The Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America (FDRA) has produced a new sustainability guide to help the industry make better, faster and easier choices when it comes to a range of sustainable materials designers choose and teams source.
FDRA worked with dozens of suppliers and shoe companies over the past six months to develop the Environmentally Preferred Material (EPM) guide, with a key focus on providing needed clarity and targets–something the organization feels has been lacking and hindering efforts.
The guide focuses on providing environmentally preferred material (EPM) thresholds companies can use to benchmark current sustainability efforts against the industry average and adjust any internal material sourcing requirements above the thresholds to chose more sustainable materials as they enhance efforts.
In addition, it can provide “green north star” sustainable targets to companies already above thresholds and help align all shoe companies on the same goals to help increase impact and lower costs, as well as provide retailers with a guide so that material requirements are tailored to shoes instead of clothing or other products that do not meet the industry’s product performance levels.
“There is a lot of noise on sustainability–a lot of ‘you should’ over ‘how to’ and little real benchmarking to know where your efforts stand in the footwear industry,” Andy Polk senior vice president of the FDRA, said. “That is why this guide is so vital. It can help end the decision and strategy paralysis some shoe companies have around sustainability and get them moving in a positive direction. It is also vital to help those on their journey align efforts to ensure our industry as a whole is making more sustainable products.”
Polk said as more brands adopt and use the guide, a real return on investment will come as costs to develop more sustainable materials come down and better, more value-add, materials are used in footwear.
“This is just the start to the work we are doing to bring companies together to increase impact,” he added. “We will revise and update the guide as programs and efforts mature and more companies are able to get and use LCAs (life cycle assessments) to make even more informed decisions, and we have other tools and efforts we are working on now that will add to this great guide.”
The guide covers materials and components for footwear, including synthetic leather, leather, man-made and natural fibers, foam, biomaterials, thermoplastics, packaging and metal.
“This guide was a collaborative effort by our FDRA working group and provides needed clarity and targets to help our industry work together toward amplifying a stronger foundation for sustainable footwear development,” Dan Friedman, chief sourcing officer at Caleres, said.