An Aldo store at Westfield Century City in Los Angeles.

The Aldo Group has been preparing for a low-carbon future by using less harmful chemicals in manufacturing, reaching full traceability for core footwear materials, sourcing more sustainable materials and taking responsibility for end of life product waste. These efforts and others have led to Aldo becoming the first footwear and accessories company in the world to be certified climate neutral.

The brand, which was founded in Montreal in 1972 by Aldo Bensadounfirst measured its carbon footprint in 2013 to identify its greenhouse gas emissions and set a baseline for improvement. Since then it reduced emissions by 33 percent in its own operations with a focus on improving energy efficiency at directly owned stores and offices. The group also embarked on enterprise-wide initiatives to reduce its business travel and product transport emissions.

To offset the remainder of non-avoidable emissions, Aldo invested in renewable energy certificates and carbon credits issued by South Pole and funded in the same regions where its products are produced. The investments support wind farms and hydroelectricity projects that create jobs and clean energy, the company said.

“We wanted to buy a forest,” Bensadoun said. “We thought the forest would offset the carbon we produce and wouldn’t that be great. When we looked into it further, we realized that you don’t get credit for something that would happen naturally. We would have had to buy empty farmland and plant trees. We decided the best thing was to look at projects around the world with carbon offsets. We’ve invested in hydroelectric projects in China that are replacing coal and wind farms in Europe.”

Aldo Group has turned its headquarters into a sustainable campus with recycling and composting facilities, and recently banned plastic water bottles. “We really attacked garbage at our head office,” Bensadoun said. “We reduced the amount of garbage we send to the dump by 88 percent. We launched a huge composting program and a big recycling program and recently banned plastic bottles. Now, we use Ikea [drinking] glasses. It’s a little more civilized.”

The son of a shoe merchant and grandson of a cobbler, Bensadoun said social consciousness has always been at the brand’s core. “Our company purpose is to create a world of love, confidence and belonging,” Bensadoun said. “That’s what makes us drive to work in the morning. We do everything around inclusivity and making the best use of our resources.”

In 2017, 69 percent of the Aldo Group’s work force was female. Bensadoun said that the standard yearlong maternity leave in Canada can lead to burnout when the new mothers return to work. “We’ve been working on progressive reentry and they have a very successful first year back,” he said. “It’s getting more women to go from the director title to the vice president title.”

Bensadoun said the Aldo Group has five revenue streams, including brick-and-mortar, which accounts for less than half of total revenues; franchise agreements in 100 countries — there’s an opportunity to enter Japan, Brazil and Germany; wholesaling to department stores such as Nordstrom, and e-commerce, which is growing at a fast rate. “We secretly make shoes for a lot of other brands through Aldo Product Services and have 15 clients around the world,” he said.

In addition to the Aldo brand, the company offers Call It Spring, which in 2019 will launch a vegan collection, and is working toward becoming a completely vegan brand. “We’re working on two new brands,” Bensadoun said. “A wholesale brand will launch in the spring and a digital native e-commerce brand will bow in fall 2019.”

Bensadoun expressed dismay about President Trump’s trade policies. “The tariffs show just how out of touch Trump is with average Americans,” he said.” Wages haven’t gone up and he’s hitting them with inflation. He’s playing trade wars and politics.”

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