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Adidas Made A Single Use Shoe, Cascale's Red Carpet Event & This Week In Greenwashing with Sophie Benson

Today on THE ROCK FIGHT (an outdoor podcast that aims for the head) environmental fashion journalist Sophie Benson returns to talk about what is happening on the sustainability front.

Topics today include:

  • Adidas has quietly made a single use shoe (01:57)

  • Inside the Sustainable Apparel Coalition name change (08:17)

  • This week in greenwashing: The Kardashian Comeuppance (18:10)

Be sure to buy Sophie's book by clicking here!

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Episode Transcript

Colin (00:01):

Welcome to the Rock Fight where we speak our truth, slay sacred cows, and sometimes agree to disagree. This is an outdoor podcast that aims for the head, I'm Colin True. And today we're welcoming back environmental fashion journalist Sophie Benson. Sophie is going to help talk through a few headlines to come out of the sustainability world, as well as play another edition of this week in Greenwashing. So stick around for that. But first, have you subscribed to Rock White's Newsletter News from the front Every Sunday you can get a gorgeous digital copy of news from the front where you'll find everything that happened in the RFU over the previous week, as well as a couple of goodies like our parting shot and the outdoor industry history piece that you can't get anywhere else. When you receive our digital copy, make sure to immediately put that bad Larry in a poly bag so it doesn't lose value because it will be worth a lot of money one day. To sign up. Head over to Rock Click join the mailing list. All right, let's start the show. Welcome. Alright, Sophie Benson is back on the rock fight. Welcome back Sophie. So good to see you again.

Sophie (01:01):

Hi, you too. Thanks for having me.

Colin (01:03):

We were just chatting before we hit record number one. Sounds like Spring has not quite made it to the UK yet. We're a little early.

Sophie (01:09):

No, it fool us for a couple of days. Be all Ty taking our coats off and then the back on is raining classic UK

Colin (01:16):

Now, but you also didn't get to wear that dope sweater you're wearing, which you're telling me you made yourself. I think we need to start off with Sophie's corner, Sophie's secondhand quarter, whatever we want to call it. What are we wearing today that is from the secondhand shop or homemade even?

Sophie (01:29):

Okay, so today we have a secondhand skirt, which I've had for absolutely years. A very nondescript white but then also a sweater that kind of looks like a blanket that I made myself. So yeah, we've got a good mixture today.

Colin (01:45):

We're going to have to workshop this. I just realized I introduced a visual segment to an audio medium, so if you have a good photo, we'll put it up on Instagram. Alright, so we do have a few topics to run through today. The first of which is one actually you brought to my attention and this kind of, I felt a little like, oh my God, am I not doing my job appropriately here? This is from last September and it's how sneaky old Adidas sort of brought to market a single use running shoe. If you're listening to this and also missed it, it's called the ADI zero Audio Pro Evo one great name I guess rolls off the

Sophie (02:22):


Colin (02:22):

Rolls off the tongue, right? It's a $500 marathon shoe designed only for one marathon. So I guess let's just start with when did you find out about this? Were you immediately horrified? What were your thoughts immediately when you saw this thing?

Sophie (02:36):

Well, I have to admit that I actually wasn't the one who came across it. It was my marathon running partner. So I think even that shows, unless you are really really tuned into that sector, you kind of weren't going to hear about this. So the story is that they released this last September. Initially it was just for the elites, but I think now they have released this kind of small batch of them to everyday humans I suppose. They're really, really lightweight. They're supposed to be incredible for performance, but because of all those details, they are essentially only meant to be worn for one marathon. So Adidas has pioneered the single youth shoe incredible in 2024

Colin (03:14):

And it is a small batch, like 521 of these. And I bet you maybe what half of those were probably given away, right? I would imagine. But whatever, let's just put that it's the principle that matters here the

Sophie (03:25):

Most. It is the principle.

Colin (03:26):

It does seem like they don't want that much attention to it. I mean I figure between you and I, we're pretty attuned to what's happening. You definitely more on the fashion side, me on the outdoor side, but there's a nice Venn diagram where those things overlap. Exactly. And when you pinged me, you're like, Hey, what are we going to talk about? If you heard of this single use shoe? I went on this major Google deep dive, how did I, and then I saw it was September and I'm like, what is happening here? And they did some press around it, it got some coverage, but not very broadly speaking. I don't know. It feels a little like they know what they did, but they liked it too much to not do it.

