a global movement of businesses that aims to inspire support for environmental solutions.

April 22, 2021: In honor of Earth Day, Vionic Shoes is donating $1 for every pair of shoes sold to Global Green, a non-profit organization that works with local communities to help develop a vision for a more sustainable future. Along with the donation, Vionic has also unveiled their Beach Collection, which features earth-friendly sneakers that are made of vegan materials.

April 22, 2021: Kengos, a new sustainable footwear label, has launched its first shoe: the Lace-Up. The plant-based silhouette is made from corn, cork, cotton and eucalyptus, as well as the brand’s own Pure Flex natural rubber. The brand has taken their commitment to ending waste a step further by creating the Lace-Up shoe without the use of adhesives — and as a result, this shoe promotes flexibility and durability. The style comes in men’s and women’s sizing with a $98 price tag at Kengos.com.

Kengos, Lace-Up, Sustainable Shoes, Eco-Friendly Shoes
Kengos Lace-Up Shoe
CREDIT: Kengos

April 22, 2021: With Earth Day here, Snipes has something special planned for the Adidas Stan Smith style that features PrimeGreen uppers, which are made with 50% recycled content. The retailer revealed a special installation at its Flatbush Avenue location in Brooklyn, N.Y., that will remain in place until May 11. To execute the theme, Snipes recruited Olivia Rose to create 100 unique Stan Smith sculptures in miniature versions that will be on display. Also, the installation will include a theme of cleaning up the earth and finding creative ways to reuse materials.

April 15, 2021: The latest sustainability effort from Keen involves many people’s favorite way to wake up — coffee. The footwear company announced that it will use coffee grinds in a new line of sneakers that will debut in August. This effort, Keen said, is part of Detox the Planet initiative and will reduce the use of petrochemicals. Also, the brand explained it will diminish the amount of coffee grounds that make their way to landfills, where they emit greenhouse gas.

In a statement, Keen said its largest owned factory is in Thailand, which is also the home of thousands of coffee shops, and where the idea to use coffee grinds came from.

“Our Keen Innovation team had an epiphany while in a local coffee shop near our factory in Thailand. They realized the waste grounds were being sent off to the landfill, and wondered whether we could use this organic material in our footwear,” Erik Burbank, VP of the Keen Effect, said in a statement. “After several months of [research and development], we landed on a powerful model. By harvesting and upcycling the waste, we’re helping to reduce green-house gasses and are taking another step in reducing our dependence on petrochemicals.”

Keen said it will upcycle the coffee grounds into the Elsa Harvest and Eddy Harvest sneakers, which will be available in men’s and women’s sizing.

April 14, 2021: Clarks is working to solve the issue of waste and toxic chemicals in footwear manufacturing with its latest release, timed for Earth Day. The Clarks Origin collection, available now at Clarksusa.com, consists of two styles for men and women — a sport shoe and a new version of the Wallabee — made with no glue and only five components. Their unique Polyvelt construction contributes less waste and has a significantly reduced impact on the planet, according to the brand. In addition, Clarks carefully sourced its materials, utilizing 100% recycled polyester laces and recyclable thread, while the outsole is made from 51% recycled content, and the footbed contains 15% production waste EVA foam and 5% recycled rubber. The Origin sport shoe is priced at $150 and the Origin Wallabee retails for $170.

Clarks Origin Sustainable Sport Shoe
Clarks has introduced the new sustainable Origin sport shoe.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Clarks

April 9, 2021: Champion Athleticwear has two eco-friendly product releases coming out in celebration of Earth Day: an updated version of its iconic Rally Pro sneaker and a collection of tees and sweats made from recycled polyester, called Natural State. The launch is an extension of the brand’s Champion Made initiative, an established list of sustainability goals that include achieving zero waste across operations by 2025. The new Champion Rally Pro Earth sneaker was created with licensing partner BBC International and is the brand’s first sneaker assembled with 25-45% upcycled materials and 50-65% recycled materials, with percentages varying by shoe color. The style comes in three colorways, which will retail for $104.22 at Champion.com and in select Champion stores starting April. 22. The Champion Natural State apparel collection debuts the same day and will be sold online and in-store at Champion and Urban Outfitters, priced from $35-$75.

