Following organic processes in nature, the “cradle to cradle” concept sees the waste of a given process as raw material for another. According to this concept, products must be designed in such a way that, in the end of their service life, they can be reused without loss of quality (as technical nutrients) or returned to the environment as biological nutrients and safely decomposed. The main issues, however, are how to move away from the traditional linear system of production (“cradle to grave”) into a cyclic “cradle to cradle” concept, and the identification of parameters that should be considered during the design process in order to achieve real sustainable characteristics through sustainable design and development. The paper provides a review of research and data collection associated with the footwear industry, whose products satisfy a basic human need and are ubiquitous worldwide. After going through a dramatic change in its business model over the last few decades with the advent of outsourcing, today this industry has large economic and environmental impact, highly centralized manufacturing and a complex supply chain, in addition to early but notable efforts on green product development — characteristics that make it a compelling industry to study.

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