Yes, Consumers Want Green


So what does “green” mean in terms of footwear today? The products shown here illustrate the latest ways brands are expanding eco options to satisfy shopper desire for shoes that feature a lighter environmental footprint. Performance and aesthetics remain front and center but earth-friendly materials that get the job done are increasingly the kind of attributes consumers are looking for.

Recycled: Nike’s $160 Zoom X Vista Grind (photo above) urban running style takes production scraps from the Zoom X running shoes and makes them part of the Vista Grind’s bouncy, oversized midsole.

Natural: The outsole color is new (Glerups is launching black rubber outsoles for fall ’19) but it’s sticking close to its roots with the all-wool upper that it’s known for on the $155 black rubber sole low boot.

Low-impact leather: Timberland is one of the founding members of the Leather Working Group, a multi-stakeholder group that works on transparency and environmental standards in the leather industry. Since 2010 the brand has only used leathers from suppliers that have achieved the silver or gold ratings, like on the $190 Sienna High Boot for women.

Materials + Method: adidas’ $300 Alphaedge 4D Parley for the Oceans shoe marries the brand’s 3D printing technique (3D printing means no scraps) and its partnership with Parley for the Oceans for the plastic ocean waste recycled in the upper.

And the Survey Takers Said:

We asked shoppers how sustainability impacts their footwear buys, and the answers are illuminating.

For example, per our survey*, 84 percent of respondents said the use of eco-friendly materials was either “very” or “somewhat important” in their choices. As one respondent, a 31-year-old female put it: “All companies should be making a great effort to use eco-friendly materials.”

Also surprising? That 78 percent of respondents were willing to pay more for shoes that were made with greener materials. How much more? Maybe more than you think: 33 percent of respondents said up to $10 more, and 29 percent said they’d pay up to $25 more per pair. (Some consumers indicated that it depended on the item in question, with price increases in the five to 10 percent range being identified as doable.)

“I have found that natural materials perform better than any manmade material I have tried so far.”
— 52-year-old respondent

One thing was clear from the survey results: Consumers have a more nuanced understanding of the different environmental factors that go into “green” than they’re sometimes given credit for. When asked what product attributes attracted them, the most popular answer was recycled content. But it wasn’t the only thing shoppers looked for.

Natural materials like wool, cork and natural rubber were favored by 66 percent of respondents. “I have found that natural materials perform better than any manmade material I have tried so far,” a 52-year-old consumer said.

“All companies should be making a great effort to use eco-friendly materials.” — 31-year-old respondent

Lower-impact leathers were flagged by 37 percent of shoppers, and 43 percent said they sought out brands and products who pursued carbon offsets as part of their sustainability strategy. And some go even further, like one 32-year-old survey taker, who responded, “I look at the brand and what they are doing as a whole to march toward a more sustainable brand [position] — less water usage, ethical sourcing of materials, etc.”

*Textile Insight commissioned MESH01 to survey 113 active U.S. men and women aged 18 to 55, with an average age of 38, to see how much sustainability concerns played into their footwear purchasing behavior.

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