Sunday, May 19, 2024

How Sustainable Are Your Favourite Sneaker Brands?

Good On You Rates Biggest Sneaker Brands
on Sustainability

Sneakers have long been adapted into everyone’s wardrobe as a staple pair of shoes. Whether a white sneaker paired with a pantsuit for work, or an everyday sneaker on the weekends, there’s hardly a wardrobe in Australia without at least one pair of sneakers. But are our favourite sneaker brands doing enough in the realm of sustainability? Ethical fashion platform Good On You recently published its sustainability ratings for some the biggest sneaker brands. Each brand is ranked based on what they are doing sustainability wise for the planet, people and animals. Here’s how they’ve been rated.

Rated Good

The only brand that Good On You rated ‘good’, Puma has taken some steps to use recycled materials in their goods and support industry organisations which work to address the impacts of microplastics. And while it’s great they’ve put these strategies in place, the brand is still lacking in diversity and inclusion policies and in providing evidence they pay all workers a standard living wage.

It’s A Start’

While Nike have implemented a program to improve wages, there’s no evidence that they ensure workers are paid a sustainable living wage. The brand has put some environmental measures in place which is why Good On You rate them ‘It’s A Start’ for sustainability. However, Good On You also found no evidence that Nike are on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions they say they’ve set in their science-based target.


Also rated ‘It’s A Start’, Converse have made a start in improving their ethical practices for the planet and people. However there’s a lack of evidence that the Nike-owned brand has begun implementing their animal welfare policy and no evidence they trace any animal-derived materials to the first production stage.


Popular streetwear brand Vans has made a start in using recycled materials and setting out a science-based target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated from its own supply chain. Their supply chain has been certified by Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production and it received a score of 61-70 per cent in the 2022 Fashion Transparency Index. However it is unclear whether they are on track to meet their greenhouse reduction targets or if they pay a living wage to most of its supply chain. Hence why Good On You rate the brand with ‘It’s A Start’.


While they’ve made some strides in bettering their sustainable practices and labour rights, Good On You finds Adidas is still operating firmly within the fast fashion sector. Adidas’s output of apparel and footwear has some detrimental consequences on the environment. Additionally, workers are often subject to long hours with minimal pay. Good on You
rating: it’s a start.

HOWEVER, Animals Australia reports: “Recently, global sporting brands Nike, Puma and New Balance announced a shift away from kangaroo ‘leather’ to kinder alternatives. But Adidas continues to make shoes out of native Australian wildlife, while touting sustainability for a beautiful planet.” 


Like its parent company Nike, Jordans has received an ‘It’s a Start’ rating from
Good On You. “And while it has a social auditing program certified by Fair Labor Association (FLA) and claims to have a program to improve wages, there’s no evidence Jordan ensures its workers are paid living wages in most of its supply chain.”

Not Good Enough’

New Balance
New Balance have made some efforts in the realm of people and the planet but they receive a ‘Not Good Enough’ rating from Good On You because of their animal welfare policies. There’s no evidence New Balance has an animal welfare policy in place and according to Good On You they use leather, wool, down and exotic animal hair.


Also ranked ‘Not Good Enough’ FILA uses few lower-impact materials and there’s no evidence the brand is attempting to reduce its climate impacts, textile waste and hazardous chemicals in manufacturing. Worse still, their workers’ rights policies are considered ‘Very Poor’ by Good On You. There’s no evidence the brand supports diversity and inclusion in its supply chain, none of its supply chain is certified by labour standards which help ensure worker health and safety, living wages or other rights, and FILA received a score of 11-20 per cent in the 2022 Fashion Transparency Index. Additionally, they’ve taken insufficient steps to remediate its links to cotton sourced from Xinjiang.

With no evidence to show action on using microplastics and proteting biodiversity in its supply chain. Asics is rated ‘Not Good Enough’. Targets set for greenhouse gas reductions are not on track to be met. There’s no evidence that they’re actually working on it.

Ethical Australian Sneaker Brands to Consider

If shopping ethically is important to you there are a few Australian streetwear and sneaker brands championing sustainability and ethical practices.


Melbourne-born brand Etiko has been ranked ‘Great’ by Good On You for their high proportionate use of eco-friendly materials, including the use of Global Organic Textile Standard cotton. They also recycle their offcuts and use eco-friendly materials to limit the amount of chemicals, water and wastewater used in production. Etiko is known for their hi-top and low-cut sneakers easily styled with almost any outfit.


With a wide range of different shoe styles for every occasion, Elk has been rated ‘Good’ by Good On You. They make a conscious effort to reduce process emissions from manufacturing and reuses most of its offcuts to minimise textile waste. Additionally, their code of conduct encompasses all four fundamental principles of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and they source their final production stages from countries characterised by a high risk of labour exploitation.

About The Author: Emma Ruben

Fashion Style

A digital native, Emma is a freelance writer
living and working on Noongar Country.
Hailing from Malaysia, Emma has contributed
to the National Indigenous Times, Popsugar,
Pedestrian TV, Fashion Journal, Healthline
and The West Australian, to name a few!

If you like this, see more posts by Emma.

Featured Image: Jamar Crable, Unsplash

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