Over the last decade or so fashionable sneakers have become a world wide phenomenon. Since 2009, the industry has seen 133% growth and in 2019, global sneakers sales are projected to top $142 billion. Everyone knows the big players in this arena; Nike, Adidas, Puma, Under Armour and so on, but with the success of Tom’s, the sneaker industry has seem some new players popup in the social impact sneaker market.
Social good and ethical practices by brand definition can mean different things. Tom’s is built on a one for one model, but some brands are taking their definition of social good and ethics a bit further. These social impact sneaker brands are making products in different ways, using fair trade practices, ethical supply chains, organic materials, donating profits, and going out of their way to get B-certified and Fair Trade certified.
As a sneaker-head and conscious consumer, I am always looking for easy ways to shop more ethically in my life and these social impact sneaker brands are making it that much easier.
They have found a place to exist in the ethical brand market, especially with young conscious consumers. Going forward its going to be fun to watch brands innovate in the sneaker arena with new ethical sneakers, sandals, and other forms of footwear. Below, we have highlighted of few of these ethical shoe brands that are producing great products in innovative ways. Check them out.
COMUNITY is a shoe brand creating socially conscious sneakers and looking to innovate the industry. Three footwear industry veterans with past collective experience from TOMS, ASICS, Nike, Vans and Sanuk, have joined forces to launch this premium-quality, small batch footwear company headquartered and manufactured in Los Angeles.
Each pair of shoes purchased by the customer will allow COMUNITY to donate $10 USD of their sale to a curated group of non-profit organizations in downtown Los Angeles with the intention of empowering its members to be happy and successful contributors to the community.
As a certified B Corp, Allbirds does business differently. The environment is a stakeholder at the company, and how they treat it is just as important as the bottom line. Allbirds uses some innovative materials in production of its products, including, recycled water bottles, castor bran oil, recycled cardboard, and bio-tpu. The products they use are also Forest Stewardship Council® certified, meaning the materials meet strict standards to protect forests, and the animals and people who depend on them.
Oliberté is a sustainable brand supporting workers’ rights in sub-Saharan Africa. Oliberte believe in empowerment, transparency, and doing the right thing within its business model.. This means making premium quality products with a lifetime warranty, and it means treating every employee, everywhere in the world, with respect. In 2009, they started off as a small footwear company partnering with factories and suppliers in Africa. Since then, they have gained enough momentum to launch their own factory in 2012. Now, they make every single pair of Oliberté shoes at the factory in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In September 2013, Oliberte became the world’s first Fair Trade Certified™ footwear manufacturing factory.
Indosole takes old tires that would otherwise contribute to Indonesia’s massive landfill problem, and transforms them into beautiful sandals and shoes through a production process that is organic, toxic free, and environmentally sustainable. Not only that – the process provides dignified work to many in Indonesia. For a decade now Indosole has strived to be the environmental keepers of the future. They have successfully merged artisan skill with social impact, developing a custom shoemaking process that transforms tires to shoe soles by hand. Through this crafted concept and forward thinking, Indosole has been able to save over 80K+ tires from landfills, but to have a mass scale environmental impact a breakthrough technology was needed.
Veja makes some fair trade sneakers and works directly with small Brazilian producers, who are organized into cooperatives of organic cotton and wild rubber from the Amazon. They have won several awards for their sustainable and eco-friendly model, including the:
2012 – Guardian Sustainable Business Award
2012 – Observer Ethical Award
The dream of Wills is to bridge the gap between everyday people and ethically produced vegan shoes. Wills is about getting the latest fashions out there at fair prices, while not hurting animals or people in the process. The entire product line is free of animal products while workers are paid in accordance with European guidelines. The product designs echo the high street trends, packed into four seasons giving you a year round alternative. The products are created with microfibers that look, wear, breathe and resist water just like leather. Wills believes buying something well made saves money, provides something to cherish and is better for our environment.
soleRebels is an ethical footwear company founded in 2004 by Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu in her community of Zenabwork, Ethiopia. The brand recognized that Africa needs fewer charities and more brands whose global reach can leverage good for the country. Good jobs means sustainability and not charity. soleRebels can already tip its cap to a massive accomplishment. They are the 1st WFTO/IFAT Fair Trade certified footwear company in the world. The company went through a rigorous audit to achieve this goal to prove that this sustainable model can exist and succeed in the country and the entire continent of Africa.
The BANGS model is built to invest 20% of net profits to help start businesses. Every month, they hand-select entrepreneurs to invest in their business ideas. All entrepreneurs are vetted + the loan dissemination and repayment is facilitated by their nonprofit partner, Kiva. Each entrepreneur builds their business and then repays their loan. 99% of loans given through the nonprofit partner are repaid. This high repayment rate indicates an extremely high rate of successfully growing businesses.
Nisolo works with impoverished artisans to give them an outlet to an established market. Along the way, they’re creating jobs in developing communities and providing a means of consistent work. Keeping an eye on the next generation, they invest 10% of the profits from the sales of their shoes in local educational programs. More than just spiffy kicks, wearing a pair of Nisolos is wearing a symbol of change. They firmly believe that ensuring fair trade practices and fair business practices promotes trust and what else, fairness. Whoever says success can’t be achieved with fair play just hasn’t been introduced to Nisolo yet.
Crafted Society is a social enterprise redefining what a luxury brand is and should be. Crafted Society was born out of a passion to create exquisite hand crafted products with the most talented artisans of Italy. And also use the products as a vehicle for positive social impact while helping to preserve authentic and traditional craftsmanship. To preserve the crafts the artisans must transfer their knowledge to the next generation but this is an increasingly difficult task, mainly due to the ‘secrecy’ which has surrounded these talented humans for decades. Crafted Society decided it was time to challenge convention, the founder decided it was time for TRANSPARENCY to triumph over secrecy.
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Founder of Causeartist + Social Entrepreneur + Partner at Charity Charge.