Eco & Ethics Spotlight - Birkenstock

The protection of our natural resources is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Birkenstock is a brand committed to environmentally friendly operations. For them, sustainability is not a marketing-driven fad, but rather an expression of their corporate ethos. Environmental protection has long been paramount at Birkenstock. They constantly work to improve production processes, products, packaging and logistics.

Thanks to their durability, our products are sustainable by nature. A high proportion of the natural materials that we use are from sustainable sources: cork, natural latex, jute, leather, wool felt, copper and brass are among our most important materials.

One of their most important raw materials is cork – a natural and sustainable product that boasts high elasticity, outstanding cushioning, and excellent heat and sound insulation. The cork layer is reproduced and can therefore be harvested again and again without harming the tree. The cork is obtained from the bark layer of the cork oak. At least five centimeters of thick bark is stripped from the cork oak – a process that, depending on weather conditions, can only be repeated every seven to nine years. A single tree can provide 100 to 200 kilograms of cork during its life. To ensure that the cork is hygienically clean, the bark that has been removed is cooked thoroughly in tanks. It is then cut into strips that will be used to punch the bottle corks.

Birkenstock was one of the first shoe manufacturers in the world to use water-soluble and solvent-free adhesives almost exclusively in its production processes. In recent years, they have successfully worked to considerably reduce the proportion of adhesives that contain solvents.

Natural latex serves as a primary binding agent in the production of the footbed. Like cork, natural latex is also a renewable resource. Natural latex is obtained from the resin of rubber trees. The latex milk that is emitted from the trees is collected in small buckets. This process does not occur for the first time until the trees have matured to six years old. From then on, a rubber tree will provide about 80 grams of latex each and every day for 25 years. This delicate natural material has a much better energy balance than synthetic latex, which is obtained from crude oil, and it's also free from pollutants such as solvents or CFCs. In addition, natural latex has very beneficial natural properties, such as a high elasticity-point and superior breathability.

Jute provides additional stabilization to the cork and latex core of the original Birkenstock footbed. Jute, like cork, is a renewable resource as well. The annual plant is generally grown in perpetually humid tropical regions. The bushes grow to 15 to 20 centimeters before they are harvested after about four months. Before the fibers can be spun, the plant's textile fibers are first roasted, peeled, combed and cleaned. The natural fibers are then softened. During the production of the footbeds, two layers of jute fiber braids are utilized to stabilize the top side and underside.

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