Approaches vary among fashion and footwear brands looking to reduce their environmental footprint. Some launch sustainable lines within their broader ranges, while others put out collections of more sustainable items, or develop sustainable materials for use in a limited range of products. But these efforts, while valuable, may not be the best starting place for brands looking to make an actual impact.

A July 23 panel discussion held by the trade group Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA) offered some clear, common-sense guidance for companies looking to solve for sustainability. (Which, many still need to: A recent FDRA survey of 120 footwear professionals found that just one in three had a sustainability program in place at their company.) The suggestions also offer potential bottom-line benefits, particularly as businesses ready themselves for a future when shoppers increasingly use sustainability to decide which brands they will or won’t buy.

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