Montreal-based company releases new sustainable sneaker made from algae and recycled plastic bottles.

ALDO RPPL sneakers ($90) are made from Bloom Algae Foam components and recycled plastic bottles. 

David Bensadoun doesn’t want ALDO Group to just sell shoes.

Instead, the chief executive officer says he hopes the Montreal-headquartered company goes beyond footwear and accessories to inspire — both the company’s customer base and its industry peers.

“I want us to inspire love, confidence and belonging in everything we do, through all the products we sell and the services we offer,” Bensadoun explains. Oh, and he also wants to protect the environment, while he’s at it. Bensadoun recently chatted with Postmedia News to explain what that means, how they’re doing it — and what’s next.

Q. ALDO has made several recent announcements about increasing its sustainable ambitions. What can you share about this? 

A. 2019 is a big year for us in terms of our sustainability efforts, but the ALDO Group has been working on corporate responsibility initiatives over several decades. Most people don’t know but 2010 was when we started launching initiatives to reduce waste and energy consumption. In 2016, we reviewed our progress, did a materiality assessment to determine where were our biggest impacts and set ourselves some ambitious goals to reach by 2022. Our teams have been working very hard to be sustainable at every touch point in our business and this is the year we started sharing our CSR story in a bigger way.

Q. What are some of the new initiatives? 

A. In April we launched a partnership with Give Back Box. The program provides a platform for ALDO ecommerce customers to donate old shoes, clothing, handbags and other goods to charities by reusing their ALDO shoebox — or any box — and prepaid shipping label.

We announced (in August) that we were breaking up with single-use shopping bags, saving over eight million bags annually. We are currently phasing out our paper and plastic shoppers to free our customers from needing a bag, and simply using our box. It’s eco designed with a built-in rope and made from 80 per cent post consumer recycled materials.

And on August 26, ALDO launched its very first sustainable sneaker — The RPPL, pronounced ripple. We were able to utilize a sole formulated with BLOOM Foam, an innovative, carbon-neutral raw material derived from lake algae biomass. What’s amazing about BLOOM Foam is that it turns harmful algae overgrowth into a sustainable alternative to traditional textiles.The RPPL is also constructed with recycled plastic bottle yarn, made from three to six plastic bottles. It’s a pretty big step for us and I’m excited for the brand to now be in a position where we can offer this kind of product to our customers. It’s our first collection and definitely not our last. Coming in September, we’re making another exciting announcement related to our climate neutrality efforts. Can’t say more for now!

Q. And why is this so important to the company?

A. Not many people may know this, but we’ve been leaders in sustainable changes — it’s just something we haven’t talked a lot about until now. Change needs to start from within and it was important for me that we get it right internally, before those changes impact our customers directly. Ultimately, it’s our goal to make it easy for our customers to stay fashionable and to ‘choose good’.

The ALDO Group is the first fashion footwear and accessories company to be certified climate neutral and this is something we’re so proud of. We’re always exploring different ways to reduce our environmental impact and I want to make sure that as a group, we continuously challenge ourselves and those in the industry to explore even more ways to advance sustainability.

Q. How, if at all, does being a Canadian company influence the green perspective? 

A. I’m proud to be Canadian. Our company’s purpose is inspired by Canadian values: family values and values of human decency.  From the very first day of the company, our founder, Mr. B (Aldo Bensadoun), always spoke about building an ideal society. He was thinking about social responsibility and purpose before the terms became mainstream, it’s at the core of everything we do.

Q. The shoe industry isn’t viewed as being the most eco-forward industry what with raw materials and waste. What’s one thing you wish more people knew about the industry as a whole, good or bad, to better influence their buying decisions? 

A. I want people to know that the long-term sustainability of the global fashion industry needs systemic change that goes beyond what any one company is capable of doing on its own. Fashion companies can and should join forces with other companies, leading experts and non-governmental organizations to innovate, establish guidelines and share best practices in sustainability. Collaboration is key when we want to integrate sustainability in our strategies. We knew we couldn’t do it alone, so we’ve been working alongside organizations such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and Sustainable Brands. They’re leading alliances for sustainable fashion and help bring positive influence to an industry with so much potential.

I also want the Millennials and Gen Zers, especially, to know that their desire to make a positive impact on the world and their passion about environmental causes is what will push companies to make change. At ALDO we hear them and recognize this demand, we want to be leaders in change and my hope is that others companies do the same.