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Teva Chases Recycled Materials to Scale Up Sustainability

Before the pandemic, Teva was moving full steam ahead toward a more sustainable future, and, crisis aside, that’s how the company has continued amid the disruption.

Earlier this year, the Deckers-owned sandal brand transitioned its signature sandal straps to 100 percent recycled plastic, and the company says this is just the beginning of its journey in material and product innovation.

“Our commitment to sustainability is for the long run,” Erika Gabrielli, Teva’s senior director of global marketing, told Sourcing Journal. “The use of recycled materials in our iconic straps and advancing sustainable practices across our business isn’t seasonal or dependent on shifts to the market.”

While the decision to change its signature straps wasn’t one Teva made lightly, due to concerns over the quality of recycled inputs, it was also one the brand knew it needed to get right in order to reduce its environmental impact over the long term. The brand worked with supply partner Unifi, using the fiber manufacturer’s Repreve yarn to develop straps that would deliver the same quality and reliability as the polyester in its original straps.

“Teva’s main priority was to ensure our quality would remain the same,” Gabrielli said. “We strive to produce durable and long-lasting footwear. It’s not uncommon for us to hear of our fans wearing the same pair of Teva sandals for 20-plus years.”

By switching to recycled raw material for its sandal straps, Teva says it will prevent upward of 9 million plastic bottles, equivalent to 172 tons of plastic, from ending up in landfills and oceans this year.

According to Gabrielli, Teva will focus on integrating innovative and sustainable materials into its products going forward.

“In addition to our recycled straps, we’re constantly seeking sustainable alternatives for key materials and using less water and waste in our packaging,” she said. “Since 2017, we’ve saved nearly 380 million gallons of water and eliminated nearly 4.6 million pounds of packaging.”

Teva also supports the Better Cotton Initiative, the world’s largest sustainable cotton program, and all leather sourced in its collections comes from tanneries certified by the Leather Working Group. The company has also worked to reduce waste, water consumption and carbon emissions from its supply chain over the past decade.

As the world continues to reel from the coronavirus pandemic, the sandal brand is aware the first part of its “Less Plastic, More Freedom” message may resonate more than the latter, with so many in lockdown and dealing with realities that feel far from freedom. But Gabrielli said Teva is thinking of new ways to connect with consumers.

“At Teva, we are fueled by the freedom of exploration,” she said. “It’s no secret our fans are adventure-hungry right now.”

However, she added, “During a time where social distancing is necessary, we can still connect and inspire each other via social channels and support safe ways to get outside…This is a great time for reflection—both on past adventures and new ones to come, and how we can be better for them.”

At a time when many in the apparel and footwear sector have taken a hit from dampened demand and closed-up retail stores, Teva garnered an increase in sales for the fourth quarter ended March 31. In its May 21 earnings report, parent company Deckers Brands said Teva’s quarterly net sales were up 12.5 percent to $59.6 million. By contrast, sister brand Sanuk saw sales in the comparable period plunge 57.8 percent, while Ugg was down 17.9 percent.

Down the road, Teva will look to new material innovations, product constructions and packaging considerations as it continues to position itself for a sustainable future, product director and sustainability lead Suzanne Moore said.

“Our Less Plastic, More Freedom initiative is only the beginning of Teva’s ongoing commitment to reducing our environmental footprint,” she added.

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