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Following from our article on Nike’s sustainability policies and its performance footwear, we will take on another brand which has been in the industry for even longer years: ASICS Corporation. For more information and a general introduction to ASICS, you can have a look at our ASICS company profile [Link].

In this article, we will cover ASICS sustainability initiatives with focus on its footwear department. In addition, we will highlight the products which are branded by ASICS as part of their sustainability line up.

ASICS & its Sustainability Initiatives

ASICS Planet Framework sets out the target which ASICS have for its company. By 2030, ASICS seeks to reduce its carbon emissions by 63% in Scope 1,2, and 3 compared to 2015. Some of the actions which ASICS will take includes Action 4, using 100% recycled polyester in shoes and sportswear products by 2030, and Action 5, to have activate take-back programs to reuse or recycle products and materials in 3 regions.

One notable innovation by ASICS is the Cellulose Nano Fiber (CNF) which won the Japan Open Innovation Award in 2020. The Cellulose Nano Fiber is a plant-based biomass product which is only one-fifth the weight of steel but five times stronger. The CNF was first applied in the GEL-KAYANO 25 back in 2018. ASICS integrated the CNF into its Flytefoam Lyte midsole to enhance the midsole performance, both in durability and stability. By the end of 2020, CNF has been used in more than 8.7 million pairs of shoes by ASICS.

Other notable initiatives which ASICS have taken on in 2020 includes partnership with ReAct Sustains in the Netherlands. This partnership seeks to ensure shoes which are returned and unable to be reused/re-sold will be recycled instead of going to landfill. ReAct Sustains processes confiscated goods in a sustainable and effective manner through to destruction. Another is the Give Back Box in the US where consumers can give pre-loved good conditions products via a free shipping label using ASICS boxes. Through this, the company hope to extend the lifetime of their products without it going into landfills.

ASICS is rated “A-” level on climate change for the first time in 2020 by CDP, a non-profit organisation that helps companies with their environmental impact disclosure and reporting. In addition, the ASICS has also been listed on Dow-Jones Sustainability Asia/Pacific Index for the 7th consecutive year in 2021. DJSI evaluates on the company’s sustainability on 3 factors, namely: (i) economic, (ii) environmental, and (iii) social.

In terms of performance for 2020, ASICS managed to replace 19.5% standard polyester materials with recycled polyester. This covers close to one-fifth of the company’s commitment for 2030 which is 100% recycled polyester to replace standard polyester materials in its footwear and sportswear products. Aside from the bio-mass based materials (e.g., CNF) introduced by ASICS and the use of a dyeing process which uses less water (i.e., Solution Dyeing), there was no other statistics related to the running shoes disclosed.

Performance Products – Footwear

The “Sunflower Mark” is ASICS’s badge for running shoes or products utilizing a sustainable approach. This mark is available in the Earth Day 2021 series, which includes the GEL-NIMBUS 23 and GLIDERIDE 2, utilizes lesser resources to colour the sockliner or uses recycled materials in the construction. Prior to the release of the “Earth Day Pack”, ASICS also released their “Sunrise Reborn Pack”. The Sunrise Reborn Pack, according to ASICS, is made from recycled clothing collection in Japan, an upcycling initiative. However, one peculiar point is that there is no mention of which parts are made from recycled textile nor a number which inform public about how big the impacts are.   

ASICS’s Earth Day Pack (Credit: ASICS)

Earlier in 2020, ASICS has also released their “Edo Era Tribute Pack” which includes footwear that incorporate the use of recycled polyester made from PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) bottles in the upper. In the Edo Era pack, it includes ASICS’s established models such as the GT-2000 v8, Glideride, GEL-Cumulus 22, among others from both performance and SportStyle segments.

ASICS’s Edo Era Tribute Pack (Credit: ASICS)

Certainly, ASICS’s effort is not limited to only running but also in lifestyle products and other sports (e.g., tennis). However, for the running shoes, there seems to not be any other series with a focus on sustainability beside the initiatives and series mentioned above. Running footwears are a performance tool with the primary focus on making it work for athletics. ASICS have made progress and targets in for its footwear department and making changes in its processes to reduce its environmental impact.

Limited Options & Half the Cycle

The carbon emissions from the upper materials contributes the most with the midsole coming in next, according to a MIT study in 2013.[1] ASICS’s sustainability initiatives tackle mainly the upper materials while making improvement to the durability of the midsole. These initiatives apply across ASICS’s footwear line ups, from performance running to lifestyle. However, for runners looking for running shoes with lower carbon emissions, ASICS has would have limited options.

No doubt, efforts taken by ASICS to tackle the upper’s carbon emission is indeed crucial and what the company has targeted. But, ASICS’s effort also seems to be lacking in terms of circularity or efforts to ensure their footwear do not end up in the landfill, aside from its partnership in Netherland. While some of the footwears, example the Earth Day Pack, utilize recycled materials, it begets the questions where does it go at the end of the product life? Therefore, it remains to be seen if ASICS will further push the boundaries of their innovation and capabilities to incorporate more sustainability consideration into their products.


[1] Cheah, Lynette and Duque Ciceri, Natalia and Olivetti, Elsa and Matsumura, Seiko and Forterre, Dai and Roth, Rich and Kirchain, Randolph, Manufacturing‐Focused Emissions Reductions in Footwear Production (February 20, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2034336 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2034336

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