9 Eco & Ethical Sneaker Brands You’ll Love

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.

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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!

Bourgeois Boheme good on you great rating

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 Bourgeois BohemeTaylor 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 GoY-Ratings_4pt9

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.”

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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 good on you great rating

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.

FYE Opale SneakerOpale 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.

Indosole good on you great rating

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.

Indosole Kota HightopsKota 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 good on you great rating

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.

BONAVENTURE - CEMENTBonaventue 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 good on you great rating

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!

naeBasic 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 good on you great rating

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.

pozuVegan 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 good on you great rating

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.

veja

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.

Adidas good on you great rating

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.

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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.

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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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Editor’s note:

Research & copy contributions by Lucy Drew

Brand ratings are correct at time of publication

Images via brands.

7 replies on “9 Eco & Ethical Sneaker Brands You’ll Love

  • Kim

    Great list thanks.
    What are your thoughts on how ethical the new Allbirds brand is? I’ve bought a pair and am really happy – they appear to be a fairly ethical company, but I don’t know for sure…

    Reply
  • Katrina

    What about if you want sneakers for actual exercise and not just street style. I’m currently using vivo barefoot but it would be nice to know where they really stand and what other brands I could choose from.

    Reply
    • Gordon Renouf

      Hi Katherine
      Thanks for getting in touch. It’s a big issue! Matt and Nat say
      * The linings inside all bags are made out of 100% recycled plastic bottles.
      * They try to use sustainable materials such as cork and rubber.
      * “Various vegan leathers are used in production, … PU (polyurethane) and PVC (polyvinylchloride). PU is less harmful for the environment than PVC and we make it a point to use it whenever possible.”

      All of the shoes they are currently selling do not use PVC (rubber, cork and PU). PU is not perfect – workers in factories in particular can be affected by toxic gases. Leather of course has some pretty serious environmental concerns as well, espeically if using business as usual chromium tanning (see The True Cost for some pretty horific images of the harm to communities from drinking the chromium polluted water in one of India’s leather tanning areas).

      We do think that Matt and Nat could be a little more transparent on their sustainability page about how much of each material they use, and if they have timelines or targets for moving to 100% less environmentally damaging vegan leathers. On the other hand we are not aware of any option that is vegan, perfect for the environment and even kind of affordable so there will always be compromises. We have an article planned for next month addressing exactly this issue.
      Best
      Gordon

      Reply

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