Recap and Resources from Sourcing Journal’s 2023 Sustainability Summit

On April 25, 2023, OrthoLite’s Olivia Billingsley, Kristin Kohler Burrows and Awaan Aadil attended the Sourcing Journal Sustainability Summit, “Promises vs. Progress,” in New York City.

As a modern, global company, our team is spread across different cities and countries. For us, industry events offer more than the primary promise of learning and leadership. We also cherish the opportunity to gather together, in person, as a team. We always manage to have a good time.

This year’s Summit was absolutely compelling–a ‘must-attend’ event! The programming was spot-on, and the team at Sourcing Journal made sure attendees walked away with expanded networks of committed business leaders and a lot of actionable insights. In this short post, we’re hoping to share at least some of that value, through some of our top takeaways.

Sourcing Journal Sustainability Summit

First, some background on the Sustainability Summit

This was the second edition of Sourcing Journal’s “Road to 2030 Sustainability Summit.” It delivered forward momentum on topics and themes of last year’s inaugural event, with the primary goal of address the disparity between ambitions and actions.


All of us in the footwear industry and beyond can relate to that sometimes dispiriting challenge of implementing meaningful actions that serve our ambitious sustainability goals, can we not? According to a recent poll cited by Sourcing Journal, while 80% of companies stated they had defined sustainability targets, only a mere 20% of companies have any measuring tools in place.

We value that the Summit acknowledged this status positively, and importantly: without shame. We know that footwear industry leaders have pure intentions and strive to do the right thing. We’re all grappling with huge challenges as we work to evolve our businesses to be more responsible and less impactful today. It is not an easy path. Pretending otherwise would diminish the drive to discover and implement meaningful change.

So it is not an easy path, but it is a worthy path. And we are all in it together.

In the spirit of shared progress and shared success, here are the top actions that our team took away from this year’s Summit.

KEY ACTION: Prioritize Worker Safety

April 24, 2023, marked the 10-year anniversary of the tragic Rana Plaza incident, when 1,100 people (mostly garment workers) lost their lives when the factory collapsed in the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Many more workers were injured, and survivors faced a very uncertain future (according to the International Labor Organization website).

Honoring this very sad anniversary requires that we learn from it and prevent anything similar from ever happening again. The Summit provided context and resources for companies sourcing and manufacturing internationally.

Top takeaways for prioritizing worker safety:

  • Occupational health and safety is an international priority. Today, every brand is a global brand, and therefore must take ownership and leadership in prioritizing the same.
  • While worker safety programs will be unique based on what is being manufactured, select universal, key aspects of worker safety programs were addressed. Considerations to use as guideposts as your company builds a tailored approach include: goal setting and enforcement; ongoing due diligence on sourcing, supply and manufacturing partners; and building a safety culture in all manufacturing locations.

OrthoLite Sidebar: Building a safety culture in all manufacturing locations especially resonated with our team because we operate six manufacturing facilities around the globe. We place the highest priority on safeguarding the health and well-being of our teams, and we are committed to continuously raising the standards for protecting them. We take into account the specific needs posed by what we’re making in each factory, as well as the unique cultural and social needs of the location. Each of our factories has a dedicated Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) lead, and we have a global EHS lead to coordinate and oversee the universal effort. In this way, our vertically integrated structure enables greater collaboration, more sharing of good ideas, and the ability to rapidly deploy and enforce safe, smart practices in every country we operate.

More examples of other companies doing a great job with EHS and communications to support it: The Hershey Company, PepsiCo, and a roundup of the safest companies of 2022 from EHS Magazine.

KEY ACTION: Do Everything Possible to Combat Greenwashing

There has been an abundance of business headlines in Q1 2023 about greenwashing regulation and legislation originating in Europe. The European Environmental Bureau published an article titled “EU Commission prepares to crack down on greenwashing with new Green Claims law” that summarizes the movement.

TIP: Bookmark the Federal Trade Commission Green Guides site to ensure you and your team stay current with the Green Guide updates, underway right now. The FTC Green Guides “are designed to help marketers avoid making environmental claims that mislead consumers.”

Top takeaways to combat greenwashing:

  • Transparency around how you’re building a sustainable supply chain is crucial to earning trust with consumers
  • To have meaning, how we measure and report industry benchmarks should be consistent
  • Ensure your company’s key environmental certifications are in place, as they validate credibility and standardization for all stakeholders, including customers and consumers

Toward the goal of consistency for how we measure and report benchmarks, the Summit placed an emphasis on the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi). The SBTi provides a framework for companies to set greenhouse gas emission reduction targets aligned with the scientific consensus on climate change. The approach puts goal-setting front and center, which makes taking action, being accountable and having a framework for transparency easier. You can learn all about SBTi and discover a host of additional resources on the Science Based Targets website.

OrthoLite Sidebar: If you’re reading this post, you’re most likely familiar with Higg standards. (If not, here’s a link to the Higg website, and a link to why we participate.) While it’s not without criticism, Higg is currently the most trusted and comprehensive tool for measuring, reporting, and improving upon sustainability performance. Higg is one of the key frameworks we use for OrthoLite’s global Operational Excellence across our manufacturing footprint. All OrthoLite factories are Higg certified, under the FEM module. We’ll begin reporting on the FSLM module in 2023-2024. OrthoLite has a HIGG FEM score of 90+ in China, 90 in Indonesia, and 95 in Vietnam. India and Spain are currently in the process of being verified.

Best practices to assess and avoid greenwashing:

The presenting law firm at the Summit offered the following best practice list for company leaders to use to ensure Environmental Social Governance (ESG) statements are transparent and complete:

  • Is the claim truthful and accurate?
  • Is the claim ambiguous; does it need to be quantified?
  • Does the claim omit important information?
  • Are comparisons fair and meaningful?
  • Has the claim been substantiated?
  • Does the claim consider the full life cycle of the product or service?
  • Are disclosures consistent across all communications and media?

(Credit: Panel, Sourcing Journal 2023 Sustainability Summit)


With credit to Sourcing Journal’s 2023 Sustainability Summit, we hope these tools and takeaways prove  helpful on your company’s sustainability path.

No matter what our business focus is or who we serve, we all share two very important common denominators: protecting our workforce and protecting our planet.

In addition to doing what it is right, these two “North Star” guiding principles will shape the emerging regulatory landscape around practices and reporting. Here are a few more sources to help you stay current in this fast-moving landscape of responsible business:

  • European Climate Law sets an immediate target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030
  • The National Law Review’s website will help you stay current, in the U.S., around existing and pending PFAS legislation
  • Also keep an eye on the New York Fashion Act addressing climate, labor, chemicals, and business practices

Thank you for your time. If you’re interested, please help us keep this conversation going on LinkedIn (see links below). Connect with us there and share your thoughts!

Thank you, and onward.

Team OrthoLite


LinkedIn links: Olivia Billingsley, Kristin Kohler Burrows, Awaan Aadil


Comfort & Performance


We’re fueled by innovation, a deep understanding of our brand partners’ needs, true collaboration, and a dedication to limiting our impact on the planet—and it shows in every product we make. That’s how we became the global leader, and why we’re proud to partner with the best brands on earth.