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News | January 2024

Sustainability at Steel Blue

Hobart range

Checking in with our long-term CSR targets

We’ve always been driven to make the best work boots. But we know it’s impossible to excel if you don’t look after yourself. That’s why we focus on comfort, safety and whole-body health when we design work boots – and it’s why we’re investing time, money and expertise towards long-term sustainability goals

Because we can’t excel at what we do if we haven’t looked after our community, our people, and the environment we live and work in. 

Our sustainability roadmap is always evolving

Sustainability has always been integral to our design, manufacturing, sourcing and supply chain processes. In 2019, inspired by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, we upped the ante by developing a series of sustainability goals for 2020 to 2025, focused on five key areas. 

  1. Human rights
  2. Climate
  3. Environment
  4. Diversity and inclusion
  5. Communities

We call these the “Big Five”.

We’re past the halfway point of that timeline. So, how’s our sustainability roadmap progress looking?

1. We care about Human Rights

Our goal: By 2025, we will have eliminated the risk of modern slavery from within our supply chain.

How we’re tracking: Ahead of the target with all suppliers signing our ethical sourcing policy and 16 of 19 key suppliers audited so far.

Looking beyond our operations

An estimated 49.6 million people lived under modern slavery conditions in 2021.

Eliminating coercion, servitude and forced labor from our own business isn’t enough. We have taken proactive steps to eliminate the risk of modern slavery across our supply chain.

Ethical sourcing policy 

Implemented in 2022, our ethical sourcing policy outlines considerations for working with Steel Blue, including labor and pay conditions.

Every Steel Blue supplier, from raw materials to stationary to logistics, must agree to and sign the policy. 

Conducting internal audits

Sixteen of our 19 suppliers have undergone human rights audits with encouraging early compliance levels.

An independent third party also audits our production facility against the Sedex SMETA framework, ensuring we uphold the highest standards in our operations.

2. We care about Climate

Our goal: By 2025, we will be carbon neutral as an organization.

How we’re tracking: On target, reaching the halfway point to carbon neutral certification.

Extending our carbon-neutral practices

Steel Blue’s Australian operations have been certified carbon-neutral with Climate Active since October 2021. Now we’ve ensured Steel Blue’s New Zealand operations meet Climate Active’s certification standards for net-zero emissions. 

A big highlight was earning Scope 3 carbon-neutral Climate Active certification for our Australian and New Zealand operations. This milestone is halfway toward our goal of certified net zero operations by 2025.

Our sustainability roadmap to net zero emissions

We’re making big changes to stand behind our claim of making truly sustainable boots.

  • Reviewing ordering and logistics to cut per-pair freight emissions 20% by 2025
  • Transitioning our vehicle fleet, including forklifts, to hybrid or EV to reduce vehicle emissions 20% by 2025    
  • Powering our main premises with renewable energy, including installing a 99kW solar power system at the Steel Blue headquarters in Perth
  • Engaging a partner to analyze the full impact of our supply chain through life cycle assessments.

It’s a long road to make sustainable work boots, but we believe the work is worth it.


3. We care about Environment

Our goal: By 2025, our leather will be sourced exclusively from suppliers with Leather Working Group (LWG) GOLD Rating.

How we’re tracking: Ahead of the target with 90% of leather coming from top-rated suppliers.

Why Leather Working Group gold rating matters

The Leather Working Group (LWG) is a not-for-profit organization that audits its members in the leather industry to ensure compliance with environmental standards and sustainable practices. To earn a gold rating, businesses must achieve a 75% score in seven audit areas.

Ecco Leather and Tasman Leather account for 90% of the material used to make Steel Blue work boots. Ecco has already achieved a gold rating, and Tasman is working to progress from silver to gold. 

A third tannery we source from already has a gold LWG rating.

What else we’re doing to protect the environment

  • 97.5% reduction in solvent-based chemicals used in our production process
  • Reworking our returns system to cut transport emissions and landfill waste 
  • Diverting 30% of our waste away from landfill towards recycling
  • Piloting a partnership with Save Our Soles to recycle old boots
  • Updating our packaging to be 100% recyclable and reusable

From small changes like banning disposable cups and separating our rubbish, to big steps like eliminating solvents and completely redesigning our packaging, we’re working hard to reduce our environmental impact.

4. We care about Diversity and Inclusion

Our goal: By 2025, a third of our workforce will be female.

How we’re tracking: Achieved our target in 2023, but there’s more to do

Taking big strides as an equal-opportunity employer

When we set our sights on 33% female employment in 2020, 28% of our colleagues identified as female. In 2023, that number is 34%. 

However, the number fluctuates – and we can’t deny that tradie boot manufacturing is a traditionally male-dominated industry. We can always do more.

  • Introducing a working from home policy to make life easier for parents and people who may find it hard to commute 
  • Enforcing a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination and harassment in all aspects of employment
  • Introducing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Reconciliation Action Plan in 2020
  • Supporting not-for-profits like Ngalla Maya and the Clontarf Foundation to create employment opportunities for First Nations people 
  • Rolling out a gender-neutral paid parental leave policy that includes a superannuation top-up

Steel Blue has always welcomed team members of all genders, ages, abilities, and backgrounds. We understand that diversity is not only good for business but also good for society.

Far from diverting our attention, we’re doubling down on diversity and inclusion to exceed our 2025 target.

How Steel Blue Work Boots are Different

5. We care about Communities

Our goal: By 2025, we will have provided over A$3 million in donations and support to community organisations and projects.

How we’re tracking: Ahead of target with A$2.2 million donated to a growing list of community partners.

Longstanding partnerships joined by new faces

We ticked over a significant milestone in 2023, reaching A$2.2 million in donations to charity partners. That includes charity boot sales raising A$1.8 million for Breast Cancer Care WA and A$400,000 for Beyond Blue.

Steel Blue aims to provide support where it’s needed most. 

  • Supporting the Annisa Pratama Soccer School in Jakarta, where our Indonesia team lives and works, since 2018
  • Offering discounted products to the Ngalla Maya charity
  • Entrusting WA Charity Direct with regular contributions
  • Running a ‘Community Days’ initiative for staff to help out in their community
  • Contributing over A$50,000 to bushfire relief efforts in 2020 

We’re also celebrating some big milestones in 2024:

  • 20 years as a major sponsor of Swan Districts Football Club, helping engage marginalized communities through sport
  • 5 years of supporting the Clontarf Foundation to improve education, employment and self-esteem among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and boys

In 2022, we were thrilled to welcome two new community partners, New Zealand breast cancer charity Sweet Louise and Tanzanian education program Jobortunity.

Recognition for our work in the community

Steel Blue has won two major awards for our community efforts in the past two years: the Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility Award at the AIM WA Pinnacle Awards in 2021 and West Australian Business of the Year at the RISE Business Awards in 2022.

These accolades inspire us to keep working hard for our community partners.

Looking ahead: Sustainable boots are just the beginning

We believe our efforts positively impact the environment and the communities in which we operate. While it’s great that we can stand behind our sustainable work boots, we need to remember that excellent work starts with looking after our own.

This is what keeps us accountable and energizes us to exceed our targets.

We can always aim a little higher. Because alongside the pride of accomplishment, there’s also motivation in the understanding that “job done” isn’t enough.

Read the full 2023 Sustainability Report or view a summary.

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