What is better than a comfortable, fashion-forward, durable running shoe? A comfortable, fashion-forward, durable running shoe that protects the planet! Reebok’s Forever Floatride Grow shoes are a sustainable alternative to your everyday running shoe—made out of plant-based materials and exclude the use of petroleum unlike other leading running shoe brands. Despite this expensive, difficult production process, the Floatride costs $120 while the average price for running shoes is $121.10. While this shows an effort to maintain equal access to the shoe, this “average price” is still far too expensive for many consumers. Reebok must strive to lower their prices and provide for all income levels. Reebok has also upheld several sustainability initiatives including greenhouse gas emissions/waste/water/energy reductions throughout the manufacturing process, and maintained high standards for labor treatment and equality in the workplace.
Sustainable innovation is riveting, and Reebok brings that ingenious into its shoe with its recycled and biodegradable materials. Floatride Grow is composed of at least 50% plant-based materials, and is USDA certified. This means the plants and other components of the shoe are produced under US Department of Agriculture guidelines in regards to soil quality, animal raising practices, pest and weed control, and use of additives. Starting at the surface, the mesh upper part of the shoe is made of eucalyptus bark. Eucalyptus trees shed each year to grow a healthy surface layer, so there is no need to resort to deforestation for bark. Further down, bloom algae is utilized for the footbed. This piece is particularly effective, as algal blooms often deplete oxygen in the ocean and may release toxins into saltwater and freshwater. By extracting algae for the shoe design, Reebok contributes to cleaning up oceans and using natural resources rather than synthetics. For the foamy cushion above the footbed, castor oil is used as an alternative for latex and polyethylene (two synthetic materials that connect to fossil fuel extraction). The outsole of the shoe is made using natural rubber - a renewable and biodegradable material that beats synthetics any day.
Despite their transparency on labor practices and eco-friendly materials, Reebok’s manufacturing process is difficult to track down. Adidas, who currently owns Reebok, manufactures their shoes primarily in Asian countries, but it is unclear exactly where the materials are sourced. This limits our knowledge on the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in the transportation to factories. Within factories, however, Reebok shares more in regards to emissions, and water and energy use. In 2015, Adidas released sustainability goals to reach within 5 years, and succeeded in doing so. By 2020, at Tier 1 supplier facilities and Tier 2 apparel material facilities, overall emissions were reduced by 55%, water consumption was reduced by 36%, and energy consumption which relied on fossil fuels was reduced by 23%. Transparency is a significant aspect of sustainability for consumers; thus, in order for Reebok to increase their rating on their manufacturing process, they should include material sourcing and factory sites on their supply chain website.
Adidas does a fine job of updating their labor practices and goals to improve working conditions for all. On their Sustainability page, Adidas included the Human Rights Production Standards which addresses the following criteria: fair wages, no child labor, no forced labor, and a safe and healthy workplace. Likewise, Adidas is a partnering company of the Fair Labor Association (FLA)—a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote adherence to international and national labor laws. This organization holds companies accountable for their labor practices, and offers tools and resources to improve current conditions. The information provided by FLA is valuable to consumers looking to support companies with the ambition to promote equality in the workplace. Although there are some pieces to work on in the manufacturing process, Reebok and Adidas are leading the pack toward a more sustainable running apparel market.