Why are people drawn to run in the mountains? The answer to that question is surely unique to everyone who has pulled on a pair of running shoes, packed the essentials and headed out into the wild, steep places. But amongst the myriad reasons, being in nature is almost always amongst them.

Floating along a cool, shaded trail as it follows the contours of a mountain, breathlessly driving the knees whilst scrambling up a seemingly impossible slope or careening down a mountainside as loose stones skip and bounce around our feet are all experiences we carry with us for ages. Sometimes forever.

Of course, trail experiences are enhanced – perhaps they are only possible – in a pristine environment. And it is because of its deep respect for the environment that On has committed itself to reducing its impact on the planet.

It is the deep commitment that On has to sustainability that the brand has embarked on a number of environmental projects. The team at On knows that not all their plans will come to fruition. At the same time, they are dedicated to the pursuit of finding solutions.

One of the key elements of sustainability is recycling and reusing materials. And it’s for that reason that On has partnered with Carbios, a French company pioneering the development of ways to deal with plastic and textile polymers at the end of the lives of the products that include them. In short, Carbios comes up with ways to stop plastics ending up in the environment.

The relationship between Carbios and On is part of a project to develop new bio-recycling technology for textiles that involves three other brands in the sports and outdoors space. When it comes to protecting the planet, it is clear that brands need to work together and this is a great example of that in action.

Adrianne Gilbride, Senior Sustainability Manager at On AG, announced the programme with Carbios saying: “On is committed to becoming fully circular before the end of the decade. Our partnership with Carbios and the other consortium members is an important step towards enabling the industry to game-changing circular technologies at scale. Fiber-to-fiber recycling is a key building block in closing the loop within the textile and footwear industry.” At the same time as recycling materials so their life is extended and they are used over and over again. On is also looking into developing entirely new materials that will appear throughout the product range and that perform as well as anything else available that is not as good for the planet.

This is where On’s CleanCloud™ initiative is making exciting in-roads. The idea is simple – capture carbon already in the atmosphere and turn it into a material that can be used to build shoes, which are then recyclable themselves. 

To achieve this dream, On is partnering with two expert companies: LanzaTech and Borealis. LanzaTech uses cutting-edge genetic engineering, state-of-the-art artificial intelligence and innovations in mechanical and chemical engineering to produce chemicals in a process that soaks up carbon rather than emits it. Borealis then takes the raw materials created by LanzaTech and turns it into high-performance, easy-to-process EVA foam for CleanCloud™ that On can use in the production of its product ranges.

Why does all this matter so much? According to the On founding partners – Caspar, David, Olivier, Marc and Martin – there are key challenges that the business, as well as humanity, face. In a recent statement, the founding partners outlined their approach to sustainability: “When it comes to reducing our environmental footprint and staying within the planetary boundaries, we are focused on three main objectives,” the team says. “First, we are rethinking how we design and create all On products. Over the last two years, we have systematically redesigned many of our key franchises, like the Cloud and the Cloudswift, as well as our entire apparel range.

“We envision a future where every On product is fossil-free and is returned to us so that the materials can be reused, recycled or repurposed,” the team explains. “Our second objective is to find (and in some cases even invent) new technologies or concepts to achieve this vision, and apply them at scale. Our third objective is transparency and education. We recognize that many people and organizations are on the same journey towards a positive social and environmental impact, and we want to share our learnings (and struggles) as openly as possible to help others.

As well as building a sustainable business in every respect, since its inception, On has been focused on the needs of the athlete. And that extends to the environment that the athletes want to compete – and live – in. One runner with a particular interest in minimizing his impact on the planet is Xavier Thévenard.

Xavier lives in the mountains, which is naturally where he also expresses his love of running. Being in a fragile ecosystem so much of the time, Xavier understands keenly the importance of protecting the environment as much as we possibly can. The main reason for wanting to collaborate with a brand with sustainability at its heart, is that Xavier wants to protect the wild places where he has so many wonderful experiences, for future generations.

On is a brand born from a passion for running. And everyone associated with the brand understands that in order for runners to be the best they can be, this requires an inspiring and safe environment.

That is why On is investing so heavily in developing technology and working with pioneers who share the same goals, one of which is to make sure that when we run, we are doing as much good as possible – and as little damage as possible. And On is developing technology for the good of everyone, working to ensure that what they develop can be adopted by the sports industry as a whole.

With the commitment that On has made, runners can enjoy the mountains – and in fact everywhere they run – knowing that the brand is doing as much as it can to protect the places where we love to put one foot in front of another.

Discover more about On and its commitment to sustainability at www.on-running.com


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