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 carbon emissions, so sourcing recycled and bio-based raw materials — which have lower carbon emissions — will support our climate action commitment to reduce carbon emissions. Furthermore, sourcing recycled and bio-based raw materials supports our wider planet commitments, including the elimination of manufacturing waste to landfill or incineration, and our transition to circular product.
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.
Strategies and roadmap:
To achieve our commitment, we need to source recycled or bio-based raw material 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 commitment — 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 polyester to recycled polyester by 2023 for footwear and by 2025 for apparel.
- Convert all nylon to recycled nylon by 2023 for footwear and by 2025 for apparel.
- Convert all other yarn types used in our footwear uppers — including hotmelt, TPU, and monofilament yarns — to recycled or bio-based alternatives.
- Incremental increase of recycled and/or bio-based content in our EVA and PU midsole compounds, EVA and PU sockliner foams, and rubber outsole compounds; work toward a minimum of 50% content by 2030.
- Collaborate with our suppliers to convert spandex into recycled spandex.
- Gradually increase recycled and/or bio-based content in all other raw material types, including run bra PU foam cups, footwear upper PU and EVA foams, TPU and PU films; work towards 100% content by 2030.
- We use very little leather but recognize the impact this material type has on the planet and on animal welfare. We are working towards a bio-based 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 fibers (MMCFs) that are already renewable bio-based 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 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 objective to eliminate manufacturing material waste that goes 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: 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.
Bio-based materials: Includes natural fibers, such as cotton and wool, and biosynthetic materials derived from renewable biological resources.
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 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. Unfortunately, these treatments traditionally use a class of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic. We’re committed to use only DWR and non-wicking treatments that are nonfluorinated (C0) alternatives. 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 and recyclable materials
Source lightweight materials
- Removed shoe stuffing from most footwear styles
- Optimize shoebox dimensions, to allow 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 that originates from Turkmenistan, due to severe human rights concerns. Brooks has a zero-tolerance policy for forced labor 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 certified non-mulesed.
Forest derived materials: All man-made cellulosic fiber materials (MMCFs) used in Brooks product must be sourced from FSC-certified sources.
Recycled polyester/nylon: All recycled polymer fibers 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 approximately 28% of our total carbon emissions.
To help lower 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: fossil fuel depletion, global warming potential, 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 carbon 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 greenhouse gas 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 carbon emissions, creates additional environmental impact during its disposal, and increases our material costs. By reducing material waste and developing sustainable solutions for unavoidable material waste, we can lower the overall environmental impact of our product, help reduce carbon 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, weight, and destination, and we have expanded this effort to our Tier 2 midsole and outsole factories. This increased understanding of the generated waste will provide insights and inform actions to redirect waste away from landfill and incineration.
Strategies and roadmap
We’ve identified two key strategies to achieve our commitment to eliminate manufacturing material waste sent 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 design, materials, and manufacturing, including an exploration of new cutting solutions and implementation of new pattern software for 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 ensure that material does not end up in a landfill, in an incinerator, or back in the environment. Our long-term vision is to recycle material waste back into the Brooks supply chain and use it to make new material for future products.
Learn more about the execution of some of these strategies in our latest CR report.
At Brooks, our vision is to transition from linear to circular product. As part of our journey to achieve this, we will launch Brooks’ first circular performance running footwear and apparel by 2030. We are committed to making product that can be deconstructed, with materials fed back into the production cycle to be 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 commitment. This includes R&D projects to develop circular solutions across product design, materials, and manufacturing, all while we maintain the high quality and performance of our product.
Taking responsibility for our product at its end of life is a key enabler for all of 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 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 continued 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 developing a product take-back program 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.