1 FAIRNESS AND SUSTAINABILITY
1.1 Sustainable production – What exactly does that mean?
We only use natural, renewable raw materials in our products.
The organic cotton we use is certified Fairtrade and GOTS. Cultivating organic cotton avoids the use of dangerous pesticides and insecticides, and this in turn helps protect the health of the farmers and consumers alike. It also prevents the soil from becoming polluted and overused like we see in conventional cotton farming. Companion planting ensures that there are no harmful effects for people or nature. This preserves the land for the generations that will follow, a major priority for local farmers in India and Pakistan. Organic farming also rules out the use of genetically modified seeds, and requires some 90% less water than conventional farming methods.
Natural rubber like we use for our soles, toe caps and for the classic gluing process known as vulcanization is also a wonderful renewable raw material. Unlike the plastics used by many conventional sneaker manufacturers, natural rubber eventually decomposes completely. Our rubber comes from sustainably farmed plantations that undergo regular inspection for compliance with the ecological and social guidelines of the Forest Steward Council, or FSC, requiring things such as continuous reforestation. This means that a rubber tree which has been supplying latex sap for 20 years or so is replaced at the end of its useful life by a new sapling and its hard wood is then used for things like furniture manufacture, ensuring the sustainable use of the natural resources. The FSC standard also guarantees that commercial forestry is not practiced to the detriment of the local ecosystem, the communities it affects or the forest resources that it uses.
1.2 Where does the rubber for your sneakers come from?
Our rubber is certified by the Forest Steward Council (FSC). It is cultivated and harvested under fair, sustainable conditions in Sri Lanka. This sustainability seal for rubber was originally called for by the Ethletic pioneers themselves. Among the things that the FSC seal guarantees is that nature and the animal world are protected from the damage of monoculture farming and overexploitation. You can find more information on our rubber here. Incidentally, in its natural form rubber has a light-brown color similar to the soles on our Goto shoe model. The latex milk we use for gluing our shoes is white in its natural state.
1.3 What makes your sneakers “fair”?
Our entire supply and production chain complies with criteria's of a fair trading. This means that the people conducting the labor in the region known as the so-called “global south” are not exploited, but are instead paid fair and proper wages for their work. The Fairtrade minimum price for organic cotton is higher than for conventionally cultivated cotton, helping the farmers to cover the costs of sustainable production. This means they can plan in advance and invest their money, rather than having to go into debt pre-financing the purchase of overpriced genetically modified seed from large agrochemical corporations. And the Fairtrade bonuses paid out to the farmers can finance local social projects and educational facilities, two cornerstones in the fight against exploitative child labor. Fairtrade’s success demonstrates that measures supporting producer families with fairer wages and an education for their children can eliminate the need for child labor and provide lasting improvement in the living standards for entire families.
1.4 Your factory is in Pakistan – Do they “play fair” too?
Every aspect in the production of our sneakers is conducted fairly, including at our factory in Sialkot, where there are currently some 50 full-time employees. These employees also get paid even when there are no production runs. This ensures them a firm monthly income they can rely on. This is in contrast to production facilities in Pakistan and other countries which normally hire temporary workers who only earn money when they are actually working at the factory.
Our employees receive a wage some 20% higher than the legally stipulated minimum wage in Pakistan. While these earnings are not comparable with European standards, locally they provide a dignified living for people.
Additionally, the Welfare Society organized by the employees receives a bonus constituting 15% of the value of the produced goods. This money is then used for social projects such as health care, insurance, education, etc. At the moment we’re in the process of overhauling this system to make it even more transparent. Going forward, the Welfare Society will receive a voluntary donation from Ethletic of one Euro per shoe sold.
1.5 Why don’t you do your manufacturing in Europe?
Fair working conditions are not a matter of location. Either a company views and practices these values as fundamental principles like we do, or as recent press reports have shown, even in EU countries like Portugal and Romania textile and shoe manufacturing is still rife with abuses that are either tolerated or even implemented by “acclaimed” brand names. Ethletic is proud that our production is conducted in Pakistan – nothing to hide! The basis for everything we do is fairness, and we practice this principle in Pakistan just as we would in any European country. The difference that ethically run companies make in the so-called “Global South” however is far more significant. The employees there benefit in major ways from the social services and the higher wages, while other companies see that fair trade is profitable and the positive experiences shared by us and the local people help us learn to be more appreciative of each other. We treat our colleagues in Pakistan as equals, and the many visits we make to the country each year produce new contacts and friendships, giving us deep insights into the lives of the people who live there.
