Ethletic began as a venture to bring the world’s first fairly manufactured soccer balls to the market and since then, has evolved into a sneaker company relying solely on fairtrade certified organic cotton and sustainable rubber. Ethletic fairtrade organic cotton sneakers were the first to launch to the market in 2010 – read on to learn more about the origin and inspiration behind these comfortable, everyday sneakers from founder, Marc Solterbeck.
Ethletic started out creating the first fairly manufactured soccer ball in the world. What inspired you to move forward and create the range of Ethletic fairtrade organic cotton sneakers?
At those times (we are talking about the year 2004) footballs were made mainly out of canvas fabric and natural rubber, of which commodities and supply chain were the same for canvas sneakers. So we already had certified supply chains for the raw material and just had to add fairtrade production for the canvas sneaker.
You put significant focus on Fairtrade working conditions. What motivates you to continue investing in this area?
Once Ethletic convinced the first company in Pakistan to produce footballs under fairtrade conditions, it was easy for us to convince the same company to get started with fairtrade production for sneakers.
As the first sneaker on the market to be certified with the Fairtrade seal for quality organic cotton, how does your brand continue to innovate and stay ahead in what feels like a quickly growing market?
The Ethletic philosophy is to be a pioneer for sustainability and responsibility. We want to open doors of opportunities for the mainstream and bigger potential players in the market. Our core business is not to grow. Our core business is to develop new opportunities.
Tell us more about your affiliation with the Talon Workers Welfare Society. Why does this specific charity resonate with Ethletic?
The reason for Talon Welfare Society is very simple: The Fairtrade Labeling Organisation (FLO) was made mostly for farmers of banana, coffee or cotton. But in that time (2004) we started with producing footballs and sneakers for which there was no institution from FLO to support workers in production factories (only the farmers and workers on the cotton fields). Therefore, Ethletic established the Welfare Society, who receive a benefit of $1.00 for every pair of Ethletic fairtrade organic cotton sneakers sold. This money is used for social projects for the factory workers and their family members. Regular reports from our Workers Welfare Society will follow very soon and will be published monthly!
We understand all your organic cotton dyes are GOTS-certified. Where do these dyes come from and what makes them a sustainable option?
As you know, we were not able to get a GOTS certificate for shoes because the weight of rubber is much higher than the weight of canvas for which the GOTS seal stands for. But to highlight our sustainability values, we decided that our canvas had to be dyed under GOTS-certified conditions. So our organic fabrics are dyed in GOTS-certified dying units only. To be honest, we don’t know where the inks are coming from, but we trust the dying company (we personally visited) and their GOTS certification.
What are the future plans for Ethletic?
Ethletic is developing sneakers made out of 100% organic materials which will be taken back from the customers after their lifetime and will be ecologically disposed by Ethletic. We want to start a “Cradle to Cradle-System” with Ethletic fairtrade organic cotton sneakers by 2021.