Sophie (04:02):

Yeah, I mean I do get that Adidas do have a sector of their brand, which is all about performance, which is all about getting those marginal gains for marathons. Fine, I get that. But like you said, it is the principle. And so it feels to me like our human desire to run a marathon two seconds faster than anyone else has done it before, is prioritized over environmental security in the future of humanity and and I don't think this is even just kind of focused on these 521 pairs, which although is a lot, if they're piled up, yeah's true.

(04:41)It's a good point. It's still very all choose. But even having said that, I did ask make 482 billion units per year and even if they're not all single use, a lot of them are single life, they're not being turned back into anything else. So just as a brand there is so much waste there. So I don't just want to talk about this, it just, it's just this shoe. I think that is symptomatic of just a wider wasteful business model basically. Yeah. So yes, this shoe is horrible but also so is so much of the rest of the footwear industry.

Colin (05:21):

Yeah, I also, you're absolutely right and you think about it. That's a good point. You're just so conditioned of the units, minimum units for run and 500 doesn't sound like that much relative to probably what they make of a classic samba, right? I'm sure it's minuscule dropping the bucket, but whatever. It's still 500 pairs of shoes. Really good point. I also see it as kind of a boner of a PR move here. It almost could be like you could actually effectively turn this into an environmental story that would definitely be a little, maybe greenwash you and I might kind of smell the bullshit attached to it, but you could say like, Hey, we're doing this thing and look how easy it is to make this thing and not good for the environment. I dunno there's some way you could spin this and get probably positive attention. I think I'm mostly offended by the fact that there wasn't a lot of coverage of this and it just sort of exists now.

Sophie (06:09):

Yeah, that's it. And it kind of makes me worry about, well, in the same way that the silhouette of a running shoe has really changed over the last couple of years for this really chunky soul. And so what if this becomes a norm that it's just like, okay, this is your single use marathon shoe. And I mean frankly, maybe they runners are already just wearing one per marathon, I don't know. But yeah, I just think it's potentially creeping towards something that becomes normal. And at the same time as well, how much revenue does Aidas make? I should have checked beforehand, but a huge amount. They could have pioneered a single use shoe that dissolves when you finish with it or turns something else. They have that capability and they just haven't even addressed the end of life.

Colin (06:54):

Yeah. Justin Hausman who comes on once a week, I told him about this yesterday that you and I are be speaking about this and he had not heard of it and he's a gear reviewer, he does a lot of gear reviews and immediately he's like, the only way that should exist should be if you can then plant it in a pot afterwards. Exactly.

Sophie (07:09):

Exactly. And we would be here singing their praise if that was the case. Well, a little bit, we'd always have something cynical to say, but we'd be saying a lot more good stuff than we are.

Colin (07:19):

Well, I mean we are talking about a brand that has a very robust page of sustainability initiatives on their website that just flies directly in the face of which is every brand as well, by the way. But no one else is making a single use shoe. And then I guess that's the other thing is it's ADI 480, how many styles, how many shoes did you say they make a year?

Sophie (07:41):

So in 2023 it was 482 billion units. That might include apparel, I'm not sure. But either way, I mean, come on. That's huge.

Colin (07:48):

That's huge. Those are almost like what does Shein make? Imagine they're that much different.

Sophie (07:54):

Well yeah, exactly. Sheena run thousands a day when you multiply that. I dunno, they might be outstripping them.

Colin (08:00):

Incredible. Incredible. Well anyway, I guess we'll keep an eye on this. See if it comes up again, maybe it just kind of goes away. Maybe nobody wanted to spend even the most hardcore runner probably if you just did it for your 50 sponsored runners, I don't think anyone would've bat an eye on it. Exactly. Anyway. Well the biggest news that come out since we last spoke was the demise of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition who has been renamed. Am I saying that right? Is it

Sophie (08:25):

You? Can I be the one who explains what the name is? I

Colin (08:28):

Would love that Because number one, it's a terrible name as a brand guy, I'm like, no, just bad name. But anyway, please explain what ca scale is.

Sophie (08:35):

Oh my god, I was honestly just beside myself when I heard about, it's like a school project in branding, so it's CAS scale. So Cass is SAC, sustainable Apparel Coalition backwards, and then it's scale because

Colin (08:50):

It's much worse than I thought it was going to be.

Sophie (08:51):

Oh it's so bad. And then scale because they're scaling C scale, I mean

Colin (08:58):

Models, this high school level branding.

Sophie (09:04):

I mean the consensus amongst my peers who've been chatting about this, who I won't name is yes, this is a bad name, it's bad branding and the message behind it is bad.

