The New Balance story is rooted in product innovation around the concept of balance and a chicken’s foot. Today, we are challenging convention to advance the sustainability of our products in materials and design, product chemistry and packaging.
Every day, New Balance Design and Development teams design product and select materials. Lifecycle assessments and industry research indicates that the materials we choose, and the way those materials are manufactured, make up a significant portion of our environmental footprint. By taking a lifecycle approach and prioritizing the areas of greatest impact, we can make significant improvements.
Increasing efficiency and reducing waste is a core tenet of business. It is also an important way for us to reduce our environmental footprint. Using less material means that we ship less and dispose of less, which in turn reduces the impact of our product throughout its lifecycle.
Some waste is inherent in how a product is designed and manufactured. Cutting pieces from sheets of textile or rubber, for example, yields scrap. New Balance is working with our suppliers to increase pattern efficiency, introduce zero-waste manufacturing techniques and reuse scrap material.
Many of our Tier Two suppliers have already created closed loops within at least a portion of their manufacturing process. More than half of our strategic footwear and apparel suppliers have reported reincorporating at least some scrap back into new product, either at their own facilities or at a nearby site. Nearly 20% say they reincorporate most or all of their manufacturing scrap. And nearly 40% offer a takeback program to close the loop between Tier One and Tier Two suppliers.
New Balance eliminated 20,000 pairs of shoes from manufacture in 2017 by implementing a more accurate method of requesting prototypes, using a 3D design tool, and creating new processes to empower teams to move through early stages of product review without the need for physical prototypes. These types of initiatives not only reduce the impacts associated with manufacturing prototype shoes – which is much less efficient than production manufacturing – but also the associated packaging and logistics needed to transport them, as well as the end-of-life impacts once prototypes are no longer needed.
Choosing “preferred” materials is one way to reduce negative social and environmental impacts. This process involves converting to preferred materials and suppliers for existing styles, beginning with commodity components and high-volume items. For example, we converted the fabric used in our Accelerate knit tops, a core basic item, to 100% recycled polyester. This move (and other changes) increased our use of recycled polyester in apparel by 20% in 2017. We are also on a path to maximize preferred materials and processes in the production of shoe components that are used across most of our portfolio.
Sometimes, responsible design and development means not using a certain material or chemical treatment. Our Animal Materials Policy defines our requirements for sourcing animal materials, ensuring that animal welfare and the environment are protected and that exotic skins are not used. We are also working to eliminate the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAs), more commonly referred to by the broader category of per- and poly-fluorinated chemicals (PFCs) from the manufacture of our products. These chemicals are used in finishing treatments and membranes to enable materials to repel water, dirt and oil. No intentional use of PFCs of environmental concern* will be allowed in the manufacturing of New Balance products after the end of 2018.*
The social and environmental impacts of materials are often hidden deep in the supply chain. Making better material choices requires better insight to these areas, which is why we are working to increase the traceability and transparency of our supply chain. We are taking a portfolio approach, leveraging a mix of existing chain-of-custody certifications and taggant technology where available as well as participating in industry efforts to address specific commodities such as leather. For more information, please see our work Beyond Tier One.
Extending the useful life of our products also reduces the negative environmental impact of our products. We are tackling this in a variety of ways, from incorporating manufacturing scrap into new products to finding new life for products after consumers are done using them. Many New Balance stores take back gently worn shoes from our customers, donating usable items to local organizations or Soles4Souls. In the US, these programs are in place at approximately two-thirds of our licensed stores.
New Balance works with leading organizations in the apparel and footwear industry to advance product sustainability. These include the Textile Exchange, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), the Leather Working Group and its Animal Welfare Subgroup, and the Outdoor Industry Association. These partnerships help us leverage common tools and research, and provide opportunities to work with other brands and stakeholders on collaborative solutions, such as the SAC’s Facilities Environmental Module for our supply chain and the SAC’s Materials Sustainability Index to evaluate environmental impacts of different materials. These collaborative efforts are an important element of our strategy to tackle the most complex challenges facing our industry, from traceability to microfiber pollution to circularity.
The New Balance Restricted Substance Program is designed to protect the environment where we make our products, the health of workers in those manufacturing facilities, the health of our consumers, and our brand integrity. It applies to all footwear, apparel, accessories and equipment that New Balance makes (both in our own factories and our contract factories) as well as to all products made by our licensees.
OUR PROGRAM COVERS FOUR CORE ELEMENTS
All New Balance footwear is polyvinylchloride (PVC)-free and we prohibit the presence and/or use of toluene in raw materials or manufacturing. We also encourage suppliers to bring safer, alternative materials and chemicals to us proactively and implement continuous improvement programs around chemical safety.
