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Latest Tearfund News
Oct 24, 2022
Tuesday, 25 October, 2022 - 11:02 Kiwi eco footwear start-up Orba - maker of the innovative "Ghost" sneaker designed to biodegrade - is continuing to fly the flag for sustainability as a damning international report calls out poor practice in the Kiwi footwear industry. Research by Tearfund singled out five major New Zealand footwear brands, ranking them with low scores for sustainability and a range of ethical practices. Orba, while not included in the research, was founded specifically to address the types of issues identified amongst major Kiwi and global footwear brands, creating a vision for a footwear industry where pollutants and unsustainability are removed and it can still provide quality products and remain profitable while promoting social benefits. Orba Sustainability Manager Gillian Boucher says globally, over 20 billion shoes are produced annually, and they all need to be disposed of eventually. "They can last from 40 to 1000 years in landfill, so our goal is to address this problem by crafting Orba shoes from natural, 94% plant-based, biodegradable materials. Alongside addressing waste and pollution, we’re also choosing materials that are highly regenerative and more sustainable to source than typical footwear materials," she says. Orba shoes are made from flax, kenaf (like hemp) and ramie (like thistle), with a bespoke, unique and specially developed bio-rubber sole made of natural rubber, rice husk ash and coconut oil. The insoles are cork, coconut husk, and natural rubber, and all threads and laces are 100% organic cotton, Gillian says. "Orba shoes are revolutionary and combine innovation, ethics and environmentalism with technical and design expertise". Orba has worked internationally to grow its brand and vision, attracting support from scientific research investment as well as the Indonesian footwear manufacturing industry, which is one of the largest in the world. "Working as a team, Orba has sourced components for shoes that meet our ethical, sustainable and biodegradable standards," says Gillian. "We believe in social equity and fair treatment across our global community. Where possible we choose third-party eco-certified materials, such as Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) or Fair Trade to ensure all processes, from farming to final production, have been measured against sustainability criteria". With the world footwear industry on notice for poor practices or a lack of plans in place for sustainability, the uphill battle is to raise awareness amongst consumers to be aware of how their products are being made, the conditions, and the treatment of the people and communities involved, Gillian says. "So far, leading players in the industry have not faced commercial or consumer pressure to improve. Orba is striving to raise the bar". Gillian says that while the Tearfund research is important in identifying the huge problem of unethical supply chains in the wider footwear industry, for Orba and other start-ups this is a very challenging problem to tackle as putting pressure on suppliers, usually located in low-cost countries without the "clout" of massive orders is extremely difficult. "We communicate with and visit the premises of several of our upstream first and second-tier suppliers, and have systems put in place to monitor and assess risks as well as goals and strategies for improvements as we grow," she says. "In the meantime, Orba strives to address the other serious issues in the industry such as pollution from the production of synthetics, plastics and petroleum-based rubbers commonly used in shoes, by selecting renewable plant-based materials and at the same time addressing the pollution at the end of life of the product". All articles and comments on Voxy.co.nz have been submitted by our community of users. Please notify us if you believe an item on this site breaches our community guidelines .
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