Colin (09:15):

I mean, this is kind of like a Saturday night live sketch when you really kind of pull it all together. So we have this bad reputation because the Higg index basically turned out to be mostly bullshit. So what do we do? You know what? You should just shut it down, do something completely different but you don't. Okay, so let's rebrand and that's going to get the stink off of us. What is this? So I guess you said were actually, you were telling me you were invited to, the big announcement

Sophie (09:42):

Was there was a red carpet event at The Shard in London, which is obviously this huge, I mean, how much does it cost to run that place? A lot. I imagine I didn't want to go, I don't live in London, I live in Manchester. The trains here are expensive. I didn't want to pay for the train to go to an event that I didn't really want to report on in the first place. But yeah, there was a big fancy red carpet event. There was merch, there was branded merch because the world needs more branded merch and it was kind of a big, just this big glitzy announcement. And I think it's also worth noting that this is the second rebranding in the fallout of the Higg index. So Higg co became worldly in 2023. Another awful name, potentially use the same branding company, I don't know. And then now the SAC has become ca scale, so everyone's like, we need to just rid ourselves of the Higg scandal. Everyone's running away from it.

Colin (10:40):

I have this kind of fantasy right now that there's some creative agency in London. It's like let's really fuck with these people. So let's just give them terrible, they'll do anything. We say, let's give them terrible names and to see if they'll, they said yes again. Oh

Sophie (10:54):

My god,

Colin (10:56):

Everything you just said is kind of horrifying and at least ADI and their single use shoe. I bet there's a marathoner out there who these things are dope, who loves them. And you could say, I get the brief, you probably shouldn't have made what was on the brief, but I get the brief. This is the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, throwing a red carpet event and then having branded merch.

Sophie (11:21):

Yeah. And yeah, I think also it is just worth talking about actually what the Sustainable Apparel Coalition slash calf scale actually is because they're one of those companies or organizations or whatever you want to call them, that I kind of look at and I think, what do you do? And I'm a journalist, I was supposed to find this stuff out and the answer seems to be not very much. Their members include Amazon, Asda, which is supermarket here in the UK owned by Walmart, Boohoo, ftic, Inditex, Levi's, Primark, all of those are dogged by human rights abuses claims that the members combined have a total revenue somewhere around 845 billion per year with that kind of money, you could clean up the industry, you could pay people living wages, all this stuff could be achieved. And yet we're 10 years in and can you really honestly tell me that there is a marked difference in this industry? It doesn't exist. And so yeah, I just have to question what are they doing? I think they exist for the reputation so that brands can put it on their website. I don't know the name's bad, but also what are they doing?

Colin (12:48):

It's so funny you brought that up because when this happened I'm like, oh, I haven't thought about these guys for a while. And I went to the website and I did some research with the Express purpose. I like what exactly did they do? Again, I remember the Higg Index supposed to be some sort of standard whatever that you manufacture by and it's supposed whatever. Even that was, seemed like it was a little unclear. It seems like intentionally it was made to be unclear and you can't really get an answer. And I think back to my time at Polar Tech and everything had to be either Blue Sign certified or Okia Tech certified. And I'm not saying that they're in the same category, but I remember just feeling like what does it matter? Who is going to say, no one has ever said to me either at retail, at a brand wherever said, Hey, is this Blue Sign certified? Did you manufacture this by the standards put forth by the Higg index? No one has said that if nothing else, in lieu of actual regulation, this just feels like, Hey, we could all make some money here guys, let us make this standard. You can say you made it by this standard, you pay us some money, it looks good for you. You know what I mean? It feels like some sort of mob boss conspiracy pyramid scheme is what it feels like.

Sophie (14:01):

Yeah, definitely. I mean taking, I'm sure I always mention them every time I come on, I'm sorry, I do have a vendetta against them, but boohoo

Colin (14:09):

In your neighborhood, that's what you're doing on your holiday. You're just walking up front with a sign

Sophie (14:15):

That actually is coming down the pipeline, but that's for another time. Yeah, so the fact that they're a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition was one of the reasons why they were kind not let off the hook, but they were sort of allowed to continue post the investigation into their big pay scandal a few years ago. It was like, well this is proof that they're trying to do better. So it, it's just all kind of shielding I think against accountability and it seems to work, which is the really frustrating thing.

