Leading from the Inside: Sustainability in Footwear
OrthoLite introduced our first insole in 1997 with the ethos of always doing better. We knew we were creating a higher performing and more comfortable product than the competition. By incorporating recycled rubber, we also were demonstrating that premium insoles could be produced more sustainably.
Improving our sustainability has been part of our values system since day one. After 24 years, we’re proud of where we are, and we’re motivated by how much further we can go.
This is an ongoing journey shaped by values, choices, and new technologies. As scientists and business leaders, we are relentlessly committed to discovering more effective, eco-conscious solutions. As humans, we simply believe it’s the right thing to do.
We’re out to create the best insoles in the most sustainable way for our partners, for consumers, and for the planet. To that end, sustainability and innovation go hand in hand. Throughout our entire organization, we breathe the very essence of these words. It’s full immersion in research, observation, science, and the creativity to envision and test how our company and our products can perform better on every level.
What propels us forward, in addition to making premium insole solutions, is the recognition that there is always room to do better. In the two and a half decades we’ve been on this journey, some sustainability advances have been giant leaps forward, while others have been modest steps. Results matter. To achieve results, we foster a culture that inspires our team to continually seek out, test and implement new innovations.
As the industry leader of branded, high performance, comfort footwear solutions, OrthoLite is at the forefront of the sustainability revolution in the industry. OrthoLite insoles are used in over 500 million pairs of shoes every year. We take our stewardship responsibilities seriously, in no small part because our company’s efforts have a massive impact. Our intent is not only to minimize our own environmental footprint, it is to also lead the entire footwear industry in doing the same.
A Brief History of Sustainable Products at OrthoLite
- We launched in 1997 with a clear environmental mandate. We were the first to introduce open-cell foam using recycled rubber. Every insole we have ever made contains a minimum of 5% recycled rubber. This 5% commitment prevents more than 300 metric tons of rubber waste from going to landfills each year.
- We’ve dramatically reduced the use of petroleum-based oils by using bio-oil. Our proprietary bio-oil is made from castor beans — a renewable, quick-growing, low-water plant.
- We listen. With over 350 category-leading brand partners, we’re uniquely positioned to learn what brands and consumers want in sustainable comfort and performance.
- We innovate. We have created 250 proprietary formulations…and counting.
- We provide eco-conscious options that align with our brand partners’ values, without sacrificing comfort or performance. For example:
- OrthoLite® Hybrid™ insoles achieve 20% eco-content through infusing recycled rubber and production waste into our proprietary open cell foam.
- OrthoLite® Recycled™ amps that achievement to 98% recycled content.
We take action. Our vertically-integrated operational structure means we have the capacity to test and implement technologies in-house, with efficiency and control.
- We measure. In 2019, we began implementing the Higg Index auditing process across seven key work streams that measure and improve environmental, labor and social practices in our factories. Benchmarked against the global footwear industry, we’re at the head of the pack. While we’re proud of our leadership in this realm, there’s no end in sight to continual improvement because…
- We relentlessly strive to do better. Setting a high bar for our own sustainability performance is part of our DNA. We never settle.
Beyond Product: Sustainable Operations
Our current goal is to achieve zero waste. It’s an audacious idea for any footwear component manufacturer, but we believe leadership requires bold thinking and even bolder action. Our first steps:
- In-house recycling facilities. OrthoLite has invested in the continued development of more sustainable solutions, including in-house recycling facilities, that optimize our supply chain from end to end by capturing and re-purposing all waste material. Closing the loop on post-production waste material gets us closer to our end goal of zero waste.
- On-site wastewater treatment. We process the wastewater at our manufacturing facilities around the world. Whatever “recycled” water can’t be re-used is converted into solid refuse and managed to the most stringent environmental standards.
Solar heating lowers emission and lowers use of fossil fuels. We have installed 4,320 solar panels on our facility in Vietnam. The result has been a reduction in energy consumption and less energy is purchased from local utility.
- Reusable shipping boxes. The OrthoLite® Blue Box Program provides brand partners a choice to use reusable and recyclable boxes instead of cardboard. Reducing cardboard use saves trees, decreases our overall carbon footprint, and saves hundreds of thousands of gallons of water per year.
- Daily recycling stations. We provide recycling stations for our team members to responsibly dispose of cans, glass, paper, and the like.
- Fresh air. Air quality may be measured in microns when it comes to our zero waste initiative, but it takes top billing when it comes to the health and well-being of our team members. We’ve installed advanced air purification systems at our factories to filter out airborne particles and circulate freshly purified air.
There is no end point to our sustainability mission because it’s part of who we are. [Spoiler alert: Our next big leap in sustainable innovation is just around the corner. Stay tuned.] We’ll continue to be accountable for our efforts with truth and transparency. We’ll continue to improve on our performance where we can. And we’ll continue to celebrate both the small steps and the big leaps forward. Because part of caring for people and the planet is taking time to appreciate them.
For more information and updates on OrthoLite’s sustainability initiatives, please check out the Sustainability page on our website.