When you say Birkenstock, most people think of a hippy with dirty feet and sandals. Throw in “Vegan” Birkenstock and it sounds like a tree huggers dream. Birkenstocks are actually one of the most popular shoe brands all around the world. Known for their simplicity, and comfortability, as well as their “eco-consciousness,” especially in recent years when they released a vegan line of shoes. They have a page on their website about the eco-friendly materials they use, with a description of what it is and how it’s sourced. They are great as far as waste management and recyclability, but they have little transparency when it comes to the actual manufacturing process. However, I would like for them to have a sustainability report in order to believe the extensive claims they make about their environmental initiatives. Additionally, If you're looking to buy vegan shoes for sustainability purposes, I'm not sure if Birkenstock are the best option because they are made of synthetic alternatives.
Birkenstock has many different shoe designs, but most are made of mostly recyclabale materials. Birkenstock claims that they use sustainable materials such as “cork, natural latex, jute, leather, wool felt, copper and brass.” They also claim that 98% of their adhesives are water-based and solvent-free. The only difference with the vegan line, however, is that it's lined with synthetics rather than animal products like leather. However, the synthetics of acrylic and polyamide felt fibers are unsustainable. Not only is acrylic toxic, but can take up to 200 years to decompose!
Birkenstock is a company based in Germany, which has pretty strict environmental and labor laws. Germany actually has the highest recycling rate in the world. Germany’s strict waste management control laws place the burden of responsibility upon manufacturers to properly dispose of and treat all the waste they produce. Consequently, Birkenstock recycles and reuses as much as it can. Vegan sometimes equates to sustainability when it comes to fashion, since manufacturing vegan leather can be up to a third lower than real leather, but this isn't always the case. When plastic synthetics are used, this waste ends up in landfills and can take generations to decompose, meanwhile leaching harmful toxins and chemicals.
Birkenstock is a German company that was founded in 1896, and is currently run by L Catterton, a private equity firm. Although Birkenstock seems to have a commitment to sustainability, there is little evidence that they are actually adhering to them. They have no sustainability reports, only one report on their Australian website from 2020 with a list of commitments to become more environmentally friendly, which they seem to be delivering on in the waste management sector. However, there is no transparency as far as emissions or carbon footprint.