Is Sustainability a continuous conversation during a Pandemic?

The impact of Cov-19 on the global footwear industry has left many vulnerable and reeling emotionally and economically. With a slump in consumer demand, closure of manufacturers, disruption to supply chains and postponed trade fairs this has felt quite disorientating for many.

As the CoronaVirus has taken hold and companies have been forced to shift their attention to more immediate needs, will brands still care about sustainability amid the pandemic?

It’s my belief consumers will reconsider behaviour and choices, subsequently culture will increasingly be a force for change. I have already seen an increase in activity across creative industries on sustainability, transparency, ethical sourcing and the conservation of resources. In fact not all companies have put sustainability goals on ice.

“In this age of energy and economic transition, social innovation creates local living economies from ground up. It also enables us to share resources – such as energy, things, time, skill, software, space or food. New values, as well as models and platforms, are a condition for success “ John Thackara – How to thrive in the next economy

For example, sustainable footwear brand Allbirds has joined forces with sportswear giant Adidas to develop a sports performance shoe that has the lowest ever carbon footprint to date. This partnership will set a standard throughout the industry in innovating the manufacturing and supply chain process and will also explore renewable material resources. There was a goal to reduce the 700m metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted by the footwear industry annually.

Many believe the future belongs to activist brands, this being particularly important to millennial and Gen Z cohorts . Brands are taking this on board, especially as this is the demographic that are most eager to return to bricks and mortar stores upon reopening (according to a “Sentiment Navigator” survey cited by Adweek.)

A lot of brands are starting to put themselves in their consumers shoes to gain a deeper understanding, trying to deliver something that may be experiential improving quality of life to its audience.

Another example is Michael Krajicek who wanted to make the ultimate running shoe that delivered a “natural running” experience to the wearer. So, he designed a no-frills shoe brand “Atreyu” that you could keep coming back for. He was himself frustrated at companies that discontinued or ‘messed up’ his favourite running shoe and so Atreyu offers a subscription running shoe you can access anew when your old shoes are worn out. They have cut out the middleman and innovated the supply chain to accommodate zero waste in backstock.

I am sure sustainability will make a comeback as the economy recovers. Rather than being fatalistic, once some healing has been done, we can start to focus on the positives. Engaging thoughts around re-evaluating and reflecting elements of conscious living.

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