Another important aspect of our production is the reduction of emissions. Our raw materials – cotton and rubber – don’t grow in Europe. In our case they grow in Sri Lanka, India and recently also in Pakistan, so it would make no ecological or business sense to transport these raw materials to Europe first for further processing. Instead, we’ve actually shortened the distance between where they’re cultivated and the factory where they are processed by now having the cotton grown by a Fairtrade small farmers cooperative in the city of Muzaffargarh in Pakistan’s Multan District – only a few hundred kilometers away from the Ethletic factory! This was the first cooperative arrangement of its kind established on the initiative of Ethletic, and it now provides prospects for the future in a region where official structures are scarce. Click here for more.
1.6 Are your sneakers completely vegan?
Yes! Our sneakers are 100% vegan. We consciously reject the use of animal-based materials, and in this regard, we also pay attention to the “small print”: For instance, we don’t use beeswax for waterproofing, we don’t use wool lining or padding, and we don’t use any glues containing meat and bone meal (MBM). All of our products are therefore “Peta-approved vegan”. At Ethletic we also conduct our business in a manner that is animal-friendly and promotes wildlife conservation. FSC or Fairtrade-certified agriculture prevents living spaces from being destroyed through exploitative and monoculture farming.
1.7 “Natural Born” – Does this mean that the entire shoe is made of natural materials?
Yes, our shoes are made exclusively from natural materials, except for the metal shoelace eyelets and the shoelace end tips found on some models – but don’t worry, we’re already looking for alternatives for these small parts. Otherwise Ethletic shoes are made solely from organic cotton and natural rubber – that’s it! We use latex milk as a natural “glue” and latex foam for the padding.
1.8 Where do the metal shoelace eyelets come from?
At present the eyelets come from an Ecotex source in China. But we’re in the process of creating an even more sustainable alternative from natural materials.
1.9 Are the shoes biodegradable?
Complete biodegradability is our declared goal. We want to close up the cycle. To get there, we’re in the process of developing a deposit system in which Ethletic customers will be able to return their shoes to us with complete confidence that we will properly recycle them. Even now, the entire shoe (aside from the metal shoelace eyelets) will fully decompose; it’s simply a matter of time.
2 DELIVERY / RETURNS
2.1 Is shipping free of charge at Ethletic?
No, but we regularly run special offers over the course of the year that we publicize on Facebook and Instagram.
2.2 Where do you deliver to?
Delivery from our Online Shop is only throughout Europe at the moment. For orders from the USA and Canada we ask you to please contact our authorized retailers on site – just refer to our list of dealers. We’re in the process of expanding our shop network, and subsequently we hope we can soon announce that Ethletic sneakers are also now on the market in Australia and Asia. If there is no possibility at present for you to buy our shoes in the country where you live, just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org – We can usually find a good solution!
2.3 I want to return my shoes. How does that work?
Returns are free of charge throughout Germany. You can dowload the appropriate returns label here:
We ship from our home country of Germany, so if you are returning shoes from outside Germany then shipping costs do unfortunately apply. Sorry, but for a small company like Ethletic these costs would break our budget! In such cases please send the shoe(s) with adequate postage to our postal address:
Fair Deal Trading GmbH
DE - 23556 Lübeck
Please be sure to include the returns form, fully filled out.
We want to ask you to be as conscientious as possible when choosing shoes for your shopping cart and in the event that you return any articles. You are taking a responsible, sustainable step in regard to the Ethletic project and all the people associated with it at home and abroad. The reason we mention this is because recycling a shoe and returning it back into the system is a costly process. For instance, a new shoebox is almost always required. And every postal shipment adds to the planet’s emissions footprint. Let’s all please keep these things in mind.
2.4 I want to lodge a complaint about a pair of sneakers. What should I do next?
Our production focuses heavily on human handcrafting, so once in a rare while errors can happen. We apologize if this has happened to your shoes! We are of course always interested in improving the durability and service life of our shoes, so we ask that you please make a few photos of the defect(s) and send them to Jessica Grannemann email@example.com. ATTENTION: By all means also include the attached returns form filled out completely. Otherwise we can’t process your complaint. Please excuse us for any trouble or inconvenience this situation has caused you. We will work to resolve your complaint as quickly as possible.
