Introduction – Ethical, Sustainable, and Fair Trade Footwear
As consumers, our choices have an impact on the environment and the people involved in the production of the products we use. This guide will help you navigate the world of ethical, sustainable, and fair trade footwear, providing an overview of the key considerations and introducing you to top brands in the field of fair trade shoes.
Ethical and Fair Trade Practices in the Footwear Industry
Fair trade principles are designed to ensure that workers receive fair wages and work in safe conditions. By supporting fair trade footwear, consumers can have a positive impact on the lives of the people who create their shoes.
Note that “fairtrade” without the space between two words refers to a specific trademark held by Fairtrade International which is a product-oriented group that promotes the lives of farmers and workers through trade. The more generic term we use in this article is “fair trade” which refers to the idea.
In addition to labor rights, ethical shoe production also takes into account animal welfare and environmentally conscious production processes. As the fashion industry moves toward greater sustainability, more brands are adopting these practices, making it easier than ever to find footwear that aligns with your values.
Types of Sustainable and Ethical Footwear
We found 4 ways to make a product fair trade. The four ways are as follows:
Product Uses Sustainable Materials
One way in which shoes can become more sustainable is through the use of eco-friendly materials. This includes recycled leather, plant-based materials, or upcycled textiles. Using these materials reduces the demand for new resources and minimizes the environmental impact of the footwear industry.
Product Is Made With Sustainable Production Processes
Another aspect of sustainable footwear is implementing environmentally friendly production processes. Many brands are making efforts to minimize their carbon footprint through carbon-neutral manufacturing. Additionally, water conservation and waste reduction initiatives play a significant role in the sustainable production of shoes. Brands adopting these practices strive to decrease their overall environmental impact.
Product Follows Fair Trade Labor Practices
Ensuring fair trade and labor practices is a key component of ethical footwear production. This involves providing safe and healthy working conditions for workers, paying them living wages, and respecting their rights. Brands committed to these principles ensure fairness and dignity in their production process.
Product Is Characterized By Transparent and Ethical Standards
Transparency in the supply chain is another crucial element of ethical footwear. Companies that uphold ethical standards are open about their manufacturing processes and ensure that no forced or child labor is involved at any stage of production. This commitment to transparency not only upholds human rights but also allows consumers to make informed purchasing decisions.
Fair Trade Brands
When it comes to fair trade shoes, brands like Nisolo stand out for their commitment to ethical labor practices. For ethically made shoes that prioritize both labor rights and environmentally friendly production, consider Veja and Everlane.
Women’s sustainable shoes are becoming increasingly popular, with brands like Allbirds and Rothy’s offering stylish and eco-friendly options. If you’re looking for recycled leather shoes, check out Will’s Vegan Store, both of which offer unique and sustainable designs.
Ethical footwear options are available from brands like Po-Zu, which combines ethical labor practices with environmentally responsible production.
For those in need of sustainable dress shoes, Bourgeois Boheme and Sydney Brown offer elegant designs crafted with eco-friendly materials. Women’s ethical shoe brands such as Bhava Studio and Coclico demonstrate that style and sustainability can go hand in hand.
For specialty footwear, see our intro to ethical and sustainable sandals.
Fair Trade and Ethically Made Shoes
- Nisolo: Renowned for ethical labor practices, stylish designs, and a commitment to fair trade principles.
- Veja: Combines labor rights, environmentally friendly production, and style in their range of sneakers. Veja has gained significant attention in recent years for their strong commitment to transparency, fair trade, and the use of innovative sustainable materials. Their shoes are made using organic cotton, wild rubber from the Amazon, and recycled plastic bottles. They work closely with Brazilian producers to ensure fair working conditions, and their designs have become popular among eco-conscious consumers and celebrities alike.
- Everlane: Offers transparent pricing, ethical production, and sustainable materials in their footwear collection.
- Po-Zu: Prioritizes ethical labor practices and environmentally responsible production in their shoe lineup.
Sustainable and Recycled Material Shoes
- Allbirds: Provides comfortable, eco-friendly shoes crafted from natural and recycled materials. Allbirds stands out for their innovative use of natural and sustainable materials, such as merino wool, eucalyptus tree fiber, and sugarcane-based foam. They are committed to minimizing their carbon footprint, continuously striving to reduce emissions in every aspect of their business, from production to shipping. Allbirds also offers a carbon-neutral certification for all their products, which showcases their dedication to environmental responsibility.
- Rothy’s: Known for stylish and sustainable shoes made from recycled plastic bottles. Rothy’s is a unique brand that has gained popularity for their stylish shoes made from recycled plastic bottles. By utilizing 3D knitting technology, they create comfortable, sustainable, and fashionable footwear with minimal waste. Rothy’s commitment to circularity extends beyond their materials, as they also offer a recycling program for customers to return worn-out shoes, which are then repurposed into new products.
- Will’s Vegan Store: Features a range of vegan and eco-friendly shoes, including recycled leather options.
Stylish and Sustainable Dress Shoes
- Bourgeois Boheme: Offers elegant, eco-friendly dress shoes made with sustainable materials.
- Sydney Brown: Merges luxury and sustainability in their range of stylish dress shoes.
- Bhava Studio: Presents fashionable women’s shoes with a focus on style and ethical production.
- Coclico: Delivers stylish and sustainable shoes, emphasizing ethical labor practices and eco-friendly materials.
Social Good Shoe Brands
In addition to the sustainable and ethical brands mentioned earlier, there are footwear companies that focus on creating a positive social impact alongside their commitment to responsible practices. Two such brands, Toms and Elvis & Kresse, stand out for their unique approach to social good, demonstrating that businesses can make a difference in people’s lives while also striving for environmental responsibility.
- Toms: Toms is a well-known brand that has made a significant social impact through their “One for One” initiative. For every pair of shoes sold, Toms donates a pair to a child in need. The company has expanded its commitment to social good by investing in various initiatives, including clean water access, safe birth services, and bullying prevention. While Toms has traditionally been known for their canvas slip-ons, they have been steadily increasing their focus on sustainable materials and practices in recent years.
- Elvis & Kresse: This brand stands out for its inventive use of upcycled leather, which is sourced from industries such as firefighting, aviation, and luxury fashion. Elvis & Kresse rescue and transform these materials into high-quality, sustainable footwear, as well as bags and accessories. The brand is also committed to social impact, with 50% of their profits from their fire hose line being donated to The Fire Fighters Charity.
Shopping Tips for Ethical and Sustainable Footwear
When shopping for ethical and sustainable footwear, do a bit of research. Look into the brand’s ethics and sustainability practices, and search for certifications or other indicators of transparency. Also look for certifications – and make sure that the certification makes sense, i.e. its by a third party, there are standards, and its recognizable.
Investing in high-quality, long-lasting shoes can be more sustainable in the long run, as it reduces waste and the need for frequent replacements. Additionally, consider buying second-hand or vintage shoes as a way to minimize your environmental impact.
As consumers, we have the power to support ethical and sustainable footwear by making informed decisions and choosing brands that prioritize responsible practices. By considering the environmental and social impact of your footwear choices, you can contribute to a more sustainable fashion industry and help promote a greener, fairer world.
Share this information and resources with others, and encourage them to join you in supporting responsible brands and making mindful choices.