Steel Blue shows how brands can lead on CSR
Inspired by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, Steel Blue developed its own goals around the environment, climate, human rights, diversity & inclusion, and community. Four years on, the company has made great strides towards being a true leader in sustainability.
Steel Blue has raised more than $700,000 for its charity partners over the past year, as the company forges ahead with its ambitious corporate social responsibility goals.
The Western Australian-based footwear manufacturer has managed to divert 30% of its waste away from landfill towards recycling and its’ New Zealand operations now joins Australia in its’ carbon-neutral status for business operations.
Transparency and accountability on CSR
So far, $2.2 million has been raised for charity partners, including $1.8 million for Breast Cancer Care WA, which has a long relationship with the brand, and $400,000 for mental health charity Beyond Blue. The company supports numerous other charities, including the Clontarf Foundation and Swan Districts Football Club’s outreach programs.
Chief Executive Officer Peter Bell said Steel Blue developed a series of sustainability goals in late 2019, taking inspiration from the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The goals cover the environment, human rights, diversity, climate change and community and include raising $3 million for charity, sourcing leather exclusively from gold-rated suppliers, becoming carbon-neutral for its business operations, eliminating modern slavery from their supply chain, and having women make up a third of the company’s workforce.
Mr Bell said Steel Blue had introduced a range of policies to make the workplace more attractive to women, including paid parental leave, superannuation top-ups and working from home. It had already reached its diversity and inclusion goal, with 34% of the workforce now female.
Mr Bell said Steel Blue was on track to meet its other sustainability goals, including modern slavery guarantees from partners throughout its supply chain, by the target date of 2025.
“In setting those goals, we made sure they were quantifiable, so we could measure our achievements,” he said. “We released our first full corporate social responsibility report in 2022, explaining the goals and outlining the work already done.
“A year later, we’re releasing an update on the progress we’ve made since that initial report. It’s all about transparency and accountability for our commitments.
“This was never a set-and-forget project for us. These goals are a genuine commitment from Steel Blue"
“This was never a set-and-forget project for us. These goals are a genuine commitment from Steel Blue to do what society expects from us—not just to do the right thing, but to be a leader in corporate social responsibility.”
Going above and beyond to be a good corporate citizen
The company is also going well beyond the boundaries of the goals themselves. For example, while the stated environmental goal is about obtaining leather from approved environmentally responsible tanneries, it has redesigned its packaging to remove solvents and plastic, will soon have eliminated solvent-based chemicals from its production process and is investigating bio-based alternatives to the polyurethane used in its boots.
At a climate level, Mr Bell said Steel Blue was powering its main premises with renewable energy and was on track to reduce both per-pair freight and vehicle emissions by 20% by 2025.
“We want to be viewed as a responsible brand and rolling out Scope 3 Carbon Neutral certification for our business operations globally is an important part of that,” he said.
“We’re also starting the journey of completing life cycle assessment for our product. That involves a really advanced assessment, going through the entire manufacturing process. So, it’s only just the start, but it shows that we’re listening. It’s about being a business leader and acting accordingly.”
Steel Blue also won the Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility Award at the Australian Institute of Management’s Pinnacle Awards in 2021.