FDRA And Material Exchange - Its Role In Pursuing A Zero-Waste, Carbon Negative Industry Status



A sustainable business demands much lesser as compared to its huge returns in the long run. Properly planned steps to make sustainability a standard practice will ensure we treat our world right. The pandemic has aggravated and caused consumer mentality to shift and paddle towards an eco-conscious path. This has brought about changes in shopping mentality, product preference and favouritism towards organic brands. In short, humans are becoming educated about the impact of their actions on Mother Earth.


Footwear fabrication accounts for 30% of the carbon footprint that is produced worldwide, stamping the industry as a major contributor to negative environmental impacts. It alone contributes over 70 crore metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions into the atmosphere each year. A pair of shoe produces approximately 14kgs of CO2 (from seed - finished product - disposal) and with an average of 1500 crores of shoes manufactured annually, we can only calculate the magnitude of its impact on our ecosystem.


Moreover, the industry is bogged down by the scarcity of ethical green solutions thus, the sourcing and transitioning from legacy or conventional sources to more sustainable and innovative ones are the challenges to be faced head-on. They are answerable not only to consumers but also investors who are becoming eco-aware and starting to rectify their base concept of industrialization towards go green, be sustainable.


The FDRA (Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America) defines shoe sustainability as shoe design, development, manufacturing, distribution, and selling processes that minimize negative environmental impacts, conserve energy and natural resources, are safe for employees, communities and consumers, and are economically sound.



Representing over 95% of the entire footwear industry, FRDA as the industry's business and trade association and its members have the responsibility to make strides towards a negative carbon status. Accordingly, it helps monitor and manage the flow to efficiently incentivize lower carbon innovation and progress the environment demands.


FDRA had carried out a shoe sustainability benchmark survey in the consecutive years of 2019 and 2020. It was seen that the major obstacles to becoming more sustainable were:

  • Lack of thorough knowledge about the concept and the ability to execute

  • Unrecognised as a trait necessary for leadership

  • Cost

The data obtained from 120 footwear companies was studied and it was found that there was an increase in the number of companies by:

  • 5% that

  • believe sustainability is a priority.

  • have a person or team dedicated to sustainability.

  • have clear sustainability targets and goals.

  • 10% that are exploring sustainable development programs.

  • 9% that have adopted sustainability as their primary goal.

There has also been increase of:

  • 2% in tracking

  • factory energy and/or water use.

  • factory emissions/ carbon footprint.

  • 5% in tracking factory material & water waste recycling.

  • 17% in tracking of use of recycled materials.

Andy Polk, Senior Vice-President and Sustainability Expert of FDRA at an exclusive interview with Greg Dutter, Editorial Director of Footwear Plus magazine, discussed about proven ways for businesses to turn sustainable and maintain their motto. He believes in setting clear guidelines regarding what going green means for an organisation; next comes deciding attainable goals to reduce their carbon footprint while safegaurding the integrity and ethics of the company and its family; and finally working towards making those goals a reality. Andy believes that the pandemic has pushed people towards being more sustainable, more eco-concious and more responsive to their fellow communities.


Kelly Burton, the Chief Sustainability Officer at Material Exchange, states that FDRA Material Exchange works towards aiding brands source out ethical solutions to the conventional ways if the organisation chooses to revolutionise their products by making them sustainable and more to the taste of consumers and investors in the present day scenario. It helps to keep a clean, certifiable and traceable system right up to the origins.


FDRA recognises that each brand is at different stages of their material-exchange journey within the supply-chain. Hence it helps them by providing an array of certifications programmed around the world that are working on the pledges and commitments they want to lean and work towards. They are presented with the entire pool and as the brands start comprehending and refining their goals towards sustainable development, they can vibrate towards their need accordingly.


Thus, it can be seen that sustainability has slowly seeped into the very core as more number of companies are adopting clear cut goals. FDRA focuses on creating a negative carbon footprint gradually by converting the footwear scenario into a zero-waste industry.



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Image Source ~ FDRA official website

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