Guide Developed by the Industry
This guide was developed with feedback from suppliers and dozens of shoe companies. It provides a clear threshold or baseline of where companies should be for their shoe EPMs. The thresholds are very attainable as they are already commercially available. As companies continue their sustainable journey, they should work to push their materials above these thresholds in a short period of time. Likewise they should align their larger goals to the targets set by industry veterans so the industry improves as a whole.
Guide Produced by
The Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America is the footwear industry’s business and trade association with over 700 brands and retailers as members. FDRA has a robust and active sustainability program and working group. More than 100 shoe companies join FDRA monthly events and calls to learn best practices and discuss how companies work together to reduce environmental footprints across a range of issues from materials to production. Learn how to get involved at FDRA.org
Special Thanks to
FDRA thanks the dozens of leaders who worked on this guide - in particular, Dan Friedman, Chief Sourcing Officer, and Andee Burton, Senior Manager of Sustainability, at Caleres. Caleres developed its own guide that served as a basis for this guide. Their guidance and support made this guide a reality to help other companies and our industry. We also thank our annual partners whose financial support allow us to continue our work for the industry on a range of sustainability issues like this guide.
Apparel Standards Don't Work for Shoes:
Some shoe companies are being asked to adopt apparel sustainability standards, which are not helpful to shoe sustainability. Clothing and shoes are two totally different products due to performance, construction and material types. One cannot set EPMs for clothing and expect them to apply to a performance based product like shoes. It creates unrealistic targets that do not apply to our industry’s sustainability journey and hurts efforts.
It can be difficult to know, for a performance based product like shoes, what percents of recycled or bio-based materials or components are feasible to hit over traditional materials. LCAs are needed, but can be costly to many and that may be a barrier to actual progress. So this guide aims to help provide basic EPM thresholds to help companies make better, easier and faster choices. It also gives benchmarking so brands know if they are exceeding industry averages, or where to work harder.
Green North Stars to Align the Industry:
It is often difficult for companies to know where to set longer-term goals and targets for sustainable materials due to lack of benchmarking. To help align an industry direction towards “Green” North Stars, this guide will provide a direction to aim their arrows on specific materials. These EPM targets are already being hit by some companies, but generally are higher stretch targets companies can use to see where they should be shooting towards.
A More Sustainable Industry:
Ultimately, the hope is if shoe companies use this document to guide their efforts, and share it with their suppliers, then we will see a tide lifting up the industry towards better more sustainable materials and ultimately products. To help suppliers better transition to higher EPMs they need to hear companies sing in harmony on targets so they will know there is demand for better EPMs. Over time, if the industry aligns costs should be contained because of lack of risk to suppliers and economy of scale.
EPMs are based on the average Shoe
Everyone has a different product, price point, channel and customer. Knowing that we developed this guide for the average shoe. Some shoes will be much further advanced with EPMs than others but we felt it important to ensure we have an average to especially assist those starting their journey or those who started but still need some light shone on the trail. As the industry progresses we will work to update this with higher percents and targets.
Not a substitute for sustainable due diligence: exploring material LCAs and other sustainable aspects
Companies need to continue to understand and be wise to shoe material decisions. There are many factors in understanding if a material or component is truly more sustainable than another – for example one biomaterial may be seen as a EPM but its production could have required more water, generated more emissions or waste than a traditional material. This guide does not delve into LCAs or production issues around materials or components – this guide is a simple way to help you make better decisions now and help you push your progress upward as you start out and learn more about sustainable materials.
All Materials must be certified to comply with the guide
Materials and components listed in this guide must be certified. See more on certification organizations and standards here.
This is only on materials, not processes or chemical issues
Simplified, FDRA defines sustainability as ACTING & ENACTING BETTER – thinking consciously to make better material choices, use better processes, develop better policies and sell better shoes in order to shrink your environmental footprint more than conventional business practices. This guide only focuses on materials in order to zero into this area, simplify and solving challenges here. It does not cover processes or chemicals to reduce complexity for those starting out. Those areas are being worked on by FDRA and its members separately to be combined as a whole later. For those wishing to focus on better chemical management as part of sustainability, we refer you to FDRA's industry developed RSL for shoes here.
Not a marketing tool but an operational guide
These guides should not be considered marketing guidance - your teams must do legal due diligence on your material sustainability claims per the FTC Green Guides. This guide is intended to help operations teams – designers, development and sourcing professionals.
Benchmark Yourself – Push up your EPMs above the threshold
This guide was developed with feedback from suppliers and dozens of shoe companies. It provides a clear threshold or baseline of where companies should be for their shoe EPMs. The thresholds are very attainable, and typically do not greatly increase costs. As companies continue their sustainable journey, they should work to push their materials above these thresholds in a short period of time.
Adopt these Green North Star Targets
Companies already reaching these targets are trailblazers and they are encouragement to the rest that it can be done. There are major challenges around product types and prices across the industry – not everyone is in the same boat. However, please use these where you can in your products to help make your processes and products more sustainable. These targets are not to overwhelm but to be guide posts along the journey – do what you can when you can as you keep moving up the mountain. Baby steps are still steps forward.