At Brooks, we aim to reduce the impact that our running gear has on the planet. To do this, we’ve created our sustainable consumption strategy in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #12: Responsible Consumption & Production. We take a holistic approach, managing the impact of our products on the planet across their lifecycles, from raw materials all the way through to product use and end-of-life. We’ve identified key interventions to address that impact: we will minimize our reliance on non-renewable resources and use more sustainable materials in our product, minimize material waste generated during manufacturing, introduce a fully circular product and take responsibility for our product after its usable life.
We must replace conventional raw materials used in our product, such as polyester (PET) and ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), with recycled and bio-based alternatives. The change is critical to decouple our product from non-renewable finite resources that have a large environmental impact. Non-renewable resources will eventually become scarce, creating a risk to the future prosperity of our business.
Raw materials account for approximately 17% of our total greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint, so sourcing recycled and bio-based raw materials — which result in lower GHG emissions — will support our efforts to reduce our impact on climate change. Furthermore, sourcing recycled and bio-based raw materials supports our wider planet targets, including eliminating footwear manufacturing material waste sent to landfill or incineration and our transition to circular product.
For more information on how our targets apply to the materials used in Brooks product and Brooks’ policies related to more sustainable materials, see the Materials Sustainability Playbook.
We use a variety of different raw material types to make our footwear and apparel. We track the amount of each raw material used, to increase our understanding of the highest volume raw materials and focus our efforts to convert to recycled and bio-based sources.
Total raw materials by volume:
Total raw materials by volume:
(35% EVA / 27% Polyester / 20% Rubber / 7% TPU / 6% PU / 3% Nylon / 1% Polyethylene / 1% Spandex / <1% other (leather, cotton, MMCFS, PP, Silicone, TPEE, etc.))*
*Data includes raw material used in footwear and apparel products during calendar year 2022.
Strategies and roadmap:
To achieve our target, we need to source recycled or bio-based alternatives for each of the raw materials used in our product. Some of these raw materials, such as polyester, already have solutions available, like recycled polyester. However, for other raw material types, recycled or bio-based alternatives may not yet be readily available or developed.
We’ve identified strategies that will help us start to work toward our long-term target — we recognize additional strategies will be needed and identified when new innovations are unlocked. Our roadmap to implement these strategies considers how well the recycled or bio-based material meets our performance and quality standards, its commercial availability, its ability to be scaled across our entire product portfolio, and the time needed to innovate. As we move along this roadmap, partnerships and collaboration with suppliers will be important.
Key strategies in our roadmap include:
- Convert all yarns to recycled or bio-based alternatives in footwear and apparel.
- Convert upper footwear components such as construction foams, toe- and heel reinforcements and synthetic films and laminates to recycled or bio-based materials.
- Incremental increase of recycled and/or biobased content in our midsole compounds, sockliner and strobel foams, and rubber outsole compounds, working toward a minimum 50% content by 2030.
- Gradually increase recycled and/or biobased content in all other raw material types, including run bra foam cups, accessories and trims, working towards 100% content by 2030.
- We use very little leather but recognize the impact this material type has both on the planet and on animal welfare. We are working towards a plant-based or synthetic leather alternative to replace animal leather. In the interim, we continue to source only leather from Leather Working Group (LWG) Gold certified tanneries.
- For other raw material types used in our product but at very low volumes, including cotton and man-made cellulosic fibres (MMCFs) that are already renewable biobased raw materials, we will focus on transitioning these to “preferred” alternatives with lower environmental impact, such as organic cotton and FSC-certified and responsibly produced MMCFs.
Source of recycled content: Our roadmap to use recycled raw materials initially focuses on post-consumer sources, such as plastic bottles. We have expanded to use post-industrial sources of recycled plastics and foams, and recycled silica from the semiconductor industry in outsole rubber. We will also work with our manufacturing partners to find ways to use material waste generated during our product and materials production as a source of recycled content to make new Brooks materials. This will support our target to eliminate footwear manufacturing material waste sent to landfill and incineration. Longer-term, we envision that our product materials become the source of recycled content after the product use has been maximized, to enable material circulation and our circular product vision.
