Eco-friendly work shoes from Timberland, Keen, Twisted X and Kodiak – Footwear News
Over the past two years, American consumers have been beating the sustainability drum, calling on manufacturers and retailers to change their ways. And many in the shoe space have answered that call.
But in the labor category, major players claim that the demand for eco-friendly products is still largely outweighed by other factors, namely price and performance.
Robin Skillings, vice president and global general manager of Keen Utility, told FN: “At this point, [our] retail partners tell us they don’t get questions from their customers about whether the shoes are eco-friendly.
However, like their customers, Keen Utility and other work boot manufacturers have begun building for the next generation, incorporating environmental considerations into their processes, either in anticipation of future demand or based on of their own corporate commitments.
“We know obviously there will be a growing audience for sustainability as this younger generation moves into careers that require footwear or safety footwear,” said Karen McSorley, Kodiak brand manager. “They demand better brands. Sustainability is important to them.
Lee Lemon, Vice President of Sales at Twisted X, agreed, “It’s not a trend that’s going away. As consumers become more aware of the benefits of sustainably produced products, they will expect to find footwear options that incorporate sustainable components. Retailers will definitely need to have something to offer them.
For her part, Laurie Grijalva, director of merchandising at Boot Barn, which sells work shoes in its nearly 300 stores, said the chain would welcome more eco-friendly options in this category. “I would have liked to see more, but we don’t see a lot,” Grijalva said.
She noted that Boot Barn is looking for more Made in America products to reduce the impact of transit. “But even that is difficult. I think if more [sustainable product] was available, we would certainly like it.
But, she added, brands face the challenge of pricing. If durability drives up costs, that could be a major deterrent.
In addition, work shoes must continue to meet strict government safety standards, which means that it is very difficult to modify certain components, such as toe caps, anti-puncture plates, resistance to electrical hazards and other elements.
Here are four examples of how boot makers are currently addressing environmental concerns in their business operations.
This spring, Kodiak will introduce its first eco-friendly work shoes, starting with the Quicktrail, a hiking-inspired safety shoe for men and women. The shoe is made with a minimum of 50% recycled content in the upper, has 100% recycled laces, and Kodiak has created a custom insole with OrthoLite’s hybrid compound which consists of 26% eco-content.
McSorley said the launch is a continuation of Kodiak’s “Built for What Matters” initiative, launched in Spring 21. “It’s basically a seven-step journey to start sourcing made from recycled, renewable and eco-friendly materials,” she said. “No. 1, we seek to deal with partners who offer traceable recycled, recyclable, organic and renewable materials. The majority of our leathers have been sourced for many years from tanneries exclusively approved by the Leather Working Group, but now we make a concerted effort to ensure that everything comes from these tanneries – and all are gold rated.
McSorley noted that Kodiak initially started applying those standards in its outdoor lifestyle collection last spring, but saw opportunities in safety footwear as well. “We expect there to be an inevitable growth in sustainability in the general labor category,” she said.
Following the launch of the Quicktrail this season, Kodiak’s sustainable work story will continue in Fall 22 with the Whitton, a women’s-only safety boot that incorporates algae-based Bloom foam in its outsole. non-slip. This will be followed in Fall 23 by a men’s version using a greater percentage of the Bloom compound.
THE INNOVATOR: TWISTED X
Since entering the work category in 2007, Texas brand Twisted X has developed in-house technologies such as CellStretch that improve the feeling of comfort in safety shoes. And the company, which was certified climate-neutral in 2020, has also focused on green innovations like EcoTWX, a 100% upcycled textile from recycled PET water bottles. The brand estimates that each pair of shoes using EcoTWX removes an average of 13 plastic bottles from landfills.
The material is used for the upper of many Twisted X casual and outdoor shoes, as well as in its Work Kicks shoe, which features a nano-composite toe cap. “This style appeals to a younger audience because it’s a mix of the athletic look they love with the added durability components they demand,” Lemon said. “We are preparing to add a few more colors in the fall to continue to meet their needs.”
The company has also incorporated green materials into the Wrangler casual and work shoe collections, which Twisted X produces under license.
Lemon noted that the demand for environmentally friendly work equipment will only increase in the coming years as the next generation enters the trades and fuels a change in the marketplace.
“There’s really been a movement led by this younger generation because sustainability is so relevant right now and being more heavily promoted in schools and colleges,” he explained. “This consumer places a high value on this when making decisions because they want and expect sustainability to be part of the products they use in their daily lives.”
THE PREMISES: CURRENT USE
When it comes to sustainability, Keen Utility has a unique selling point: Many of the company’s work boots have a lower carbon footprint because they’re assembled domestically at its Portland, Oregon factory.
However, Keen Utility told FN that its main commitment is to make hard-wearing boots that can hold up season after season, preventing fewer shoes from ending up in landfills.
“The work consumer continues to focus on the issue of quality materials and durability, and we’re addressing that by building our boots to last longer, which inevitably helps the environment,” Skillings said.
One of its latest innovations to extend the life of its boots is Keen.Bellows Flex, a technology that reduces cracking by allowing shoes to bend and flex up to three times more easily.
And throughout its supply chain, the company has worked to eliminate toxic chemicals from its operations, such as PFCs, “an eternal chemical” that does not break down in the environment. Keen spent four years and around $1 million developing a process to find and remove PFCs applied to components and materials in its supply chain, and last year it shared the information in a “green paper.” public to which more than 700 external developers have had access. and supply chain experts.
“We are working towards sustainability in all aspects of our brand and our business,” said Skillings. “We want to continue to lead, while helping the industry improve as a whole, because, at the end of the day, we’re all in this together.”
THE VERSATILE: TIMBERLAND PRO
For nearly 30 years, Timberland has been a sustainability leader in the footwear industry, as one of the earliest leather task force participants and a longtime supporter of leather plantation projects. trees around the world.
More recently, the brand has become a proponent of regenerative agriculture. The farming technique helps preserve natural resources, for example by rotating livestock so that pastures have time to restore their biodiversity and absorb more carbon from the environment.
Bert Spiller, Vice President of Product Creation at Timberland Pro, said, “In Fall 21, we launched the Gridworks EK+ work boot made with leather sourced from farms using regenerative farming practices. We’re following that up with the fall 22 launch of the men’s Nashoba EK+ 6-inch work boot. Both styles also feature Timberland’s ReBotl liners, made with at least 50% recycled polyester, as well as essential safety features.
Meanwhile, Timberland is also addressing the lifecycle of its products with Timberloop, a program launched last year that encourages customers to return their used Timberland or Timberland Pro shoes, apparel and accessories to stores, instead of throwing them away. .
“Our circularity platform refurbishes worn-out products for resale, or if they’re beyond repair, we disassemble them and reuse or recycle the parts into new materials,” Spiller said.
The brand executive added that while durability and value remain core attributes of work boots, Timberland sees the benefit of going green.
“Our recent purchase tracking data shows that approximately 85% of Pro shoppers see value in purchasing from a company with higher sustainability standards and would even pay more for the product,” Spiller said. He also noted that an increasing number of people are employed in renewable energy industries such as solar, wind, geothermal or hydroelectric power. This could lead to more environmentally conscious customers in the future.