Inside Reebok’s Innovation Lab in Boston, MA, engineers are researching ways to create a fully biodegradable shoe. Fast Company caught up with two members of Reebok’s Future Team who showed us exactly how hard it is to design a durable yet sustainable shoe from scratch.
Reebok has a few lines that use biodegradable products such as their [REE]GROW line of shoes using ≥50% plant-based byproducts (eucalyptus knit, natural rubber and bloom algae). Its REE[CYCLED] line also include things like recycled plastic bottles and polyester thread, all with the goal of making all of their products sustainable by 2030 (they made a sustainability pledge because brands love a pledge!)
As I said earlier, this isn’t really new news as these links show:
- New Reebok plant-based sneakers you can compost (2017)
- Reebok launches sustainable sneaker made from corn (2018)
- Reebok’s First-Ever Plant Based Running Shoe (2019)
- Would You Go For A Jog In Reebok’s New Plant-Based Running Shoe? (2021)
But let’s not assume Reebok are above the rest in terms of eco-friendly practices. Good on You scored the shoe manufacturer on its labour conditions and animal welfare, giving both a score of “It’s A Start”:
When it comes to workers, Reebok has once again received a rating of ‘It’s A Start’, with a score of 61-70% in the Fashion Transparency Index. Some of its supply chain is certified by FLA Workplace Code of Conduct including all of the final stage of production, and it publishes detailed information about suppliers, their policies, audits, and remediation processes. It also discloses policies to protect suppliers and workers in its supply chain from the impacts of COVID-19.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence Reebok ensures payment of a living wage in most of its supply chain, which brings its score down. With very few worker empowerment initiatives in place, Reebok misses out on a higher rating in this category. By ensuring workers have access to important workplace initiatives like unions and effective grievance mechanisms, and actually paying a living wage across its supply chain, Reebok could see this score improve.
Reebok is also rated ‘It’s A Start’ for the animals. It has a general statement about minimising animal suffering but not a formal animal welfare policy. While the brand does not use fur, angora, or other exotic animal skins or hair, it does use wool. It does, however, come from non-mulesed sheep! The main issue here is that it uses leather, and there is no evidence it traces any animal products to the first stage of production. With devastating effects on animals, workers, and the environment, the leather industry is simply not sustainable. Reebok should consider investing in some of the many innovative, eco-friendly leather alternatives out there. This would help the brand do right by our animal friends, while earning the title of a more ethical company.