Steve Madden’s Sustainability Plan

Steve Madden's sustainability plan, Let's Get Real, is working towards improving its environmental efforts on all scale.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Steve Madden’s sustainability plan, Let’s Get Real, is working towards improving its environmental efforts on all scale. Image: Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Steve Madden’s sustainability plan

A few weeks ago, I sat in on a presentation from Gregg Meyer, the Chief Sustainability Officer at Steve Madden. Steve Madden is an affordable mid-range luxury fashion brand. They sell shoes and fashion handbags. What is refreshing as a brand, and Mr. Meyer referenced this several times in his presentation, was that Steve Madden recognizes that they are a fast fashion brand. But that doesn’t mean they can’t work towards being more sustainable. And especially since sustainability is no longer a choice in today’s world.

At Steve Madden, they don’t want to be part of the problem but want to work towards solving the problem of making sustainability more affordable and accessible to everyone. Because, indeed, companies that make sustainability their overall goal (i.e. Stella McCartney) are typically higher priced items that only a small percentage of the population can afford. Moreover, many more sustainable materials (i.e., vegan leather) are much more expensive than animal leather, which, for a company like Steve Madden, isn’t necessarily more attractive if they want to maintain affordable prices for their customers. Steve Madden has dabbled in using bio-based materials, but it hasn’t yet become part of their entire manufacturing model.

Steve Madden’s sustainability plan, Let’s Get Real, is working towards improving its environmental efforts on all scales. Their plan falls under four pillars.  

  1. Let’s Think About You: Creating safe, diverse, and equitable opportunities for people across the company. 
  1. Let’s Make It For All: Creating fashionable products made responsibly, sustainably, and affordably.  
  1. Let’s Change the Game: Transitioning to more sustainable materials and reducing the environmental impacts on their supply chain. 
  1. Let’s Kick the Waste: Extending the life of their products and shoes and keeping them out of landfills.  

A few things that Steve Madden’s sustainability plan is exploring are reusing and recycling old uppers, bottoms, and insoles in their production of new shoes. Instead of throwing these unused parts into the landfill, they are mixed with virgin materials to create new products. The recycled materials could also come from other brands, depending on the batch and style. 

Steve Madden’s sustainability plan had also implemented a shoe recycling program whereby customers could bring back their unwanted shoes and get a coupon for Steve Madden products. The program’s overall goal would be either to have customers resell their used shoes through the Steve Madden website or the company would return the collected shoes to manufacturing, where the materials would be stripped down and reused to make new shoes.  

Mr. Meyer was extremely transparent by saying that the technology to make these two programs fully successful isn’t there yet. They are working with a third party to make the reselling program more accessible. But in terms of stripping down old shoes to make new shoes, it is still a process that needs to be developed. Because of where they are now, it’s more carbon-intensive and financially unsound to strip the materials versus making new shoes. So, to solve the problem, they need to go back and redesign how the shoe is made so that the components can be easily separated but that the shoe’s lifetime isn’t compromised.  

The biggest takeaway from this presentation about Steve Madden’s sustainability plan is that while Steve Madden is not a sustainable fashion company, it is working to improve its efforts from design to manufacturing to in-store purchasing. The company is already working on monitoring the carbon footprint from all levels, something that many companies still are not doing. Steve Madden is in an excellent position to pave the way to bring sustainability into fast fashion companies and make sustainability accessible and affordable to all.  

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