In this series with Testex, Wittner founder Debra Wittner reveals how her retail empire is embracing sustainability.
What is the sustainability journey for Wittner?
With the product journey, we are joining the Leather Working Group.
This means most of our leather suppliers are working according to a standard of pollution reduction, energy saving and sustainable water treatment.
We are also looking for next spring/summer at material made from recyclable bottles.
How important is fabrication to the business?
Wittner’s investment in quality materials, componentry and craftsmanship, means shoes will last and become more beautiful and comfortable with every wear.
We also aim to give the best education around leather and how to care for shoes in order to extend their lifespan and minimise waste.
This level of knowledge, skill and understanding around leather and footwear construction is central to our ability to achieve our sustainability goals through waste reduction and re-use.
Our partnership with the Salvation Army also means that we can actively assist customers to donate previously loved shoes and give them a new lease of life when the time comes.
What about other areas of the business?
Our commitment to the environment reaches beyond the realm of manufacturing and production.
Being sustainable means we must cultivate a work environment and brand ethos centred on good environmental practices.
We have taken steps towards this by moving our learning resources away from printing and paper to an online format - and by creating an online forum for our teams to share their ideas and feedback about sustainable initiatives for the future.
We believe in the power of unity and teamwork and we acknowledge the significance of our role in the fair treatment of workers.
The path to a more sustainable future is a long one but it’s a journey we’re excited to take.
We acknowledge that as this journey progresses, new and better environmental practices will be discovered and we promise to keep innovating and evolving to make sure that our customers can always shop Wittner shoes with confidence.
Customers can access our journey by visiting the sustainability section on our website.
What's been the biggest recent sustainability initiative?
Our journey is focused on two initiatives areas at this time to make the greatest impact– packaging and product development.
In the packaging, we are banning and phasing all plastics. Now in our new Eco-Shoebox, there is no plastic stuffing and this has been replaced with recyclable cardboard and paper.
We have launched Eco-Paper carry bags in store. The materials, mirroring our Eco-Shoebox, is made from 100% recycled pulp and is itself reusable and recyclable.
We started researching an Eco-Shoebox about one year ago, and we needed to consider supplier selection and compliance, durability, quality and consistency for our design.
It took six months to find a supplier that met our (high) sustainability standards.
We sampled many prototypes from different resources in order to select the most suitable manufacturer. We made 12 prototypes before we were satisfied with the final product.