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Brooks unveils bold plans to become net zero carbon neutral

Unveils the Ghost 14 as its first carbon-neutral running shoe

By: Brian Metzler

Earlier this week, Brooks Running Company announce the updated edition of its most popular shoe with the profound news by declaring the Ghost 14 will be its first carbon-neutral product. It’s the first widely-available carbon-neutral shoe in the industry.

Starting with that shoe, which became available on July 1, the brand is following a science-backed approach that will take responsibility for the impact it has the environment, ultimately leading the brand down a path to have net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

Brooks, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, will purchase high-quality carbon offsets to account for the residual emissions. In addition to reducing the product’s environmental impact by incorporating more recycled materials, Brooks will purchase carbon offsets from projects that meet strict criteria for making a meaningful difference in addressing climate change.

In what it is calling its “2030 planet strategy,” Brooks said it will achieve its target of net zero carbon emissions by first reducing emissions using targets already validated by the United Nations Global Compact-aligned Science Based Targets initiative, which supports companies with science-based target setting and developing a clear path toward decarbonization. Key strategies will include switching textile yarns to low-impact dyeing processes, converting factories to renewable electricity and reducing its use of non-renewable resources by sourcing materials with recycled content.

“We believe that the run can change everything: your day, your life and even the world. But to make those benefits available to all, we need to participate on a global scale,” said David Kemp, the brand’s senior manager of corporate responsibility. “We’ve charted our program to support United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and joined The Climate Pledge, because partnerships will be critical to achieving our ambitious goals.”

In 2022, Brooks plans to launch a take-back program, which it believes will “lay the groundwork for a fully circular shoe in the years to come.” By 2023, it expects to move to 100 percent recycled polyester in footwear and new apparel materials.

The brand said it is also taking steps to reduce the waste associated with manufacturing, with the goal of sending zero footwear manufacturing waste to the landfill, incinerator or environment by 2025.

The Seattle running brand’s announcement comes amid several other net zero proclamations. In June, both Ralph Lauren and Burberry unveiled plans to achieve net zero by 2040. FedEx set its 2040 net zero target in March. Last fall, the British Retail Consortium released a plan—developed by companies like Amazon, TJX Europe and Ikea and supported by 63 in total—to take the UK retail industry to net zero by that same year, according to an article in Sourcing Journal.

The average running shoe generates approximately 13.6 kilograms (or roughly 30 pounds) of carbon dioxide emissions (CO2e), according to a 2013 MIT study.

Last year, Adidas and Allbirds announced a partnership focused on a sustainable future for performance footwear and in May those brands unveiled the first product from the collaboration: the FUTURECRAFT.FOOTPRINT, a running shoe with a carbon footprint of less than 3kg of CO2e per pair from a development process that resulted in 63 percent less emissions compared to that of the Adidas Adizero RC3 model. The new FUTURECRAFT.FOOTPRINT shoe, which features a new upper material made with 70 percent recycled polyester and 30 percent natural wood-pulp Tencel, has only been made available on a limited basis through the Adidas Creators Club. A secondary release of 10,000 pairs is expected later this year.

The Brooks Ghost 13, which has been in the market for a year, has been selling a record levels, Brooks CEO Jim Weber told CNBC this week, stronger than the brand’s overall top line. He believes the new carbon-neutral messaging will lead to even more success for the Ghost 14.

“This is the first high-volume, carbon neutral running shoe in the marketplace, so we’re pretty excited about that,” Weber said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “It’s selling stronger than our overall business top line, but with this attribute of carbon neutral, I think it’s going to engender trust from a lot of runners that maybe haven’t looked at us before.”

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