FROM RUNNING TO SKIING, SALOMON MAKES EVERY STRIDE COUNT
While we just wrapped up #ClimbForClimate, you might have looked at your running shoes thinking it’s time for their retirement. I don’t know what it is, but I always found that the sight of shoes in a landfill was quite dramatic. So I just tend to keep them for “that time I’m going to paint” or “what if I want to start a garden and need shoes that can get dirty”. The results? I end up with a rubbermaid of shoes like a good hoarder.
But what if you could recycle your shoes? That’s the lowdown we are diving into with Salomon and the release of the INDEX.02, the updated version of their recyclable shoes. Crafting a recyclable shoe isn’t a cakewalk. “Shoes mix various materials like leather, EVA, rubber, TPU, polyester, polyamide,” says Thibaut Poupard, Salomon’s Footwear Innovation and Sustainability Program Manager. And since separating these materials is tough, shoes often end up in a landfill or burnt.
We caught up with their Global Sustainability & Impact Director, Marie-Laure Piednoir and their Road Running Product Line Manager, Gatien Airiau for some more information on the INDEX concept and beyond.
POW Canada (POW C) - Can you tell us how the INDEX.01 came to life internally?
Gatien Airiau - Index is one of the very first projects to support our Change our Tomorrow program. The intent was to build the first ever recyclable running shoe. Due to existing patents, we had to rethink the process and the way we make a shoe, a huge industrial challenge for Salomon and its partners. Index was born. As a performance company leading in snowsports, we became obsessive about looping materials with the highest integrity in mind. This was the basis of our Index-to-ski-boots closed loop.
POWC - Other than new colors and a different look, what’s different with the latest INDEX.02?
Gatien Airiau - Our goal was to optimize the number of pieces and operations to make a shoe in order to reduce our carbon footprint. Moreover, we wanted to improve the running performance, especially when it comes to underfoot comfort. The gap is significant: our new foam, still 100% TPU, is lighter for the same volume. This is mainly due to a better mastering of the physical foaming injection process which is still new in the industry. The overall shoe weight came from 284g for Index.01 to 255g for Index.02 in size 8.5 US men.
We reworked the geometry to improve the running performances, adding some decoupling and an improved rocker for a better transition.
Finally, a lot of work has been put above the cutting line (upper part). The constraint being to have only 100% polyester parts, we developed our toolbox to improve the fit and comfort with additional padding and a reworked e-mesh.
Moreover, we reduce the shoe’s complexity in the making process, which is a key step to build a more sustainable shoe.
POWC - We love to see that Salomon goes beyond the recycling part and is closing the loop by reusing materials for ski boots. Can you elaborate on that closed loop and if you are planning on expanding this with other products.
ML - As part of our Change our Tomorrow program, we have taken very bold climate goals through our Science-Based Target of reducing 30% of our absolute emissions by 2030 from a 2019 baseline. There are several ways to bend our emission curve, by switching to low-impact materials, or encouraging our suppliers to move to clean energy. Beyond this, closing the loop is one of the untapped areas for carbon reduction, as shown by our comparative lifecycle analysis of the Index shoe - a recycled Index can save 44% of CO2 compared to a traditional running shoe.
The Index concept is built to be easy to disassemble. Both parts - the upper and the bottom unit - are separated, the TPU part is re-grinded and injected into alpine ski boots in our ski boot factory in Europe - for shoes collected in Europe only -, and the polyester is recycled through a tierce partner.
Index is a pioneer project for Salomon, and the goal is to expand it to other shoe types and other sports ranges in the coming seasons, such as our recyclable helmet concept Sustainability Stories - Episode 6: A Circular Approach to Helmet Design | Salomon. We see a huge potential using this type of construction and virtuous loops, but we must ensure it does match consumers’ needs and expectations.
Beyond the technicality of our products, one positive thing about the Index concept is that it triggered collaboration between our product departments, the footwear and the winter sports, also closing the loop within our teams!
POWC - You’ve mentioned the Change Our Tomorrow program a couple of times already. We know the INDEX is part of your that program, which aims at reducing your absolute carbon emissions by 30% by 2030 and also invests into mountain solidarity and more responsible practices. Can you tell us a bit more about this program?
ML - Our Salomon Foundation was created back in 1999 in a spirit of solidarity, to support mountain professionals who are physically disabled as a result of an accident or illness, making everyday life easier and assisting their social and professional rehabilitation, and helping bereaved families.
More recently, we launched our Salomon Sports Pledge CHANGE OUR SPORTS PLEDGE | Salomon aiming to develop more responsible practices and communities. As a leading outdoor company, we are pushing people to play in the outdoors, therefore we have a responsibility to make sure they are respectful of our playground, and that the events we sponsor are adopting responsible practices. We are lucky to have Mike Douglas as our Salomon Sports Pledge lead ambassador, connecting our community of athletes around those commitments.
*Change our Tomorrow builds on its previous Play Minded program, that was announced following the movie The Curve of Time featuring Chris Rubens and Greg Hill (two members of POW Canada Athlete Alliance).
POWC - You just announced today that you are opening your books to the industry on winter sports product life cycle assessment (LCA). What does it mean?
ML - 3 years after committing to a Science-Based Target and 1 year after its official validation, we decided to open source our knowledge on innovation and environmental impact measurement in an effort to establish a reference for the entire snow sports industry.
LCAs are crucial to informing science-based climate action through accurate product and business redesign, but they are often long and expensive, and especially in the winter sports industry, there is no common reference for our products for now. This is why we launched a global LCA study back in 2019, mapping all our families of products, and are now sharing them with the whole industry, to save time and speed up action among our peers: See accompanying charts for LCAs on specific winter sports product ranges.
Establishing our LCAs is helping us progress toward our Science Based Target and by sharing them, we hope it can help the industry overall so that we are all skiing for generations to come.
POWC - Finally, we like to ask outdoor sport brands what would be their wildest sustainability dream or goal?
ML - Our communities are passionate about the mountains and its preservation, and on the other hand, we are all facing competition as well as common technical barriers to more sustainable product and business practices. Our ‘’wild dream’’: being able to establish together a collaborative open innovation mindset in the areas where we all benefit from in order to protect our playgrounds. 2 crucial areas for collaboration are the circularity of our mountain and ski gear, and ways to redefine our outdoors business models for circularity and to educate outdoor lovers towards closing the loop.
The commitment that goes above and beyond
This illustrates why Salomon remains a longstanding partner, in sync with our mission. They have been supporting POW globally for years - rallying behind our programs, fundraising, event hosting and even joining us at Parliament.
Caitlin Foisy, Salomon’s Community Marketing & Events Lead joined us last spring to support our voice on behalf of the brand’s team regarding sustainable transportation in Canada. Her commitment, and Salomon’s, didn’t stop there as she also had a follow up meeting with her local deputy to keep the conversation rolling.
As previously mentioned above, Salomon’s partnership extends to supporting our fundraising initiatives. To complement this editorial, they’ve pledged to match members' donations helping us reach new heights for this Fall! They are aiming for sustained impact, just like they’ve been doing and want to find long-lasting donors by encouraging monthly donations to POW Canada!
Until September 14th, our goal is to recruit 60 new monthly donors, setting us up for an impactful Fall-Winter season! For each new monthly donor giving $20 or more, Salomon will contribute $250 to POW Canada! With everything that is happening in Canada and in the world, there’s never been a better time to donate to POW. Your support will supercharge our efforts to achieve regional and national initiatives to educate, inspire and advocate for the outdoor community in the Fall of 2023 and beyond.