Fashion And Footwear Take Big Steps Toward Sustainability



Shoes and clothes affect our state of mind and mirrors our soul. Yet when it comes to finding the perfect sustainable fit, Soles4Souls adds an extra layer of soul-searching. Soles4Souls’ business model embraces “the notion of turning shoes and clothing into opportunity, literally transforming the lives of women in developing countries,” according to Nancy Youssef, Chief Business Development Officer, Soles4Souls.

Something as simple as a pair of shoes can make a big difference

Footwear and fashion’s growth-focused business model is not sustainable. The industry has yet to solve the trade-off that selling more shoes and clothes fundamentally requires more resources. It’s high time to understand that sustainability is not just an ‘add-on.’ Sustainability needs to be implemented into our end-to-end thinking to eventually embed it as a DNA string into corporate thinking and acting.

With COVID-19 – the pandemic, as a catalyst for achieving transition towards global governance and sustainability, we are facing change. Leading brands are rethinking their business models and leading the change to a more sustainable future for the footwear and fashion industry. And consumers are looking for companies with a sustainable soul. For example:

  • 93% of global consumers want more of their favorite products, services and retailers to support worthy social issues
  • 96% of people have a more positive image of companies that support Corporate Social Responsibility
  • 93% of shoppers are more loyal to brands that back causes
  • 91% of customers are likely to switch brands (given comparable price and quality to one associated with a good cause); Soles4Souls.

Fashion and footwear industry clothing the loop

Driven by fast retailing, the industry is facing increased social, environmental and regulatory pressures. Brands have been tackling waste in their direct operations. However, the industry dynamics have led to growing interest in closing the loop, reducing and avoiding waste along the value chain: Circular solutions are the new frontier. For example, circular business models for resale increase use and extend clothing and footwear life.

Given the current economic turmoil due to the pandemic, it’s high time to acknowledge the need for sustainable business operations – and socially sustainable clothing and footwear. The halt of operations and the piling up of cloths and footwear caused by the pandemic has messed up global supply chains and brands operations. Add to that the rising number of order cancellations from overseas clients unable to sell or stockpile merchandise and the inability to push stock through e-commerce platforms given weak consumer demand. All of this begs the question: What to do with all the unwanted product?

By putting unwanted shoes and clothing to good use, textiles are kept out of landfills. What’s more, providing relief, creating jobs and empowering women to break the cycle of poverty. Taking shoes and clothes that have reached their end-of-life stage, brands and consumers can boost the repurpose mode by donating shoes and clothes to Soles4Souls.

Driven by a deep passion for making the world run better, Nancy Youssef said “we create an opportunity for micro entrepreneurs – women in developing nations, that are creating long-term sustainable living wages for themselves” with donated shoes and clothes distributed by Soles4Souls to women worldwide. In reselling those unwanted shoes and clothes in their market space, these women extend the shoe lifespan. The donation of unwanted shoes and clothes helps the world run better and improve people’s lives.

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