Colin (14:49):

There was the other news in the last few months though, I can't remember exactly when it came out, but about h and m's partnership with Renew Cell. So and Renew Cell was, I don't remember the specifics of it. It was another kind of program that they had partnered with to help create I, there's more recycled content in their products if I'm not mistaken. And then that didn't go well. Is there any correlation between the HIG and the Newell thing in your eyes? Is that something that, I dunno, how would you kind correlate the two?

Sophie (15:17):

Yeah, I mean I guess for me it's just promises and these things that we hold up that seem to offer the bright future for the fashion or for the apparel industry in general and then they just don't come to fruition. And then we're sort of here stuck again with the same problem. So Renew Cell based in Sweden, it's a textile to textile recycling company and they create the textile and they can sell it to brands and brands can use it in their collections. They're a textile manufacturer essentially, but they're doing it in a different way. Their feedstock is textiles. Yeah, HM were kind of a big investor. They used Renew Cell as proof, again, like people do with being a member of Cascade Scale, that they're kind of doing the right thing. They're investing in November, 2023, renew Cell made zero sales for all these brands.

(16:11)Talking about how much they're investing, how much they're willing to put their money where their mouth is. For a pioneering company like Renew Cell to make zero sales in a month is terrible. And now they've gone bankrupt in the same week that Renew Cell go bankrupt. The news comes out that h and m have now established another recycling, I dunno, company, organization, whatever you want to call it called SI a, which is polyester based recycling. So forget, renew, sell. Okay, we're not really bothered about that anymore. We'll do a new one because now this is a new announcement and it makes us sound kind of really relevant and we're really good for the environment again. So yeah, it is just don't stop and start things. Stick with what you were supposed to be investing in the first place.

Colin (17:05):

This is just like fashion gaslighting, right? I mean it's like no guys, what do you mean we're not doing things for the environment. Of course we're doing things for the environment. Look, I said to you before we recorded it reminds of that line from Scott Pilgrim of like, wait, do you meet my new girlfriend? And it's like, oh, renew sells old news. Have you met this one? See, look at all the work we're doing by the way, we're joining Kale next week. Did we tell you that?

Sophie (17:28):

Yeah, exactly. Unreal. And I think as well, the fact that it's polyester really suits their fiber mix well because they're so polyester heavy and now they can just carry on using polyester, but they can say, oh, we've got 5% recycled in it or whatever it is they're going to use. So I just think this probably suits them better and potentially means that they have to make of a shift in their manufacturing or their business model. This is me purely speculating, but it just seems for a polyester heavy brand to drop your cotton slash visco style alternative and jump into polyester recycling. Of course that suits them.

Colin (18:07):

All right, well let's just move on from our gripe session I guess. But let's talk about this week in greenwashing like we did last time you were here. You are plugged into what's happening out there. We have our now recurring segment this week in greenwashing. If any brands out there who are proud of their track record of not greenwashing, they want to sponsor this segment, send an email my rock, step up a little bit here. Are you not greenwashing, we want to hear from you but alright Sophie, who are your offenders this time?

Sophie (18:33):

Okay, well this isn't necessarily new greenwashing, but it's a bit of a greenwashing comeuppance and it's a bit of proof, which I really like. So I think it was earlier this year could have been towards the end of last year. Kim Kardashian through her brand skims launched the nipple bra. And the tagline is, so no matter how cold, no matter how hot it gets, you'll always look cold. And there was this whole campaign about the climate and she's saying no, she's not a climate scientist, but everyone could play their part and the kind of payoff was they're going to donate 10% of sales to 1% for the planet. It was just the whole thing was outrageous, but I think people fell for it. They were like, okay, yeah, she's not a hero, but it's great that they're donating. However, this week remake, which is like a fair fashion organization fighting for Justice, gave skims a zero in their accountability report out of a possible 150 points.

Colin (19:34):

Oh my goodness.

Sophie (19:34):

Across categories including wages, materials, environmental justice and traceability. So just wanted to show, you can go out and greenwash all you want, but you will probably get your comeuppance and you will be exposed at some point. So I kind of love that we're really not that far on from that campaign and here we are zero points.

Colin (19:57):

This just goes back to what we were saying earlier, to put even the environmental stuff aside. If you're not paying attention to the problems the gap have had over the years to what Nike has had over the years of fair wages and working environment, how do you not vet your factories? How do you not, it's so this isn't 20, 30 years ago when there was probably people who truly didn't know what was happening. They're just like, oh, that's a good price, sign a contract and go, I've worked with these brands who know how they need to send the people in ahead of time, go see living conditions, working conditions. You need to know what the hell you're signing up for so you're screwed from the get go. Number one. And then number two on thought, well most importantly is the environmental piece as well. That's incredible. Zero out of one 50. Nice work.

