Winner of Responsible Business Education Awards

WALKING THE TALK

Awards judge Miletić says that “with projects like these, young people are getting on their feet, starting to walk the talk”.

David Even’s start-up is doing just that. Primal Soles is trying to tackle the problem of synthetic, non-recyclable shoe insoles, of which hundreds of millions of pairs are discarded each year, says Even. His Netherlands-based company makes sustainable insoles from natural cork. Primal Soles, Even’s start-up, makes recyclable insoles from natural cork.

According to Even, who studied for an MBA at SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan, his is the first 100 per cent recyclable shoe insole on the market. “We also encourage customers to send back their used product at the end of its life cycle, so that we can grind it up and turn it back into new insoles,” he says.

Primal is supplied with cork sheets by Amorim, in Portugal, the largest cork producer in the world. Amorim sources its cork from certified forests on generations-old family farms. No harm is done by harvesting bark from the Quercus suber cork oak tree, says Even. “In fact, removing the bark every nine years increases CO2 absorption while aiding the regenerative capabilities of the tree,” he says. 

The cork sheets are transferred to Primal’s manufacturers in Porto, where the insoles are designed, made and boxed before being shipped over land to a smart warehouse, Huboo, in the Netherlands. Each product is less than 3cm in height and 250g in weight, enabling Primal to send packages to customers via regular mail, further limiting CO2 emissions.

Even says studying his MBA gave him the opportunity to take time out to assess new ideas and possibilities. “Bocconi was able to provide me with the platform to think about, try and fail different business ideas,” he recalls.

One project he worked on during the programme was creating a circular business model around a Mediterranean Sea plant. “The challenge to source, use and reuse this natural material to our own benefit, that of local communities and that of the planet opened my mind to the wonders of creating a fully circular self-sustaining business model.”

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