27th May 2020

Fair & ethical‽

Mike Foster, founder and creative director, covers a lot of ground on his hunt for the right trainer. But what is the right thing to do?

Feeling optimistic that we will be allowed outside again soon, I realised that I need new trainers.

Like many, I’m doubling down on the environment, and if the country coming to a grinding halt isn’t going to help us hit our 2020 emissions targets, then we all need to do our bit and make the best environmental decisions possible.

With that in mind, I fired up DuckDuckGo (other search engines are available) and began my quest for an environmentally viable, amazingly comfortable and beautifully designed trainer – how hard can it be?

One of the top results came up as Ethical Consumer, a website which has been offering the best ethical choices since 1989 – who knew?

I was presented with a simple list – what to buy (thumbs up); what not to buy (thumbs down). Love it– I am a big fan of anything which makes life easier.

I was offered four links through to the best brands to buy, so took the plunge and did my due diligence which brought to my attention an ethical question beyond the environment.

I immediately discounted Vivobarefoot sports shoes as it’s a brand I’m familiar with and knew it wasn’t what I was looking for. The next, Innov-8 sports shoes, just weren’t for me.

Veja fashion trainers was a definite maybe. They are readily available, look great and, most importantly, I loved Veja creator @Sebastien Kopp’s response to their Primark rip off – he stated “The first question coming to my mind is ‘where are those nice counterfeit shoes made?’ I think @Primark got it wrong, they should not copy the style of our shoes, they should copy the way we make them. With organic cotton, with recycled plastic, with more ecological fabricsin factories where workers are paid decently and working in secure conditions.”

This neatly brings me to the final choice, Ethletic – I assumed the name was a play on athletic and ethical – I was feeling hopeful. Their trainers are FAIR (Fairtrade); VEGAN; SUSTAINABLE. This was all going in the right directions but are they also ethical?

Clicking through I was presented with their Fair Trainer the White Cap Lo. Alarm bells – these trainers are exact replicas of Chuck Taylor – the classic trainer designed by Converse who are incidentally on the Ethical Consumer avoid list and scored Converse a lowly 6 out of 20 for their environmental, sustainability and people credentials versus Ethletic’s impressive 17 out of 20. But what of Ethletic’s ethics?

Despite their Fairtrade FLO-certified-organic fairly traded canvas twill cotton, made using only sustainable resources in factories with good conditions with workers paid a decent wage. They have glibly taken someone else’s design – this is not ethically sound – great design is hard to do yet all too easy to steal.

If Ethletic kept everything that makes them great with their own great designs, I’m all in. But until their ethic’s meet their environmental standards, I’m all out. What about you?