Inkkas Shoes is founded on the principles of fair trade and philanthropy - supposedly. The company website suffers from a frustrating lack of transparency. The only independently verifiable information on corporate sustainability practices that the website offers has to do with a tree planting initiative in partnership with Trees for the Future. Although many tree planting initiatives are of questionable environmental impact, Trees for the Future appears to be successfully combating food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa based on its annual impact report. Other than this, the company does not provide the neccessary information on its website for customers to easily verify its claims about sustainability. The company allegedly earned a B corp certification in 2014, but the company website makes no mention of this and no record of a certification shows up from a search on B corp’s website. The only sources that mention the certification are articles about an Inkkas kickstarter project that took place in 2015. Inkkas cancelled this project well before it met its goal, . None of their other kickstarter projects mention the certification. The company website contains no mention of a fair trade certification either. Taking the company’s claims at face value, the brown leather camping boot is a sustainable shoe. Unfortunately, customers have no way to establish whether or not they are being misled. This product would deserve a higher score if the company that made it had done more to establish its trustworthiness.
According to the company website, Inkkas shoes are made of woven textiles locally sourced from artisans in Peru. As its name would suggest, the camping boot is mostly made of leather. The leather is described only as “high quality” on the product page. It appears to be full grain based on its texture, which is rougher than top grain leather and much less porous than suede or analine leather. If this is the case, the shoe is likely to be very durable. Full grain leather is the only grain that includes the uppermost layer of hide. This makes it the thickest and most water resistant grain of leather. Cowhide is a byproduct of the meat industry, meaning the shoe is not only sustainable because it will last a long time, but also because it reduces waste. It is unclear where the leather for this shoe comes from or what tanning process Inkkas’ leather suppliers used, however. Since 95% of leather shoe uppers are chromium tanned leather, this is likely the case for Inkkas’ camping boot. The chromium tanning process can pollute water, air, and soil. This should not be an issue with properly run tanneries that comply with environmental regulations, but given that Inkkas does not provide an actual list of suppliers on the company website, there is no way to verify where the leather is coming from. The camping boots may very well be made with sustainable materials, but the company’s lack of transparency leaves it unclear whether this is entirely true.
The shoe’s upper is double stitched. This is typical of hiking shoes, as it enhances water resistance and durability. The shoe’s durable construction and the incorporation of handwoven textiles into its construction suggest that it is at least somewhat sustainable. Handweaving is a highly skilled form of labor, requires no heavy machinery, and supports indigenous communities in Peru by providing them with a source of income that does not require a daily commute or longer term relocation for work. If the Inkkas website provided a list of suppliers it would be easier to verify if Inkkas was making accurate claims about how their shoes are made. The camping appears to be durable at the very least based on available information. If it is made of strong materials by skilled labor, it should last a long time, and consumers will not need to purchase new shoes as frequently. The greater the shoe’s longevity, the more sustainably it is made.
Peruvian artisans are responsible for producing the patterned textiles in the camping boot’s upper. According to the company website, Inkkas is focused on ensuring that all workers in its supply chain earn a living wage. There is little reason to doubt that this is true of the skilled textile workers who create Inkkas’ characteristic traditional patterns. Consumers should be the most skeptical of vague claims such as Inkkas simply stating that a product or an aspect of its production is sustainable. Such a statement is easier to make than it is to disprove. When it comes to specific claims about a product, the company would risk a lawsuit if they were deliberately misleading. The specificity of claims does not guarantee their accuracy, but there is a legal incentive for companies to ensure that specific claims are true. According to the company website, the shoes are assembled in Mexican factories owned by resident locals. No child labor is used, and workers earn 2 to 5 times the average wage in Mexico. Again, a lack of transparency on the Inkkas website about who its suppliers are makes the company’s claims unnecessarily difficult to verify. If they are true, this category is the most sustainable aspect of the shoe’s production.