Tag Archives: recycled

The Best Running Shoes Come From The Ocean

Adidas Parley UltraBoost

It could get busy around here.

The polarising struggle to argue out the sustainable consumption oxymoron often misses the point. Consuming more sustainably than we have done before has to be part of the real world incremental improvement process whilst we scramble for the step-change improvements that are really needed. Yes, that may very well not be quick enough to avoid catastrophic environmental change for many of ‘us’, but we are where we are, this is what we have, pragmatism has its uses and credit to those who are trying. Many aren’t.

Last week we saw Apple throwing its marketing nous behind Earth Day, this week we see Adidas (there is no alphabetical component here) upping its sustainability commitments and profile including ‘one million pairs of shoes made from up-cycled marine plastic in 2017.’

One million. Many people have little to no idea or the vaguest concept of the scale of industrial production, but such big numbers should make you sit up. One million pairs of running shoes made from up-cycled plastic has to be progress. Say it with a Dr Evil pinky finger to your mouth, I dare you.

Every second breath we take is generated by the Oceans,” commented Cyrill Gutsch, Founder of Parley for the Oceans.

We are now into the territory beyond climate denial but not quite mainstream consumerism (i.e. purchasing dictated by sustainability criteria). Yet. Apple, adidas and many other leadership companies are exploring key themes such as the circular economy and the Sustainable Development Goals and momentum is building week after week. Expect to see many more innovative products and processes conveyor belted out as the market is tested for acceptance.

Companies like Interface and their work in a similar vein to Adidas’ partnership with Parley with Net-Works are also even possibly more worthy of praise as they were way ahead of the pack, but alas, carpet tiles have yet to become a dominant brand category in your face 24/7 in the way the usual suspect consumer brands have.

For disclosure. I adore my adidas UltraBOOST running shoes. For many, many years I had always shown a strong brand affinity for Nike (whom I even worked as a football freestyler and tester of prototype football boots in my non-linear career story) or Asics for great running shoes and avoided Adidas after a bad experience before the New York marathon. I explored a pair when setting out to train for my first ironman distance triathlon 18 months ago (and survived in surprisingly good shape), and instantly fell in love with the astonishing levels of comfort for a performance running shoe.

Worth noting is how the bigger consumer facing brands are increasingly pushing out high profile product and communications. We are past tipping points now and heading into consistent mass market positioning rather than the niche deep green audiences of not so long ago. I hate to admit it, but this could get boring as sustainability innovation today becomes the norm of tomorrow.

For the brand lovers and runners out there check out the shoes and vote with your wallets for a great product now combined with great provenance. You could also check out www.adidas.com/runfortheoceans as week of support around World Oceans Day, June 5 -11.

For the sustainability people, and activists wanting to look beyond the communications frontage, adidas also shared their latest Sustainability Report.

*Oh, and if anybody at Adidas or any of their close friends should read this, and need a UltraBOOST size 9 product tester, I’m your man!




CSR for Small Businesses – Suppliers

supply chainWelcome to the penultimate post in the CSR for smaller businesses series and thanks for your patience since the previous articles. 

Today’s post is going to look at getting more out of supply chain relationships, which in itself can almost be an oxymoron. Discussions with suppliers can tend to amount to a brief discussion on price and then either an agreement or not. Too many businesses undervalue the power of deeper relationships with the suppliers that provide the vital resources needed to enable your business to operate.

Price is ultimately the deciding factor in the majority of business purchase decisions but don’t be blinkered by hard bargaining. Opening up your decision making radar beyond just cost can deliver impressive returns in varied ways. 

Here are some of the CSR related benefits available and how to get them:


1. Keep it local

Isn’t it easier to deal with a supplier that you could easily go and talk to? Customers also  like to see their money being kept in their community, so tell them you use local suppliers. Sourcing products locally will also help lower your own carbon footprint by reducing travel miles.


