In a world where sustainability is a driving force behind innovation, industries are reengineering their processes to leave a lighter footprint on the planet. Safety footwear, often overlooked in the sustainability conversation, has a trailblazer in Rock Fall.
The UK-based company has undertaken a mission to revolutionise the category, challenging industry norms by infusing recycled and bio-based materials into its safety footwear as well as offering accessories like bamboo socks and USDA Certified Biobased Product anti-fatigue footbeds.
Rock Fall Managing Director Richard Noon emphasised the company’s commitment to this cause during a conversation with Workplace360: “We’re reshaping safety footwear, thinking beyond the product itself and considering its entire life cycle, including disposal. From using recycled laces to regenerative outsole compositions, our safety boots and shoes champion sustainable materials.
“Numerous products carry verification from The Vegan Society and also incorporate recycled plastic bottles, recycled nylon and polyester textiles and algae-based midsoles.”
Back to the drawing board
Rock Fall’s pursuit of creating more environmentally friendly products stemmed from recognising the mismatch between footwear longevity and the materials used. While certain components endure for decades, safety boots are often replaced yearly. This realisation triggered a fundamental reevaluation.
Why employ materials designed for a century when the footwear won’t last as long? The solution lay in integrating biodegradable elements, such as algae, crafted to decompose in anaerobic environments once discarded in landfills.
This dedicated approach has propelled 90% of Rock Fall’s footwear range into the realm of environmental friendliness. The commitment also transcends product composition; it extends to the product packaging – FSC-certified, devoid of plastics or solvent-based adhesives, and printed with soy ink.
However, it’s not all plain sailing for the company. One significant hurdle revolves around remodelling its production landscape. Despite intentions to relocate manufacturing to the UK, the absence of essential vendors, like outsole rubber makers or leather tanners, poses major obstacles. Importing materials, particularly leather from Brazil, amplifies costs and carbon footprints, complicating the transition.
Yet Noon remains optimistic: “No doubt, we’re about three years away from UK manufacturing. It’s a long-term endeavour, but it’s within reach. Currently, our collaboration with DESMA in Germany, the world’s largest footwear machine manufacturer, involves viability studies and an action plan.”
In the interim, as the team navigates the purchase of a custom-built warehouse, the company remains committed to incorporating eco-friendly features. Solar power, greywater usage for toilets and dedicated outdoor spaces fostering wildlife and employee wellbeing are on the horizon for the new premises.
Looking ahead, Noon highlights the company’s future aspirations in corporate sustainability. This includes ongoing collaborations with entities such as the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and SEDEX (Supplier Ethical Data Exchange), alongside efforts toward net zero commitments via the Worldly Higg Index (Scope 1 & 2) and Positive Planet (Scope 1).
He adds: “Sustainability holds various definitions, but for me, it’s about contributing positively to the environment and the world at large. It’s also smart business. With 95% of our customer base in the industrial sector, working on the largest infrastructure projects on the European continent, environmental credentials now top the list of tender attributes. They want to know what makes us a sustainable company.”