Sustainability in the sneakers industry

Alves, Mário Aquino
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Sustainability is a trendy concept. It is used and abused daily by many companies regardless of the industry. However, in the face of rising climate change issues and growing consumer awareness, sustainability has become more than a marketing strategy. It is crucial for the sake of the planet and the people living on it. As a result, it is necessary to comprehend the concept and its implications. The multi-billion dollars industry that is fashion is known for its highly detrimental business model. Unsustainable practices are characteristics of the sector: volumes over quality, overexploitation of natural resources, environmental pollution, unethical labor practices that go against human rights and basic human decency, etc. The increasingly popular sneakers industry is no exception. Lead by business giants such as Nike, Adidas, or Puma, it is the fastest-growing segment of the footwear industry. Today, everyone wears sneakers, men, women, children, etc. In recent years, many questionable practices have been revealed, sparking global scandals and outrage among consumers. And, at the same time, tarnishing the reputation of these historically strong brands. This paper aims at assessing the environmental and social impact of the industry while analyzing the implementation of sustainability. The main objective was to understand the possibility of having a sustainable sneakers industry and to develop a framework of best practices for managers. The link between competitive advantage and sustainability is at the center of this study. The paper also tackles the concept of brand equity as a strength to establish new industry standards. Relying on literature as a conceptual background and on a comparative case study between three brands, the study showed that despite various initiatives from the market leaders and other actors, harmful practices remain the industry standard. Transformative and innovative business models are needed to create a truly sustainable industry.

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