Image: Sustainable Shoes

Portugal’s shoemakers sign pact to go green

Portugal becomes first European country to commit to making footwear industry sustainable

One hundred and twenty companies in Portugal’s footwear industry – responsible for 1,000 million euros of exports and 10,000 jobs –  have signed a “green” commitment to contribute to a carbon neutral planet.

In a ceremony in Porto chaired by the European Commissioner for the Environment, Virginijus Sinkevicius, and also attended by the Minister of Environment and Climate Action, Duarte Cordeiro, and Secretary of State for the Economy, Pedro Cilinio, the signatory companies of the ‘Portuguese Shoes Green Pact‘ committed to “work and contribute to the goals set by the United Nations and Europe of a planet with zero carbon emissions in 2050 and a reduction by half in 2030.

For Manuel Carlos, executive president of the Portuguese Association of Footwear, Components, Leather Goods and its Implements (APICCAPS), it is a “great challenge” for the sectors of the industry, “which provide employment for more than 40,000 people and export more than €2 billion to 170 markets.

Reuters news agency has covered the development, carrying a video to explain some of the many advantages of new technology which saves hundreds of tonnes, in the form of old shoes, that would otherwise go into landfill every year.

Investment projects backed by RRP (recovery and resilience plan) funding see companies creating eco-rubber from recycled materials. In Felgueiras, for example, Bolflex – one of the companies that signed the pact – uses “roaring machines” to transform clapped out footwear into shoes and boots of the future.

It gives a whole new outlook on the expression about ‘walking in someone else’s shoes’… Says the industry, it s the “starting point for the construction of a sustainable future”

“In 2022, the sector and the entire industry faced several challenges, shrouded in uncertainty, with the evolution of inflation, rising costs of raw materials, production and energy and all the uncertainty caused by Russia’s aggression to Ukraine,” Pedro Cilinio tells Lusa. Now  Portuguese businesses are showing how triumph can emerge from adversity – with the help of billions of euros of European funding, of course. 

There are nonetheless still many challenges ahead – not least the reality that ‘greening’ footwear comes with a greater end-cost to consumers. 

In other words, it will still take time for people to change their preferences, which is why European Commissioner for the Environment, Virginijus Sinkevicius, believes non-sustainable businesses should pay more for dealing with their waste. Clear legislation is needed, he stressed, to avoid greenwashing – and “those who really go that extra mile (in) innovation, ensuring their product can be recycled, repurposed, reused… (should) be incentivised“.

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