Verifying recycled content claims: For recycled textiles, we verify all recycled content claims through Textile Exchange’s Global Recycled Standard (GRS) and Recycled Content Standard (RCS). We request scope certificates and transaction certificates to verify recycled inputs and the recycled content’s chain of custody through the supply chain. For recycled non-textiles, for which third party recycling standards are not broadly scaled, we use GRS and RCS as a guideline for verification, and request information on the source and processing of the recycled material to validate the recycled content claim.
Source of bio-based content: We accept bio-based content from materials derived from plant biomass.
Verifying bio-based claims: We verify all biosynthetic bio-based claims by using ASTM D6866, the industry-standard test method for measuring the bio-based carbon content of a material.
Restricted substances and sustainable chemistry
All materials in our product and all finished products must comply with the Brooks Restricted Substances List (RSL), which comprises, at a minimum, all chemicals regulated by the most stringent legal regulations in any region globally, including the EU’s REACH and California’s Proposition 65. But we don’t stop there. We voluntarily restrict or eliminate many other substances considered hazardous for people and the planet, even those not yet regulated by any government body. We communicate our restricted substance requirements to all of our suppliers through our RSL and maintain this understanding through our Supplier Code of Conduct and RSL Compliance Agreement, which is signed by all suppliers with each updated version. Compliance with the RSL is demonstrated via a Brooks approved lab RSL test, bluesign® approved material, or Oeko-Tex® Standard 100 certification.
We take a holistic view of chemicals management that goes beyond RSL to manage chemicals entering and exiting a manufacturing facility. We are working towards only sourcing materials that are either bluesign® approved, have an Oeko-Tex® Standard 100 certification and are manufactured at an Oeko-Tex® STeP-certified factory, or are manufactured at a factory that sources only ZDHC MRSL-compliant chemicals that meet level 1 conformance, at a minimum.
Read more about our Responsible Chemicals Program.
Durable water repellents
Water repellency, an important feature for a portion of our product, requires the application of a durable water repellent (DWR) or non-wicking treatment to some of the materials. These treatments traditionally use a class of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic. Our product complies with all applicable PFAS regulations, but we’re committed to eliminate the use of all PFAS in Brooks’ gear before 2025. Until then, C8-based perfluorinated chemicals must not be used on any Brooks product.
We’ve been working to reduce the impact of our final product packaging for over a decade by using lower impact materials and reducing waste. Our strategies to reduce the impact of our packaging include:
Converting packaging materials to recycled inputs and those that can be recycled after use:
- Our shoebox is made from 100% recycled and recyclable materials
- Apparel hangtags are made from 30% recycled materials
- Source lightweight materials
- Removed shoe stuffing from most footwear styles
- Optimized shoebox dimensions, allowing 15% more shoeboxes to be shipped per shipping container
Our material policies guide our materials selection and ensure they consider both environmental and social impacts across the manufacturing supply chain — and that they meet local and international standards:
Cotton: Brooks does not accept any cotton originating from regions with human rights concerns. Brooks has a zero-tolerance policy for forced labour throughout the entire supply chain, which is defined in our Supplier Code of Conduct.
- Leather: all leather materials used in Brooks products must be sourced from a Leather Working Group (LWG) Gold-certified tannery and have an LWG traceability rating.
- Wool: all wool must be non-mulesed.
Forest derived materials: All man-made cellulosic materials used in Brooks product must be sourced from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified or Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) sources.
Recycled polyester/nylon: All recycled polymer fibres used in Brooks product must be sourced from Global Recycled Standard (GRS) or Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) sources to ensure source and traceability.
Taking a lifecycle approach and adopting industry tools – the Higg Index:
Our efforts span beyond raw material choices to consider the overall environmental impact of materials and the full life cycle of our finished product. One life cycle stage we focus on is the processing of raw materials into a finished material, such as textile knitting, textile dyeing, and midsole manufacturing, all of which contribute 36% of our total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
To help better understand the environmental impact of our materials and product across their life cycles, we use the industry standard tools, Higg Materials Sustainability Index (Higg MSI) and Higg Product Module (Higg PM). Developed by the apparel and footwear industry collaborative group the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, the Higg product tools measure five environmental impact categories: global warming potential, fossil fuel depletion, water scarcity, eutrophication and chemistry. The Higg Index product tools allow us to use industry life cycle assessment data and implement a scientific approach to identify new strategies to further reduce GHG emissions of our materials and product, as well as other environmental impacts, such as water scarcity. These tools also help us improve the accuracy of our impact disclosures such as Scope 3 GHG emissions.
