Iris van Wanrooij
Program Manager Corporate Social Responsibility
EMMA Safety Footwear
When Iris van Wanrooij was studying fashion at King’s College London in 2010, she was shocked to learn that the production of one pair of jeans used 7,000 liters of water.
That discovery sparked her interest in sustainability, and today she is Program Manager Corporate Social Responsibility at EMMA Safety Footwear.
“This was such an eye-opener for me,” she told the UN Global Compact. “This was the start of my sustainability journey.”
Van Wanrooij heads up the “EMMA’s Positive Footprint” program at the Dutch company, working with department leads to improve worker conditions in the supply chain, marketing to communicate sustainability efforts and product development to make use of durable materials, recycled and sustainable content and materials.
She also educates colleagues on sustainability, creates awareness among suppliers and directs sustainable development processes from company strategy to new shoe linings. The Dutch company makes safety shoes and boots for use in an array of industries.
“Our supply chain is fragmented and we have suppliers in risk countries,” she said. “Even though a large part of the production is still done in our own factory in The Netherlands, it is important to keep a close watch on what is happening in our supply chain.”
Van Wanrooij was selected the 2022 SDG Pioneer in Supply Chain Sustainability by the UN Global Compact. The annual SDG Pioneers programme honors company professionals who are using business to advance and advocate for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
“It’s a great honor,” she said. “It shows that I am on the right track regarding our work on the SDGs.
“At the same time, it is also a motivation for me to do even better,” she said. “Being a SDG Pioneer is an opportunity for me to network with peers and to learn from each other in how to accelerate our work towards reaching the Global Goals by 2030. It enables me to spread our story and to further empower our impact.”
She has helped define benchmarks that are most relevant to EMMA - using 100% sustainable material inputs that are renewable, recyclable or reusable, reducing science-based emissions in line with a 1.5°C pathway and 100% resource recovery, with all materials and products recovered and recycled or reused at end of use. Some 6450 solar panels are in use at EMMA’s site.
All of EMMA’s shoes have linings with 76% recycled polyester, insoles with 48% recycled polyester and inlay soles with 85% recycled foam. The shoe boxes are made with 100% recycled cardboard and the laces are made from recycled material as well.
After a determination that the majority of EMMA’s environmental impact is caused by the production of polyurethane, steel and leather, all of the polyurethane waste from its own production facility is recycled, and its leather comes from a tannery where the waste water is purified and leather waste is reused into fertilizers.
“Many people often think that only their contribution does not make a significant difference,” van Wanrooij said. “However … every step counts.
“Every company needs to contribute to the SDGs,” she said. “The SDGs are icons to me.”