The 90s are back! While retrieving your old mood ring, donning your hypercolour tee and putting those butterfly clips back in your hair might be a tad premature…90s-style sneakers and jeans are the go-to casual chic look for 2016.
We wear shoes pretty much every day. So it’s crucial that we purchase well-made shoes that stand up to daily wear and tear, but also suit our style and are gentle on the planet.
Keeping cost per wear in mind when shopping is important because it means you’re consuming less in the long run. Paying a little more and investing in one pair of ethically-made sneakers is ultimately better for the environment and your bank account.
Nike vs Adidas – Discover Who is More Ethical!
Over the year’s shoe companies have become notorious for bad environmental and labour practices. Which is why it’s so great we’ve found brands that are setting new standards.
Here’s the lowdown on which brands out-run the rest!
It’s comforting when a shoe brand is created by someone who really knows feet. Ex-Podiatrist Alicia Lai founded Bourgeois Boheme in 2005. Bourgeois Boheme’s materials are 100% animal-free and they also avoid the use of toxic plastic PVC. Instead, one of their key materials is an Italian-made cotton-backed microfibre PU (polyurethane) called Mycro©, which holds an EU Ecolabel for its reduced environmental impact.
Taylor Plum Sneakers by Bourgeois Boheme | Price: 155 GPB (approx. $248 AUD) | Ships Internationally
Their shoes are beautifully handcrafted by artisans in Portugal. At Good On You, we’d like to see greater transparency from Bourgeois Boheme on their worker’s labour rights. This is a great brand for anyone looking for luxe cruelty-free shoes crafted with attention to detail.
Etiko is a small family owned business that sells a range of Fair Trade, organic sneakers, thongs, t-shirts and underwear. They pride themselves on putting “people & planet first.”
Organic Fairtrade Lowcuts in Blue by Etiko | Price: $95 AUD | Ships Internationally
Etiko purchases a large amount of Fair Trade products from marginalised producer groups in developing countries and source exclusively organic cotton. They pay decent wages to their factory workers, have worker transparency, and a high level of worker empowerment. This company is a true front runner in the sneaker world.
On the hunt for more sustainable & stylish brands? Find them on the Good On You app!
For Your Earth
For Your Earth (FYE) is a streetwear brand making sneakers with sustainable materials, from the recycled soles to the organic cotton laces. FYE also uses non-toxic and natural dyes and pigments, and non-toxic water-based glues.
Opale Sneakers in White, Electric Blue & Yellow by FYE | Price: $55 AUD | Ships Internationally
Through their association with Planete Urgence, FYE funds the planting of one tree for each pair of shoes sold. They also claim to use five per cent of the price of each shoe to improve working conditions in their factories. Unfortunately, FYE fails to adequately communicate anything more about its labour policies and practices. We’d love it if their supply chain transparency was as on point as their sneakers.
We love to see brands using creativity to transform waste into something new and beautiful. Indosole repurposes old tyres and turns them into the soles of new streetwise shoes. Diverting tyres from landfill can have a very positive impact on the environment. Discarded tyres are normally either burnt, producing toxic fumes which pollute the environment, or left to become breeding grounds for diseases like malaria.
Kota Hightops by Indosole | Price: 75 USD (approx. $98 AUD) | Ships Internationally
Indosole shoes are 100% vegan, which is great news for animal lovers! Being a certified B Corporation also shows that the brand has a tendency toward sustainable and ethical ways of doing business. However, we believe that Indosole needs to show more transparency regarding the treatment of their workers.
Matt & Nat
Already well-known as making on-point vegan bags, Matt & Nat are also responsible for some seriously sweet feet-candy! They make a concerted effort to use sustainable and recycled materials in all of their designs. However, we’d still love to see more information on how their operations impact on the environment.
