Superdry Vegan (Retro Sleek) Sneakers

overall rating:

2.4

planets

Shandana Khan
2/17/2022
No items found.

We cannot overlook what fast-fashion has done to the planet due to the cheap availability of raw-material that is extracted in unethical ways. Consumer today is much more aware of the environmental impact of their choices and thus vegan fashion has moved from niche to mainstream trend. This move is partially due to the aware customers who are willing to extend their sustainability values to other aspects of their life beyond food and cosmetics. In a poll conducted by Four Paws, close to 90% of the respondents said they wanted the industry to prioritize animal welfare along with social and environmental consciousness.

The fashion sector is being constantly criticized for encouraging excessive consumption, and it is estimated to contribute 4% of global total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), or 2.1 billion tonnes, out of which 700 million metric tonnes are attributed to footwear. This has prompted a boom of vegan footwear. According to the World Footwear Yearbook, 23.5 billion pairs of shoes were sold worldwide in 2017, with the sneaker industry accounting for a major portion of this.

 

Superdry has been a committed company introducing vegan sneakers among other apparel for its consumers in a quest to become more sustainable. The company has won the Drappers and the FT Climate Leaders 2021 awards for contributing to a greener future for fashion and highest reduction in direct carbon emissions, respectively. This review analyses the Superdry vegan sneaker in light of the company’s sustainability strategies. Superdry came out with their vegan sneaker line in 2021. As an aspiring zero-waste individual, I was intrigued by an apparel company using “vegan” for its shoes and felt inclined to review the retro sneaker due to personal liking for the style. The pair retails for £54.99, which is quite affordable considering it's eco-friendly and durable.

What it's made of:

2.4

One of the main changes Superdry has done to its sneaker design is changing real leather for vegan leather. Conventionally, vegan leather is made up of polyurethane which is a plastic material but is much more sustainable than other plastics. Polyurethane can also be made from organic materials such as pineapple leaves, fruit waste etc., making it much more environmentally friendly. Vegan leather's environmental justification is comparable to vegetarianism's environmental case. Clearing trees for pastures, as well as energy-intensive feeding and the use of medicines that end up in the food chain, are all part of the process of raising animals for their skin. Leather claims over 1 billion lives every year. Most of these are cows, sheep, goats and pigs. Recently, however, Chinese manufacturers are using cat and dog skin which is making its way to the global markets due to murky supply chain and misleading labels. Not only is this unethical, it also leads to an ever-increasing demand for alternative materials to maintain sustainability.

Superdry has thus introduced their vegan sneakers due to the huge demand posed by the consumer. Their website goes into great detail about sustainable materials used for its jackets, however there is limited information about their sneaker design, which makes one somewhat sceptical of the composition of the sneaker. The company also extensively talks about its sustainable operations in its first sustainability report 2021 but it does not talk about the vegan sneakers at all. This could be justified by the fact that Superdry prioritized working on the straightforward product category including T-shirts, polos, underwear, socks and sleepwear. Nevertheless, they do market the sneakers as vegan and thus there must be a trail and detail of the raw materials used. Meagre information can be found at The Rabbit Society (see sources), which states that 33% of the material used is recycled with the uppers composed of easy to clean, high-grade recycled Polyurethane or PU. The durability of their vegan constructions has been stress tested over 250,000 times and the colour pigments used are vegan-friendly. The company calls their vegan sneakers 172-question shoe and 100% vegan.

 

While these are impressive credentials, especially when it comes to the company’s transformation to organic cotton (a fraction of which is also used in sneaker manufacturing), it is surprising that the annual report doesn’t mention the sneakers anywhere. Nevertheless, the vegan footwear is approved by the Vegan Society which does give the product credibility. Overall, I believe this product is sustainable enough owing to the overall manufacturing process and commitment of the company to sustainability standards. In case there was more information available on the particular materials used for the sneakers, the rating could be higher. 

How it's made:

2.3

There isn’t much detail available on the exact manufacturing of Superdry’s vegan sneaker, however their overall manufacturing has been quite incredible with 97% reductions in direct carbon emissions (scope 1 and scope 2) since 2014 and overall, 47% reduction in their scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. Furthermore, the company is using barges instead of trucks to transport up to 39% of our clothing from the port to their European warehouse, resulting in a 56% reduction in carbon emissions. However again, the report asserts these optimizations in garment manufacturing and not the sneakers.

As part of Superdry’s sustainable brand reset, they released new, lightweight, and recyclable e-commerce and retail bags in 2020. Every year the company purchases around 8 million retail bags and sent out 5.4 million unique ecommerce shipments to their customers in 2021. Overall, Superdry has transformed 93% of their packaging to alternatives that are recyclable, reusable, or biodegradable cutting their carbon emission up to 60%. The company’s report and online resources talk in detail about bags but much couldn’t be found about their shoe packing, which again raises suspicion as no company would not report something they have worked to make more sustainable.

 

According to their sustainability report, Superdry’s non-cotton footprint is 49% and there are 80% low impact alternatives for such raw material. However, once again the report uses the term “alternative material” but does not exactly name the materials. Incredibly, 100% of recycled content facilities are accredited to the Global Recycling Standard (GRS) and/or the Recycled Content Standard (RCS). Again, the report goes back to talking about these materials being used in their jackets and not in the sneakers. 

Who makes it:

2.5

Superdry is seen as one of the most sustainable apparel companies. Whether it’s their raw-material procurement, manufacturing, supply chain or waste management, their operations are transparent and traceable. Likewise, their reporting across scope 1,2 and 3 emissions has also been disclosed for stakeholders including consumers to make informed choices while making their purchase. This in itself is a measure of integrity and seriousness towards creating a sustainable brand. The company has shown real goal achievement towards their 2030 sustainability goal to become fully carbon neutral. It is also one of the few companies that has taken steps towards optimizing their supply chain and delivery methods using barges.

The company contributes towards and abides by various sustainability measures, such as prioritizing organic farming, using renewable energy resources (factories, warehouses and stores), reusing waste, and using environmentally friendly packaging. However, the most impressive step taken by the company that contributes towards long term development is investing in farmer training on best organic farming practices. This straining program has already been quite helpful in quantifying the impact Superdry has had on soil regeneration and farmers well-being. Other than this, Superdry has extended its sustainability mission by recycling more than 35 million plastic bottles to fill its padded jackets.

 

One of the things I noticed about Superdry is the step-by-step approach the company has taken to formulate its sustainability plan. The company took up steps towards making its apparel (t-shirts, jackets, socks, underwear etc.) sustainable as the first step. According to Superdry’s sustainability report, this has made their operations quite organized and easier to get stakeholders and suppliers onboard as well as helped in making quantifiable progress towards their 2030 plan of becoming 100% carbon neutral. This in my view is also aligned with conventional sustainability strategies that identifies prioritizing one goal at a time, especially those most aligned with the company’s main business profile to avoid greenwashing.

 

Superdry, in my opinion, is a trendsetter for many other brands. They have taken sustainability one step further by disclosing their actual trajectory as well as the challenges they continue to face ensuring a more sustainable brand. The company had made third of their products sustainable in 2020, which projects their net zero carbon goal by 2030 to be quite achievable.