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AKU Minima: low environmental impact

By Silvia Galliani

Powered AKU

Exactly these days, at ISPO Winter 2020, Aku is presenting its new and innovative footwear with low environmental impact to the world. We are talking about the Minima model, winner of the prestigious ISPO Award Gold which awards the best outdoor lifestyle footwear for the Autumn/Winter 2020 season.

A winter model with a design inspired by traditional mountain shoes which was awarded for the important value expressed in the search for low environmental impact design solutions, confirming the leading role of the Montebelluna company on the theme of sustainability and responsible commitment.

We reached out Giulio Piccin, Aku’s product manager, to find out more about this innovative product which sets the foundations for a reference standard in responsible footwear design and production.


Hi Giulio, how was the Minima model born?

Minima was the arrival point of a study that lasted over two years.

We are the first and only outdoor industry company to have calculated and certified the degree of environmental impact of a shoe, our Bellamont Plus model, according to the EPD Environmetal Product Declaration protocol, a way to understand what are the real impacts, from the production of raw materials to the end of life of a product.

Thanks to this analysis we have identified that one of the areas of greatest impact is the leather and this has led us to focus on the type of leather that minimizes our footprint. We have selected a leather that the tannery calls Zero Impact, a metal free product that is made through an innovative tanning process as it reduces the use of water. Furthermore, it is the tannery itself that goes to the slaughterhouse to take the fresh leather, avoiding in this way that they are salted to block the degradation process. A long and complicated process that leads to a significant impact reduction.

The other fundamental aspect on which we focused was to find a system to use as little leather as possible. With Dani tannery, our partner for years, we have worked on a leather that was not only Zero Impact but that was finished not only on the upper part but also on the back. This is because a full grain leather with a defect cannot be used and is not accepted by the customers and consumers. The discarded parts were then taken up and reversed to make collars and heels. So the product was designed to dress the waste without damaging the aesthetics of the product. One way to give even more style to the product, the idea was no longer focusing on a purely aesthetic design but, within the creation processes, having a connection with responsible actions, finding a new system to take steps forward in reducing our impact.

Sustainability and responsible commitment have been much debated issues lately. Often we wonder if they are not just a trend of the moment. The work you did with Minima, on the other hand, was a long and complicated process which reveals instead how fundamental these aspects are for Aku.

It is true because we have always realized mountain shoes to provide a product not to a simple consumer but to a user who is aware of and who buys an item for its quality and durability. We are totally out of the fashion world where the main goal is to convince a consumer to change the product as quickly as possible because it becomes obsolete. We still have in our collection some products from 40 years ago and we are fortunate to be a local producer. Each of our models is designed, developed and produced by us, therefore we have a truly direct contact with the suppliers of raw materials. In the case of the Dani tannery, which supplies us with the leather, there is a partnership relationship, they too push a lot on the issues of social and environmental responsibility and with them we can also work on projects out of the ordinary.

Minima is the arrival point of an important study but also the starting one for a new reference standard in the production of responsible footwear.

That’s right, it is a constantly work in progress.

Aku’s footwear design is born with dedication to being responsible, aiming at reducing leather waste during manufacturing by re-utilizing it in various components of the product, while CO2 emissions produced during the entire Minima life cycle have been compensated for by supporting United Nations initiatives for climate neutrality (UNFCCC).

We have done, according to the United Nations, are the first two fundamental steps that each brand should take. The first thing is to calculate your environmental impact. The second is to reduce it. The third step, which must be functional to the first two, is to compensate for what we have not been able to reduce. Without this passage the first two aspects are nothing more than something made to follow a trend. Once we have reached the order quantities we will compensate the CO2 emitted and to do that we will use the United Nations platform. All this without considering the fact that the tannery itself already performs a compensation action on the leather that provides us.

Future projects? Are you planning to apply the studies done for Minima to other models as well?

It could be. It is a concept that took a long time so now that we have seen that it works we could also think of extending this process to other models. The ISPO Award Gold award is a recognition that, in addition to making us very happy, has confirmed once again that the direction taken is the right one.

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