3 INFORMATION ON THE PRODUCT RANGE
3.1 Are the shoes and the colorings free from toxins?
Yes, our shoes are free from toxins in compliance with EU norms. We have all of our shoe models laboratory-tested each year. Ethletic sneakers are "Reach-compliant", i.e. they correspond with the EU Reach Directive governing the presence of chemicals. In addition, the organic cotton we use is manufactured in accordance with the string guidelines of the GOTS, the Global Organic Textile Standard, which far exceeds even the legal provisions regulating toxins. It stipulates that during the manufacturing process only chemicals included on the GOTS Positive List may be used. We also pay great attention to ensuring the professional treatment of wastewater.
3.2 Do you also have children’s shoes? Weatherproof shoes? Sports shoes?
Ethletic is constantly developing further as a brand, so we’re also constantly producing new models. While we currently don’t feature any children’s shoe models, we are aware of the demand and it’s on our minds!
Our sneakers are not completely weatherproof (yet). This is primarily because we only use natural materials with no animal-based substances or ingredients. Our designer Johanna Balzer is on the case here searching for appropriate solutions. Give us a little time. In the meantime, watch this video to find out how to make your sneakers waterproof with a simple trick.
As for “genuine” sports shoes, we’ve already made a head-start! The first Ethletic retro jogging shoes are already set to hit the market in 2019.
3.3 How are the shoe sizes?
Our advice is to order your normal size. Aside from the Fair Dancer model, which tends to come in slightly undersized, all of the other models are cut to the matching size. The Fair Trainer offers a bit more space for the foot in the front of the shoe than the similar “All-Star” model from a major brand we’re all familiar with. If you vary between two sizes we advise to choose the smaller size. And all the sneakers feature a light, comfortable footbed.
3.4 Does Ethletic also offer half-sizes?
No, we only offer full shoe sizes. If you’re stuck between two sizes, you’re better off ordering the smaller size first (With the exception of the Fair Dancer – Always round the size up with this model!).
3.5 Can I wash my Ethletic sneakers?
Yes, if you do so with the appropriate care! We recommend that you wash your sneakers by hand. If you machine-wash them, definitely select a 30° C delicate wash cycle. It makes sense to remove the shoelaces before washing. Please note that Ethletic cannot offer any warranty whatsoever for any damage to the shoes resulting from washing. You can find more tips on washing in our blog entry on precisely this subject here
3.6 My favorite model or my size is sold out – When will the shoes be available for delivery again?
We fundamentally distinguish between our “Classic” and “Collection” shoe models. This means that our “Classic” sneaker models are constantly in production, and therefore are only rarely sold out in a few sizes at most before becoming available again within only a few weeks in most cases. Our approach with the “Collection” models featuring fashionable colors and patterns from the current season is different. We only have these shoes manufactured in small production runs which we hope to completely sell out without many “spare” pairs left over. Having to sell off leftover shoes at less than the manufacturing price is ultimately not very sustainable, so there is no guarantee with the “Collection” models that a particular size or color that has sold out will be produced again. On the other hand, if a model is a real hit we react immediately and place a large corresponding order in Pakistan. It takes around six weeks then for these shoes to make it to Germany. This is the price we have to pay for more sustainable “Slow Fashion”.
3.7 Why aren’t the shoes available in sizes as small as 35 and as large as 48 and bigger?
We generally offer our unisex shoe models in the European sizes 36 to 47, with size 47 having been added relatively recently in response to requests from numerous customers. But it’s not possible for us at present to add more “fringe” sizes. These sizes, already starting with 36 and 37 as well as 46 and 47, are simply not big sellers. As a small company, Ethletic just wouldn’t be able to justify the associated expense.
3.8 Can the sneaker inlays be removed?
No, sorry. Several people have asked us about this because they want to wear insoles in their shoes. Our customer feedback has revealed that many of our customers have comfortably resolved this issue by wearing the shoe with an insole one size larger than the other.
3.9 Can I shower in the Fair Flips?
While our Fair Flip is a summer shoe, it’s not really suitable for lots of water since it’s made of organic cotton. That means it’s not ideal as a shoe for the swimming pool or the sauna. It is however extremely comfortable and durable, and its easy-to-wear feel makes it your ideal shoe for hot weather.
4.1 I’m a blogger/artist/fashion design student who would like to cooperate with Ethletic – How does that work?
You can get an initial impression of our ideas about how this kind of cooperative arrangement should work here. Please write us an email with as much pertinent information as possible so we can clarify the details.