We are scaling our adoption of both the Higg MSI and Higg PM, working towards entering all footwear and apparel materials into the Higg MSI and evaluating the environmental impact of all our footwear and apparel styles using the Higg PM.
The creation of material waste during manufacturing increases the overall environmental impact of our product, increases GHG emissions, creates additional environmental impact during its disposal, and increases our material costs. By reducing the amount of material waste generated and diverting unavoidable waste from landfill or incineration, we can lower the overall environmental impact of our product, help reduce GHG emissions, and support our transition to a circular future where all waste is treated as a valuable resource.
Our manufacturing material waste footprint
We calculate the amount of waste generated at all our Tier 1 footwear assembly factories, where the majority of material waste is currently generated. We work with our Tier 1 partners to track material waste by material type and weight, and its destination, and we have expanded this effort to our Tier 2 midsole factories. This increased understanding of the waste generated will provide insights and inform actions needed to redirect waste away from landfill and incineration.
Strategies and roadmap
We’ve identified two key strategies to achieve our target to eliminate manufacturing material waste to landfill and incineration:
Minimize material waste generated during manufacturing: Our approach is to reduce the amount of material waste generated by maximizing material usage. We have identified a series of initiatives across product design, materials, and manufacturing, including an exploration of new cutting solutions and more efficient nesting. We’ll also continue our focus on reducing defects. When we analyze the material waste baseline to understand the root cause of our waste footprint, additional strategies will be identified.
Recycle unavoidable waste: For any material that does find its way to the factory floor, we will partner with our factories and take action to incrementally reduce waste sent to landfill or incineration or the environment. Our long-term vision is to recycle material waste back into the Brooks supply chain and use it as the source of recycled content to make new material for future products.
Learn more about the execution of some of these strategies in our latest Corporate Responsibility Performance Report.
At Brooks, our vision is to transition from linear to circular product. As part of our journey to achieve this, we have committed to launch Brooks’ first circular performance running footwear and apparel by 2030 We are committed to making product that can be deconstructed, its materials fed back into the production cycle, and then used to make new performance running footwear and apparel.
Strategies and roadmap
We started our journey to circular product back in 2018 when we began sourcing materials made from recycled content. We amplified those efforts by increasing the amount of recycled polyester and recycled nylon used in our product. At Brooks, we recognize that sourcing raw materials with recycled content is just the beginning of our circular product journey, so we now have dedicated workstreams to achieve our long-term circular product target. This includes R&D projects to develop circular solutions across product design, materials, and manufacturing, all while maintaining the high quality and performance of our product.
Taking responsibility for our product at its end-of-life is a key enabler for all our sustainable consumption objectives. We aim to take responsibility for our product at its end of life and reclaim the product from the consumer. In the short term, we aim for this product to be downcycled into relevant applications. Long-term, the goal is for this product to be recycled and used as raw materials.
Strategies and roadmap
We start by first obsessing over the quality of our product to maximize durability and the number of miles runners can log before replacement. We have a comprehensive wear test program that ensures we live up to our promise that our product performs just as well on the 400th mile as the first, and we’re improving the accuracy of data to track product use and performance in order to further improve product durability and longevity. We also create product that has versatile usage, so our runners can enjoy their shoes for everyday wear around town or while doing weekend projects.
To enable circular product, we need to create pathways for our product to be returned after runners have finished logging their miles. We’re currently focused on developing a product take-back programme and researching end-of-life solutions for collected product.
Every year, Brooks has inventory that is unsold or returned. We’ve partnered with Soles4Souls since 2016 to help divert our product from ending up in landfills and to convert this product into a resource for those in need. Soles4Souls provides people living in poverty in developing countries with new and gently worn shoes and clothing to sell in their local marketplace and generate income.