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Reebok Earns PETA’s Praise With Release of Vegan Sneakers

Reebok has joined The North Face and Piñatex as winners of PETA’s Innovator for Animals Award thanks to the release of its new “Cotton + Corn” sneaker.

Reebok’s “NPC UK Cotton and Corn” sneakers are unisex and come in a single colorway—all natural. The knitted uppers, made entirely of organic cotton, are attached to a “bio-based” sole the brand says is derived from corn products. The sneaker is so organic that, according to Reebok, it is technically 75 percent USDA certified.

“We like to say, we are ‘growing shoes’ here at Reebok,” Bill McInnis, head of Reebok Future said, according to PETA’s website. “Ultimately, our goal is to create a broad selection of bio-based footwear that can be composted after use. We’ll then use that compost as part of the soil to grow the materials for the next range of shoes. We want to take the entire cycle into account; to go from dust to dust.”

PETA said it became involved when it found that Reebok would be unveiling its Cotton + Corn sneakers with leather tabs on the tongue and heel of the shoe, and according to PETA, its involvement had some impact. As it is, Reebok’s new sneaker is free of all leather and even polyurethane, which requires some harmful chemicals to produce.

“Reebok is at the forefront of a vegan revolution using high-tech materials that are kind to the Earth and all its inhabitants,” PETA president Ingrid Newkirk said. “PETA is calling on retailers around the world to follow Reebok’s example and develop high-performance fabrics that spare cows terrible deaths and spare the environment toxic tanneries.”

PETA has long worked to reduce and ultimately remove the use of animal products from the apparel industry. Its new relationship with Reebok comes after a PETA documentary investigation found that the world’s largest leather producer would brand cows on the face and sometimes beat and shock the animals before processing them to create leather for apparel. The production of leather at tanneries, PETA said, is highly toxic and involves “massive amounts of carbon dioxide emissions,” which then contribute to climate change.

Reebok’s vegan sneaker comes on the heels of a new sustainable sneaker from Everlane and a sneaker from Adidas that the brand says is 100 percent recyclable.