As I laced up my Brooks Ghost 14 running shoes after years of relative inactivity, I felt two things: 1) relief that I was able to work out again and 2) pride that I was practicing what I preach, namely sustainability and ESG.
The Ghost is Brooks’ most well-known model, one that I fell in love with when I started running. According to their website (Carbon Neutral Ghost 14 | Brooks Running), the latest Ghost iteration is carbon neutral – something that one normally doesn’t think about when purchasing shoes, but a feature that increasingly is becoming important to consumers. When I read that the shoe was carbon neutral, I couldn’t help but see what that really meant.
What I found was inspiring and hopeful. Lest you think that this is a blog touting one shoe over another, it isn’t. Rather, I looked critically at what Brooks purports to be carbon neutral and I found that the model could serve as inspiration for others in the athletic arena.
Here are examples of three companies that appear to “get” the concepts of ESG and sustainability:
Brooks Ghost 14
The shoemaker prioritizes recyclable materials. According to Brooks, they use at least 30% of recycled material for each part of the shoe and some parts are made of 100% recycled material.
The shoemaker realizes the power of carbon offsets. Brooks does a good job of understanding the concept behind offsetting emissions. For the Ghost 14, Brooks contributes to projects that benefit the environment. The projects run the gamut from a U.S. wind farm to a project in Ghana that supports use of the Gyapa cookstove, a more sustainable way to cook food.
The shoemaker understands life cycle assessments. In addition to using a well-known carbon dioxide equivalent measure, CO2e, to figure out the quantity of emissions generated by the shoe, Brooks also used the European Commission’s approved Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) to consider lifecycle impacts (from the generation of the shoe to its ultimate end-of-life). The company didn’t need to pick this measurement, but it is certainly important to pick a well-known standard for accurate, and indeed, peer-accepted calculations.
In short: It appears that Brooks wants its customers to “Run Happy” while also running sustainably.
Horizon’s Carbon Positive Initiative
The dairy farming company looks ahead, not backward. According to Horizon’s website (Carbon Positive Milk & Dairy Farming by 2025 | Horizon Organic), the company plans to be carbon positive by 2025. This is an ambitious goal, considering the complexities of dairy farming, the various sources of emissions involved and the challenges in trying to control the practices of those who are not your direct employees (e.g. local farmers). However, Horizon seems to have it under control. By putting the goal out there for the world to see, Horizon is committing to the future, quite publicly.
The dairy farming company understands its contribution to the problem. The first step toward a successful ESG program is understanding that you have a problem. In the case of Horizon, the company seems to understand that there are emissions every step of the way, from the methane/manure produced by the cows, to the transportation of the product, the packaging used and how that packaging is disposed at end-of-life. Interestingly, Horizon contracted with an outside party to conduct its Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), which is certainly one way to go about this for an objective opinion.
In short. Horizon is setting out to prove that dairy farming can be sustainable and I hope that they succeed.
7 for all mankind’s FibreTrace®
The clothing company is using technology to track supply chain. In order to track where a fiber has been, 7 for all mankind is doing something pretty neat. The company is using a new technology to track where the fibers of a garment have been from start to finish (Sustainability | 7 For All Mankind).
The clothing company doesn’t apologize for being new to this. One can appreciate that not every company is an expert in sustainability—well, yet—and that’s okay. 7 for all mankind is in the stage of figuring things out. From their website (Sustainability Status | Sustainability Goals | 7 For All Mankind), it appears that the company is taking steps to be more “green,” both for its business processes and at its local offices.
In short. You have to start somewhere. 7 for all mankind is not the most sophisticated at ESG but it is showing that those in the fashion industry—not known for sustainability—can make a positive contribution to sustainability.
The above three examples from Brooks, Horizon and 7 for all mankind show how different business sectors are taking note of ESG. These companies are acting now to prepare for the time when something that is a “nice to have” for consumers becomes a necessity. Younger generations will expect sustainable products, not just be delighted by them. No matter what business sector you are in, there is an opportunity for ESG to shine within your operations.
I think about the Brooks’ ESG platform virtually every time I put on my Ghost 14’s. There’s a sense of pride in the fact that my shoes are sustainable and they are neutral to the problem, while others are not. But, hopefully one day, ESG will be the “norm,” so much so that my shoes will no longer be the exception.