The Aldo Group’s Montreal headquarters feature an olive tree in the firm’s lobby — a symbolic nod to the founder’s Mediterranean roots and perhaps also to where the footwear giant is headed next.
As part of a bold environmental mission, the firm today revealed its plan to become the first fashion footwear and accessories company to be certified carbon neutral.
“This is something we’ve been wanting to do for a while, but we had to figure out the best way to do it,” CEO David Bensadoun told FN. “We finally found a formula that’s going to work and that we can stick with for years to come. It’s a big moment in the company’s history.”
Bensadoun noted that five years ago the firm began calculating its carbon footprint and plotting ways to make improvements. Already it has drastically reduced its greenhouse gases, cutting them by 33 percent as of the end of last year. “With the Paris Agreement, the goal is to hold global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius by 2030. Forget about holding it steady; we’ve already reduced our [emissions],” said Bensadoun.
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Now the company has taken the next step to offset its remaining emissions: obtaining carbon credits by investing in wind farms in Europe and North America, and hydroelectric projects in China.
“We tried to affect the areas where we sell shoes and where we produce shoes,” said Bensadoun, adding that China offers numerous opportunities to gain carbon credits because most of its electricity comes from burning coal.
But the CEO admitted that it took some time for Aldo to find the right strategy. “When we first started working on this, we thought the solution might be to buy a forest in Canada,” he said with a laugh. “But we learned that you don’t get credit for something that would’ve happened anyway. You have to do something more active.”
Indeed, the global company has made aggressive moves.
Aldo Group has offset 100 percent of its 2017 emissions and plans to continue doing so. That includes the carbon produced directly from its headquarters and company vehicles, as well as electricity from its stores, distribution centers and other buildings. It also is taking the extra step to offset emissions from corporate travel. (In climate parlance, that covers the Scope 1 and Scope 2 standards, plus a portion of Scope 3). The firm’s efforts have been certified by sustainability advisory South Pole.
According to Bensadoun, Canada, which signed on to the Paris Agreement in 2016, has issued no requirements for footwear companies to reduce their carbon output. “In our case, it’s voluntary,” he said.
Instead, the move stems from the firm’s long history of social responsibility. In addition to its focus on sustainability, Aldo was an early supporter in the fight against AIDS and contributes to the Two Ten Footwear Foundation and efforts to combat cancer.
“We recently defined our Aldo Group purpose,” said Bensadoun, “and it is a journey to create a world of love, confidence and belonging. That’s guiding what we’re doing now. And this fits perfectly within that. We operate in 100 countries around the world, and this is a common challenge for every country. We see this as something that can unite our consumers and our partners around the world.”
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