The core of our program is the New Balance Restricted Substances Manual (RSM) that enables our suppliers to make safer and more sustainable chemistry choices. The RSM prohibits some chemicals, sets limits for others, and specifies testing requirements and methods that our suppliers must use to demonstrate they are complying with New Balance requirements. We update the RSM annually to ensure that materials and methods used in our manufacturing comply with the strictest global requirements (RSM Summary of Changes). The Manual covers more than 380 chemicals and incorporates legislation and regulations covering the US, Europe, Japan, China and other countries, along with California's Proposition 65.
The RSM is incorporated into New Balance supply agreements. Factories and suppliers are also required to sign a written acknowledgement of the RSM and maintain a Chemical Information List (CIL) itemizing the chemicals used in the facility. Suppliers must also submit products for regular testing conducted by third-party laboratories. Each year, our Product Chemistry team also conducts audits in selected footwear factories and subcontractors to ensure chemical compliance with the RSM.
If products are found to contain a restricted substance, the Product Chemistry team works with suppliers to identify the root cause of the chemical failure. Changes or replacements must be made before the product can be sold.
In April 2013, New Balance joined the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) Roadmap to Zero Programme – a coalition of major apparel and footwear brands and retailers that are committed to lead the industry towards zero discharge of the industry’s most hazardous chemicals. ZDHC has put forth a roadmap that demonstrates the collaborative efforts of the organization and how ZDHC contributors intend to lead the apparel and footwear industry towards better chemical management.
New Balance played a leadership role in helping ZDHC develop the ZDHC Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (ZDHC MRSL) and Conformity Guidance. Where the New Balance Restricted Substances List is specific to chemistry found within the final product, the ZDHC MRSL addresses a broader set of chemicals that might be present in the manufacturing environment. The ZDHC MRSL is a list of chemical substances banned from intentional use in facilities that process textile materials and trim parts in apparel and footwear. The ZDHC MRSL establishes acceptable concentration limits for substances in chemical formulations used within manufacturing facilities. These limits are designed to eliminate the possibility of intentional use of listed substances. The intent of the ZDHC MRSL is to manage the input of chemicals to the suppliers and remove hazardous substances from the manufacturing process.
The Product Chemistry team includes materials engineers based in China, Vietnam and Indonesia. This team works to improve chemical and product safety management at key footwear and apparel suppliers throughout Asia. In coordination with the Global Compliance team, they deliver trainings to Tier One suppliers on topics related to New Balance restricted substances and best practices in chemical management. Trainings and workshops to date have included an overview of global footwear regulations, trends in footwear recalls, review of children’s footwear safety standards and testing practices, and the importance of establishing internal control measures to reduce or eliminate restricted substances in products and reduce exposure for workers.
Suppliers are also encouraged to enroll in online training to fully understand their responsibilities related to New Balance’s restricted substances requirements.
In an effort to strengthen relationships with suppliers regarding chemical management and restricted substances compliance, New Balance implemented a Restricted Substance List (RSL) Certification Program. RSL-certified suppliers maintain strong internal chemical management systems aimed at preventing RSL-related problems with materials. Certified suppliers are categorized as Gold, Silver and Bronze. We audit suppliers based on a set criteria including upper management commitment, documentation of policies and procedures regarding RSL compliance, chemical and risk management, raw materials management and manufacturing process control, multiple supply chain controls, and corrective action and performance improvement plans.
New Balance is committed to ensuring our products are safe and in compliance with global laws and regulations. New Balance maintains a robust program to verify product compliance with safety standards. Suppliers must submit products for third-party lab testing and undergo regular training to ensure continued awareness of and compliance to applicable product safety requirements.
The New Balance Product Safety program includes compliance with the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which requires manufacturers to certify that their products comply with applicable safety rules, bans or standards using accredited third-party testing labs. To search for a certificate of compliance, please visit www.NBCPSIA.com.
New Balance’s primary footwear packaging consists of a one-piece seamless designed shoebox that integrates a flip top lid with the shoebox base. The packaging inside the box consists of wrapping tissue that is used to separate and protect the shoes, and also toe stuffing tissue used to protect the shoe tip and maintain product quality.
Our core shoeboxes are made from 100% recycled paperboard, consisting of pre- and post-consumer pulp and are 100% recyclable. Our master shipping cartons are also made from pre- and post-consumer pulp with approximately 44% virgin fiber. All inks are soy-based. Starting in 2018, we changed the weight of our wrapping tissue from 28gsm to 22gsm, which reduced our annual paper usage by 130 tons. New Balance continues to seek opportunities to eliminate packaging waste from our supply chain and optimize packaging solutions.
New Balance catalogs, which are used for marketing and direct consumer sales in the US, are also printed on 100 percent FSC- and SFI-certified paper.*
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