Bonaventue Sneakers in Cement by Matt & Nat | Price: 85 USD (approx. $112 AUD) | Ships Internationally
One of Matt & Nat’s factories is certified under the SA8000 standard which means that workers are being paid a living wage and have been provided safe workplace. According to CEO Manny Kohli, “We are not perfect but we aim to better ourselves with time. The vegan spirit of Matt & Nat will live on. Our learning journey has just begun.”
Nae is a Portuguese footwear brand using innovative materials to create shoes with “no animal exploitation”. Their sustainable shoe materials include recycled PET from bottles, OEKO-TEX® certified microfibres, recycled car tyres, natural cork, recycled thermoplastic and even pineapple leaf fibre!
Basic White Sneakers by Nae | Price: 79.20 EUR (approx. $114 AUD) | Ships Internationally
Nae also line their stylish sneakers with material made via a carbon-neutral manufacturing system. While they state on their website that they’re “against human exploitation”, we feel that more information on the labour ethics of their supply chain is needed.
Po-Zu stems from the Japanese ポーズ, meaning to pause. This brand is all about combining comfort and sustainability. All of Po-Zu’s shoes are made in a small factory in Portugal which has a strict non-toxic policy.
Vegan Brisk Sneakers in Natural/Pink by Po-Zu | Price: 95 GBP (approx. $152 AUD) | Ships Internationally
Po-Zu does sometimes use leather. The tanning process for the leather they source is free from harmful chemicals such as chromium, and heavy metals. Po-Zu admits, however, that even “the most sustainable leather creates a big drain on natural resources (it takes 80 tons of forage to feed just one cow!) We are therefore investigating alternatives to leather for our future ranges, and have recently introduced a vegan, solvent-free eco microfibre.”
Need some activewear to go with your sneakers? Here are 11 brands you’ll love!
Veja is a French footwear company that combines better conditions for Brazilian farmers with fashion, fair trade and ecology. The brand strives for eco-farming, fair worker rights and also provides employment for poorer families.
Esplar Leather Trainers in Extra White by Veja | Price: 99 EUR (approx. $142 AUD) | Ships Internationally
Veja pays their co-operative cotton growers and rubber tappers between 30% and 100% above the world market price. By not advertising, they are able to invest more money into strengthening their ethical practices. With a high level of transparency in material sourcing, production, and shipping, Veja is definitely a company that doesn’t trade on morals. There’s always room for improvement, however, and we’d like to see Veja reveal more information about the sourcing of their leather.
This final brand might be a surprise.
In the 90s, sweatshops, corporate greed and worker mistreatment all became synonymous with big brand names such as Nike, Adidas, Puma and New Balance among others. In recent years a demand for corporate social responsibility has seen an increase in ethical practices.
Gazelle Shoes in Pink by Adidas | Unisex | Price: $120 AUD | Ships within Australia
Greenpeace’s Detox the Catwalk campaign recognises the Adidas Group as being committed to eliminating hazardous chemicals from their supply chain. However, Greenpeace also states that they need to evolve faster to meet the 2020 Detox goal.
Baptist World Aid’s Behind the Barcode Report ranks brands on what they’re doing to reduce the risk of exploitation and forced labour in their supply chains. They have awarded Adidas an A- score. Adidas publically discloses its suppliers and subcontractors, and is a signatory of the Bangladesh Fire & Safety Accord. The accord is an agreement between brands to make the Bangladesh garment industry a safe and healthy workplace.
The Fashion Revolution Transparency Index gives Adidas a High to Middle rating. This means that the company is making some notable efforts on social and environmental issues, but could be doing much more. Despite these improvements, the Adidas Group still does not pay their workers a living wage.
It’s time for a much bigger revamp Adidas—we want to avoid all those nasty ethical blisters. The company is moving in the right direction, so we’re keen to see their future improvements.
With these stylish sneaker brands, you’ll not only be able to tread lightly on the Earth, but you’ll look great too. Do you have a favourite ethical sneaker brand? Tell us in the comments below!
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Research & copy contributions by Lucy Drew
Brand ratings are correct at time of publication
Images via brands.