2. Build relationships

Even if you don’t have a current commercial agreement always keep suppliers on good terms in case you need to go back to them. If you feel you have to leave a particular supplier explain why and give them the opportunity to improve. I’ve already underlined the focus on cost but at the end of the day people buy people. You will alwayshave more success at negotiating with somebody you have a stronger relationship with. Don’t forget the thoughtful presents or cards but try to remember other events rather than Christmas when gifts get lost in the season!


3. Question environmental credentials

How green are your suppliers? Do they have similar standards to your own? If you have an environmental management system such as ISO 14001 can you encourage your suppliers to do the same? Can you help them get it by sharing knowledge or resources. How about hosting an environmental workshop? Understanding the environmental impact of your supplies will become increasingly important as carbon footprint measurement climbs the priority ladder. Check out the recently published PAS 2050 if you want to begin to measure emissions per individual product. Larger contracts, both public and private will require environmental accreditation all the way down the supply chain.


 4. Value social engagement

As above but do you have a similar approach to the local community or engaging with staff? Can you share training resources or events, team up to support a charity or share spare resources for community benefit? Do your suppliers have Investors in People accreditation?


reduce5. Challenge packaging

Do you know what do you buy most of? Do you really need all of the packaging that comes with purchases? Can you order in bulk? Can the packaging be reused and returned with each delivery? Do a quick audit on your annual buying and look for opportunities to reduce costs by reducing or reusing packaging materials.

One company I know were buying over 500 individual identical unit items per year and transporting each nationally. Just by having an simple conversation with the supplier to put multiple units on a pallet at a time without all the previous packaging saved hours in preparation time at the warehouse, thousands of road miles (therefore fuel) and hundreds of tonnes of waste. In this great example of relationship building the buyer shared the cost savings with the supplier as an incentive.


 6. Share information

At the core of building relationships it comes down to the sharing of information or resources. Almost every business uses items such as copier paper, coffee, sugar, toner, envelopes etc. Can you join with other neighbouring businesses (or schools, churches, community groups, etc) to get a better price for supplies and reduce packaging?

Share good practice. If your business has seen benefits from gaining ISO 14001 or Investors in People, encourage your suppliers to do so as well. It can only help enhance the level of professionalism and reduce your level of risk.


7. Fairtrade and Recycled

Have you compared products or services like for like? Even in today’s challenging economic times increased customer expectations and awareness is still reinforcing the market for ethically sourced and environmentally friendly items. Have you made a cost / benefit analysis of your supplies against those that are Fairtrade, high-recycled content materials etc?



The quality and price of your source materials are paramount but always take a little extra time to compare the cost, the environmental benefits and the social opportunities before you make your final decision.


Have you ever changed supplier for green or non-price related reasons?


10 Top CSR Tips for Smaller Businesses


This is the first article in a series that will demonstrate how you can make your business better without any preaching about saving the planet or becoming a charitable saint, but please try your best if that is important to you.

One definition of Corporate Social Responsibility is:

“To balance economic, environmental and social impacts whilst maximising commercial benefits.”

It is entirely up to you where your balance point is. The key thing to remember is by considering all three aspects it can make your business more profitable and better for those who work there, your suppliers, your customers, your community and the environment.

Think of CSR as an ethos that helps you make decisions rather than a range of do-gooder initiatives and you’ve already learnt a valuable lesson.

I’ve spent years talking to smaller companies and trying to understand what will make a difference to them. Their answer is nearly always ‘What’s in it for me?’ My answer is more profit, greater longevity, integrity and a smile.

Here is a list of quick wins you can do today, at little or no cost that can have a tangible impact:


1. Take the ‘C’ word out of CSR!

The phrase Corporate Social Responsibility has been around for a while now and often confused with other terms such as sustainability, corporate citizenship, responsible business conduct, ethical business, environment, philanthropy, charitable etc. They all mean slightly different things but getting hung up on terminology is missing the point at this stage.

