Ethiopia may not be on everyone’s radar as a major manufacturing center and SoleRebels may not be every Fashionista’s shoe brand, but these sustainable shoes are now available in Silicon Valley, Barcelona, Singapore, Hamburg and all over Taiwan. How did this happen? And who knew that Ethiopia is a center of innovation?

Company founder, Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, had a vision that her home country, Ethiopia could create shoes that could benefit the local economy and avoid exploitation of the environment and workers. Each shoe is created by the hands of a locally-trained artisan. The shoe’s carbon footprint is virtually nil thanks to the use of recycled car and truck tires used for the soles and handspun materials made from locally grown hemp and koba. In a marriage of tradition and innovation, Alemu has figured out how to scale a handmade product with global distribution. Weavers have developed new thread and weaving techniques to create breathable and absorbent components. Customers can even design their own shoes that are made by the artisans in Ethiopia.

What are the key sustainability takeaways here? Locally trained workers, use of locally grown and recycled materials provide stability and growth for local economies. SoleRebels provides a sustainability model that can be applied globally and happily, there is global demand for these kinds of goods.

We enable change leadership. Sustainability is an area where we see leaders grappling with starting and/or sustaining efforts. Get in touch if your company needs a journey partner to help you connect the dots.

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