Champion Rally Pro Earth Sneakers
The Champion Rally Pro Earth sneaker made with upcycled and recycled materials.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Champion

April 7, 2021: Teva has announced a partnership with international recycling leader TerraCycle. Dubbed TevaForever, the program — part of the brand’s broader commitment to reduce its environmental impact — allows shoppers to give their well-worn sandals a new life. Customers looking to participate in the program are invited to visit Teva.com to download a prepaid shipping label and mail their sandals to TerraCycle, which will divert the shoes from landfills, clean them and separate their materials to prepare for processing. The processed materials will then be used by manufacturers to make new products like playgrounds, athletic fields and track ground cover. According to Teva VP and GM Anders Bergstrom, the program “gives our fans an easy way to join the cause.”

April 5, 2021: In honor of Earth Month, Anthropologie has joined forces with Brazilian clothing and accessories brand Farm Rio. As part of Farm Rio’s 1,000 Trees a Day project, Anthropologie has pledged to donate 25,000 trees over the course of the year through nonprofit One Tree Planted. In addition to its partnership, which begins on April 8, Anthropologie plans to give away an exclusively designed, limited-edition reusable tote for online shoppers who place an order of more than $175. “We are so inspired by the important work our friends at Farm Rio have been doing over the past 23 years and are beyond proud to partner with them to assist in One Tree Planted’s reforestation efforts in Brazil,” chief merchandising officer Anu Narayanan said in a statement.

April 1, 2021: As part of its increased commitment to sustainability, Koio is dropping its most eco-friendly sneaker yet. Called the Retro Runner, the unisex, padded silhouette features LWG Gold certified leather and partially recycled synthetics in the upper. Underfoot, the style also features the brand’s “ReCycled” outsole, made of 68% pre-consumer recycled materials, and “Recycled” midsole, composed of 30% pre-consumer recycled EVA. The style will retail for $278 on koio.co starting April 2.

CREDIT: Courtesy of Koio

April 1, 2021: For their fourth collection, Nicky Hilton and French Sole teamed up for a sustainable line. Launching today exclusively with retailer Maison de Mode, the collection includes four eco-friendly designs from organic and recycled animal-free materials. Designs include flats and espadrille sneakers, retailing for $165. “My awareness around the importance of sustainability in fashion has grown a lot over the years,” Hilton said in a statement. “This step within my own brand is something I’m very passionate about. All shoes wear out eventually, so creating footwear with materials that aren’t harmful to the planet and can eventually be recycled is extremely beneficial”

March 31, 2021: Giesswein is ramping up its green strategy with its new Cactus Sneaker. The shoe, which is offered in white, black, blue, red and green colorways, features vegan cactus leather. The sneaker’s raw material is made of the prickly pear cactus from Mexico, with the insole and inner lining made from organic cotton. By using plant-based leather, the use of chemical components like PVC or phthalates is completely avoided, according to the company. The sustainable style will be made available in June, retailing for $159.

giesswein, cactus sneaker
This Giesswein sneaker is made of vegan cactus leather.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Giesswein

March 22, 2021: Mr. Porter‘s in-house label Mr. P. has launched an eco-friendly version of its popular Larry sneaker. The upper is made with repurposed grape waste from the Italian wine industry, while the soles are composed of 30% recycled rubber. Crafted in Portugal, the updated take on the minimalist silhouette also features organic cotton laces and an onSteam microfibre lining, made entirely of recyclable polyester that’s breathable, sweat-resistant and designed to feel like leather. Mr. P.’s Eco-Edition Larry Sneakers are currently available in black and white colorways and retail for $335 on mrporter.com.

Mr. Porter’s Larry sneaker.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Mr. Porter

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