It is just good business practice that focuses on areas that, especially for smaller businesses, are not at the centre of your business radar. Think of this as the start of a process that will open up your vision to risks and opportunities that you can begin to manage more efficiently and gain an advantage over your competitors.

These tips apply to all small and medium sized businesses regardless of your product or service.


2. Don’t get caught up in a price war

Competing solely on price is a dangerous game and not to be played by the faint hearted. You should be aiming to win and retain custom by delivering a perception of added value. If you charge the same price your competitor why would they buy from you? Even the smallest companies have a brand. What is yours saying?


3. Check those energy bills

Many company’s bills are paid by the finance department without regularly checking the meter. I know of one company that was owed over £30,000 because the meter was being read using the wrong units! It pays to read it yourself, check your tariff and check your bills.

A green tariff would be better and they’re getting much more price competitive.standby

We all know about energy being used whilst equipment is in standby mode. Even if something doesn’t have a little red light and a formal standby mode it could still be using energy whilst plugged in.

In the UK recent figures suggested that on average businesses waste 20% of their energy. What’s 20% of your energy bill?


4. Use recycled paper

What’s in it for me? – Recycled paper today can be as good as your normal paper and at a similar price. Ok, but what’s in it for me? – You can do it without any effort, your staff will appreciate it (even if they say they’re sceptical) and any visitors will notice if they see the packets as they walk around the office. The question should really be ‘Why not do it?’

This rule is more about the thought process and you can apply it to anything you purchase. Is there a recycled option at a comparable price? Just ask.


5. Charities and Good Causes

Get a charity to work for you! This isn’t as mercenary as it may sound.

We are encouraging mutual benefit through a little relationship building. Do you have spare resources i.e. staff downtime, waste materials or media access you could trade in return for access to contacts or free PR? Support good causes but don’t just hand over a cheque.

Just about every business I know gives resources away each year with 90% reacting to random requests. I’m definitely not saying don’t give money to charities, just be smart and have a plan.


5. Flexible working

This isn’t just about letting people work from home it is about accommodating employees whenever practical to the business. Being flexible with hours, i.e. staggering starting and finish times to avoid rush hour / child minding, allowing people to work their 35 or so hours over four or six days, job sharing, etc. It’s the flexibility that both you and your staff will benefit from.

Remote working from home is a great idea where appropriate. The biggest obstacle is management overcoming the fear of not being able to look over employees shoulders to check on them. If you can’t trust your employees it doesn’t really matter where they are. It may need a change in management style but if an employee has a certain number of defined and measureable objectives to achieve it is a no brainer. In many cases productivity is seen to rise by 20 – 30% on top of energy savings (travel to work included), reduction in space requirements. You biggest problem may be stopping your staff work too much!

6. Engage with your staff

Communication with your employees has never been more important. Make them feel like they are part of the longer term solution not the shorter term problem. Newsletters, accessible management staff and transparency often reap unexpected rewards and stimulate innovation.


healthyworkpic_105110448_std7. Get training

We will emerge someday on the horizon from the current economic position. Will your staff be ready to compete at the highest level? Now is a great time to access funding and improve your employee’s qualifications whilst improving retention and productivity rates.


8. Government money

Are you fully exploiting your excellent to approach to being responsible by winning public sector contracts? Best price is not always the deciding factor in this competition. Governments are really pushing low carbon economies through their own spending power. Has your company got an environmental or community competitive edge?


9. Redundancies

If you do need to make redundancies make sure you fully understand proper procedure. As well as ensuring compliance can you look to help those being made redundant with their next career step? Working in partnership with appropriate external agencies maybe all that it takes.


10. Silver linings

With every recession come new opportunities to do business. There is a substantial ‘green’ agenda to just about every country’s economic stimulus packages. How can your business make the most of these?


Well, that’s the start of the journey. You might think ‘that’s just good management’ and you’d be right. The first lesson in CSR is its just good business practice.









Please recycle any additional CSR tips for smaller businesses in the comment box for others to share!


See you next week.