Sophie (20:40):

Yeah, so just no disclosure, we dunno anything and when people aren't telling us anything there's got to be something to hide

Colin (20:47):

Back to the brief. If the brief is the nipple bra, then you're probably, probably should have stopped right

Sophie (20:54):

There. I mean I just as fair, what's wrong with real ones? Come on.

Colin (21:00):

Do you have any other ones? Any other greenwashing stories?

Sophie (21:03):

That is my greenwashing for the week. Excellent, excellent one. It was a gotcha.

Colin (21:08):

I love that. We got a gotcha. We have to do a sound effect like the Gotcha. Do you have any high notes, anything going on that we can be positive about? Any positive takeaways after all of our griping for the last 30 minutes here on the runway?

Sophie (21:24):

I do actually have some positive views. I have two things for you. So the first thing is last week I spent most of my week working on a cover story about secondhand fashion. So secondhand congratulations is going on a cover. Thank you. But I just think it's amazing that that is deemed worthy of a cover. So it's for pertinently, it's for a publication called Positive News and I had a great time just talking to people about their secondhand stories and where they buy things and why they love their clothes. And I just love that an editor was like, this is worth going on the front cover. So I think that's really positive. I think it's great that people have an appetite for that and editors are willing to stick that on the front page. So I guess from a personal point of view and a publication point of view, I think that's really positive.

(22:11)Second bit of good news is really interesting things going on in France who do tend to lead the way in terms of environmental legislation. They banned the destruction of Unsolved goods a few years ago, they know what they're doing. So currently their national assembly is debating a bill that would impose penalties on purchases from brands like Shein and Temu and Primark, which I think is great. So it just makes it more expensive to buy them and it potentially imposes a penalty on the brand for making them So proposed penalties are up to 10 euros per item or 50% of the selling price. That's by 2030. And that's huge when you're buying something that might cost like five euros and you are adding 50% onto the price, that immediately becomes much more unappealing. And there's also talk about, as well as putting a penalty on the fast fashion stuff is actually putting a bonus, I guess you might call it, on sustainable stuff. So actually making that cheaper than taking the equivalent price off of sustainable purchases. So yeah, it's really interesting. It's not gone through yet, but I think it's really encouraging and often what we've seen so far is that where France leads others follow. So yeah, I'll be following this really closely and it's just great to see that a government is actually taking this seriously.

Colin (23:30):

So refreshing.

Sophie (23:31):


Colin (23:33):

I know. Well I would say to your first bit about your cover story while you're on holiday, let's make sure next time I see you, you have a secondhand first tattoo somewhere on your body. I feel like that's your phrase full head. Yeah, right. Just everywhere you go. But yeah, I mean I think the New York Fashion Act is probably the closest thing we've had going over here in the States to something similar to that and that has not really made it through. That's one just kind of seems like it'll become a game changer because kind of like the PFAS rule here in California, if we can get some of these things through, all of a sudden just people have to change. Absolutely.

Sophie (24:07):

I'm so rooting for it.

Colin (24:09):

Yeah. Yeah. Well maybe this is just another step that needs to happen first before that can happen. This passes in France, so we'll keep an eye on that. Well I'm glad we ended on a high note. So that's great. And thank you again as always for coming on. I hope you enjoy your holiday.

Sophie (24:23):

Oh, I can't wait. Thank you.

Colin (24:25):

Well earned for sure. Alright, well that is the show for today. But before you move on to that next podcast about NFL Free Agency, be sure to click follow wherever you are listening to ensure you are subscribed to the rock fight. Then leave us a glowing review. Maybe something like, I love it when Sophie Benson joins the show. Leave that review, it points to whoever leaves out an Apple podcast. The rock fight is a production of rock Fight LLC for Sophie Benson. I'm Colin Tru. Thanks for listening. And here to take us out is our Pal Krista Makes with the rock Fight Fight song. We'll see you next time. Rock fighters. Rock fight,

Chris DeMakes (24:56):

Rock fight. Rock fight. We go into the fight where we speak our truth, slay sacred cows, and sometimes agree to disagree. We talk about human power outdoor activities. They pick bites about topics that we find interesting, black culture, music, the latest movie reviews, ideas for the This is where we speak truth. This is where we speak our truth. Rock. Welcome to the.


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