Melting glaciers, frequent famines, environment-related migration, record-setting temperatures, and devastating floods are only a few tangible effects of climate change clearly being felt by people worldwide. Consumers are increasingly making minimal and sustainable living a part of their everyday lives.
A recent IBM survey revealed that 78 percent of consumers in India are most willing to change their purchasing behavior to reduce a negative impact on the environment. Another report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), commissioned by WWF, found that the most dramatic growth in engagement and awareness has occurred in Asia, as evidenced by the increasing volume of Google searches relating to nature loss and biodiversity - with India, in particular, seeing a 190 percent increase.
While fashion, comfort, and performance remain strong considerations for footwear manufacturers, many industry players are making sustainability a top strategic priority in response to the change in consumer sentiment. Brands are increasingly committing to address key ecological concerns in their messaging. A fascinating observation is that consumers wholeheartedly support brands that make a positive impact on the environment.
The same IBM study highlighted that 85 percent of the Indian respondents consider environmentally sustainable companies to be more attractive employers.
A growing trend observed in a survey by Hotwire showed that 47 percent of internet users worldwide instantly changed their choice of brand when the one they previously used violated their personal values - environmental reasons being the top-cited concern.
As per a 2020 McKinsey survey, 66 percent of consumers (75 percent of millennial respondents) consider sustainability a key factor when making a luxury purchase in the footwear industry.
Driving Sustainable Partnerships is of Paramount Importance
Sustainability should be deeply woven into the organization’s purpose, and for that, brands need to realize the importance of taking leadership roles in setting and sharing environmental and social ambitions. While partners play a crucial role in driving sustainability, distribution channels play an equally important role in society as they move products from the manufacturer, retailer to the consumer. It’s important to note that sustainability starts from ideation to last-mile delivery. Many brands today use green distribution methods in an attempt to reduce emissions and decrease their carbon footprint.
As per recent stats, India's per capita carbon footprint is 60 percent lower than the global average.
With sustainability as the primary focus, BASF developed integrated production systems for Elastopan and Elastollan for footwear applications that combine recyclable TPU and bio-based materials. The brand adopted a biomass-balanced approach that drives the use of renewable resources and sustainable methods without compromising the quality. For example, Elastollan requires lower injection temperatures, enabling shorter cycle times, stronger cold flexibility, and easy demolding in the manufacturing of shoe shanks. This cuts the processing time by up to 30 percent, reducing labor costs and creating significant energy savings for improved sustainability.
Here’s how one can use Elastopan in the footwear industry. One of BASF’s partners used Elastopan to simplify the production process for its sneaker insoles while maintaining its comfort level and performance. These insoles offer consumers a better walking experience with cushioning that distributes foot pressure evenly from heel to toe. This enables better motion control and improves the natural gait. The cold-curing process used in the development of these Elastopan insoles is energy efficient, which means it requires a low temperature. And the best part is, it is free of release agents.
Another example of how our partners are combining sustainability with performance comes from Timberland, which uses Elastopan high-rebound PU foam in the midsole and insole of its Reaxion safety shoe, offering all-day support and comfort.
Material innovations empower customers, partners, and employees with sustainability goals. For example, one of our partners designed a shoe that uses recycled polyester and TPU, which can be recycled for fabric manufacturing. BASF has also developed a TPU with over 55 percent bio-carbon content to meet the highest sustainability scores for yet another partner in the development of their high-end shoes.
India can gain $11 trillion in economic value over the next 50 years by limiting rising global temperatures and realizing its potential to ‘export decarbonization’ to the world, as per a new study by Deloitte Economics Institute. In the near future, sustainability will continue to be an essential driver of exciting innovation in the footwear industry. Therefore, it is important that industry leaders combine their resources and expertise to find solutions that appeal to both current and prospective/potential customers.