In 2009 we conducted a product life-cycle assessment to understand the environmental impact of our best-selling footwear and apparel styles. We use insights from this assessment and industry knowledge to prioritize the focus areas of our Design and Materials strategic approach.
Design for Sustainability
The creation of waste during footwear manufacturing can be significantly altered by the decisions made during product design. We've implemented a program to provide feedback loops to our footwear designers that evaluates the waste impact that is a result of those design choices.
Central to this program is the calculation of the pattern efficiencies for each part of our core styles' footwear uppers. The shape of these different parts is the key contributor for the amount of waste created during manufacturing. We track this through an average upper pattern efficiency metric that is fed-back to our design team at key product development milestones. The objective of this program is to empower designers to make smarter decisions that will reduce our products’ footprint.
Environmentally Preferred Materials
Developing industry-leading performance running footwear and apparel requires careful selection of materials that will meet the high-performance and quality standards we demand in our products. In recognition of their high environmental impact we're working hard behind the scenes to select materials that are better for both your run and the environment.
Recycled Polyester and Biodegradable Midsoles in Footwear: Our footwear team has been focused on incorporating more sustainable materials into our footwear products for the last seven years. Their focus is on two of our highest volume materials; polyester and EVA, used in the upper mesh and midsole respectively. For the polyester, we seek a minimum 20% recycled content and all midsoles use BioMoGo DNA that includes an organic, non-toxic additive that biodegrades the midsole 50 times faster than traditional EVA when it comes into contact with anaerobic landfill microbes.
We track the percentage of total weight of the shoe that is an Environmentally Preferred Material (EPM) and have set ourselves the goal to continuously increase this percentage for our core four selling footwear styles.
Apparel Fabric Certifications
In 2014, Brooks partnered with bluesign® technologies, as a bluesign system partner. Our partnership provides our product creation teams with access to the blueguide®, a tool that helps them to prescreen fabrics that use more sustainable textile preparations (e.g., dyes and detergents) and that are from facilities that have undergone rigorous assessments for environmental standards and worker health and safety.
Restricted Substances Program
Our restricted substances program exists to ensure our products are safe. Our Restricted Substances List (RSL) underpins the program and defines those substances that we restrict or eliminate from our products. It includes at a minimum all chemicals that are regulated by the most stringent legal regulations in any region globally, including EU REACH, and CA Prop 65. We also voluntarily restrict or eliminate many other substances that are hazardous for humans or the environment, but that are not yet being regulated by any government body. We identify those substances through a variety of resources, some of which include AAFA, AFIRM, ChemSec, and other leading industry organizations. We continually review chemical impact assessments and make updates to our RSL at least once per year.
All materials in Brooks’ product must comply with our RSL. We communicate our restricted substances requirements to all of our suppliers through our RSL and maintain this understanding through our RSL Compliance Agreement, which is signed by all suppliers with each updated version of our RSL.
Footwear Material and Product Testing: Our material and product testing programs upholds our RSL Compliance Agreement with suppliers in order to ensure that our RSL is meeting its objectives. Every new footwear material introduced to the Brooks supply chain is required to be tested by an independent third party testing body approved by Brooks and subsequently retested at least annually. In addition, Brooks reserves the right to randomly select and test at any stage of production, including in materials, components, or finished products. We actively engage with our footwear suppliers on our restricted substances program, providing annual training on how to adopt and adhere to our RSL and how to manage their own suppliers.
Apparel Materials: We require all apparel material suppliers to acquire either third-party certifications (bluesign or Oeko-tex) or a Restricted Substances test report to verify the material is compliant with our RSL. We actively work with suppliers to continually meet this requirement.
Durable Water Repellent (DWR) Treatments: Water repellency is an essential functional component for many of our apparel and footwear styles. Water repellency is achieved through the use of Durable Water Repellent (DWR) treatments, which traditionally use fluorinated chemicals that are able to achieve the high levels of repellent performance required. However, fluorinated chemicals are known to break down into perflourinated chemicals such as PFOA and PFOS, that are persistent, bioaccumulative and have toxicological properties.
A more responsible option when choosing between different DWR technologies is to use short-chain flourochemical water repellents, which have been found to be less-toxic than long-chain DWR varieties. Like many in our industry, we have eliminated long chain DWR treatments from our apparel and footwear lines, and use only short chain formulations.
Short chain DWR is not an end-goal solution to the environmental concerns of DWR. We continue to work with the industry to find more sustainable solutions that keep our products performing at the high standards we expect.
Volatile Organic Compounds
Traditional solvent-based chemicals used in footwear assembly can release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that can be harmful to human health and the environment. To address that impact and improve conditions for workers at the factories we have created a goal to be free of VOCs and other toxic chemicals in footwear assembly. We're making significant year-over-year progress in increasing the percentage of water-based adhesives and we continue to work with our suppliers to test water-based primers as they become commercially available.
To minimize the impact of solvent-based inks in apparel, we require our suppliers to use a bluesign-approved printer wherever possible. Doing this safeguards the health of the employees at the facility by ensuring that priority hazardous chemicals are measured and managed through an appropriate abatement system.
Product Packaging: Our Shoebox
Since 2008, we've committed to providing industry-leading packaging while simultaneously reducing its environmental impact. Through a focus on dematerialization and maximum utilization of recycled and recyclable materials, we're making strides towards a box that's better for the environment. In 2012, we set a materials weight reduction goal to further focus our efforts. We're making great progress towards this target and we're continually challenging our supply base to play an active role in continuing to find solutions to progress.
Higg Index: Product Sustainability Assessment Tool
The Product Design and Development Module (DDM), is one of the Higg Index suite of tools developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC). Grounded in science, the DDM will help our product teams to clearly understand the impact of their decisions on overall product sustainability, and provide directional guidance on opportunities to improve, driving overall more sustainable design choices. The tool will bring our key product sustainability focus areas into one score, helping us to benchmark against our industry peers to better understand how high we can aim in improving our key product sustainability metrics and strategies. Once the tool launches in 2016, we expect the DDM to form the foundation of our product sustainability program.