CORPORATE SUSTAINABILITY

How we do business

Introduction

Schoenfabriek Van Bommel is a family business. The current 9th generation has the responsibility of managing the business in such a way, that it can be handed over to the 10th generation in better condition than that in which it was received from the 8th generation. The members of the family have decided to take a full generation to achieve this situation. The 10th generation will then bear the same responsibility in respect of the 11th.

Schoenfabriek Van Bommel enjoys a similar relationship with its environment. Every commercial decision has consequences for the environment and the world around it, a world of which we are caretakers for future generations. Schoenfabriek Van Bommel views sustainability and corporate social responsibility as self-evident, not in order to achieve short-term success but on behalf of the generations to whom we will leave behind our roads, our houses, our forests and our businesses.

In 1997, long before ‘An inconvenient truth' and growing media attention for sustainability and the environment, Schoenfabriek Van Bommel was the first shoe manufacturer in Europe to supply a shoe that bore an environmental label. In an intensive programme, the production chain for the shoe in question was closely examined from cow to finished product. In order to meet the requirements of the environmental label, every element of the process was duly adapted, altered or registered.

The requirements imposed by the environmental label include a reduced burden on the environment in terms of raw materials, energy, water consumption, harmful substances, packaging and waste. Other issues that were closely examined include working conditions, animal welfare, crop protection and nature management.

Despite the huge publicity that accompanied the launch of the shoe, there was only limited interest in the product from the market. Production was halted after little more than a year. The sustainable shoe disappeared, but the legacy of sustainable thinking was left behind. The focus was shifted from a single sustainable product to overall sustainable business management.

Since these experiences with the environmental label shoe, ‘sustainability’ at Van Bommel has no longer been used as a selling point. Instead, sustainability and corporate social responsibility have been implemented in every element of business practice.

1. Production location

Schoenfabriek Van Bommel even today continues to manufacture a large proportion of its shoes in its own factory in Moergestel, The Netherlands. This factory is specialised in the Goodyear method. Other methods are employed in factories in Portugal and Spain. Upper leather is exclusively purchased in Italy. Linings and soles are sourced exclusively in Europe.

Stitching for the upper is partly carried out by a regular partner in India. In terms of overall production labour at Van Bommel, this represents less than 5%. The stitching firm in question, with whom Van Bommel has established a working relationship over a number of years and where Dutch quality controllers and master stitchers pay regular visits, complies with the Code of Conduct employed by Van Bommel (see point 5 of this document). All materials used for Van Bommel stitching in India are sourced in Europe. The materials are shipped from the Van Bommel warehouses in Moergestel.

2. Production, ergonomics and accommodation

Van Bommel is constantly at work optimising its production processes. New techniques that make it possible to produce or maintain higher environmentally-friendly standards are an area of constant attention.

Glue and edge dies are all water-based and as a result entirely solvent-free. Every employee is provided with individual ergonomic workstation instructions drawn up by an industrial health and safety doctor. Each workstation and every machine in the production area comes with safety instructions.

During the most recent renovation in 2012, the Dutch shoe factory was fitted with an additional layer of roof insulation, double glazing and an energy-efficient heating and cooling installation. As a consequence of the interventions, total energy consumption has been reduced by 20% per year.

Drainage water from the Dutch factory and office roofs and car parks is directed into our own drainage pond.

All offices, factories, premises and workstations at Van Bommel are subject to a no-smoking policy. Van Bommel itself operates an active anti-smoking policy. For staff wishing to stop smoking, a fund is available as well as professional counselling.

3. Remuneration

Schoenfabriek Van Bommel is a member of the ‘sectoral pension fund’ thereby guaranteeing pension establishment for all employees.

Schoenfabriek Van Bommel offers its employees a share in the company’s profits. In addition to the adopted collective labour agreement and individual bonus agreements, every member of staff receives a profit share in years in which the company achieves a profit, that can amount to up to 5% of the gross annual salary.

4. Leather types and materials

Van Bommel uses both chrome-tanned and vegetable-tanned leather for its products. The tanning of leather with chromium is more burdensome for the environment. However, the characteristics of chrome-tanned leather and leather tanned in vegetable-based products varies considerably. Chrome tanning results in soft and supple leather while vegetable-based tanning produces robust, tough leather. Depending on the intended finished result, a mix of both tanning methods is also possible. For stylish, dress shoes, attractive, supple leather and hence chrome tanning are essential. Vegetable tanned leather is used for more robust, casual boots.

In essence, leather is a waste product from the meat industry. Cows are not bred and slaughtered for leather production. In the case of exotic animals like crocodiles and snakes, this may be the case. Van Bommel makes no use of exotic animal skins. Shoes with a crocodile or snake print are produced from machined cowhide. On principle, Van Bommel only uses imitation animal skin/fur.

All the leather used by Van Bommel complies with the European ‘Chromium VI’ standard. Van Bommel requires its leather suppliers to periodically test their leather batches and production lines for the presence of ‘Chromium VI’. By way of monitoring, Van Bommel also carries out random laboratory tests on batches of leather, to check for the presence of ‘Chromium VI’.

5. Code of Conduct

Every production location and supplier, both in The Netherlands and abroad, signs the Code of Conduct of the Schoenfabriek Van Bommel. This Code of Conduct lays down the standards with which the supplier must comply.

Below a passage from the Code of Conduct:

“Schoenfabriek Wed. J.P. van Bommel B.V. (VB or Van Bommel) documents standard business practices in order to provide common understanding and to facilitate the business and operational transactions with the supplier.” “Van Bommel only works with companies and people who work in a professional, kind, reliable and service directed way. We strive to combine the power of our family-owned company, pleasure at work, motivation and involvement with a professional organisation set up.”

The Code of Conduct also includes passages on:

Child labour: „ “The Van Bommel group considers it impermissible that companies producing goods for the Van Bommel group employ children below the Legal age to do labour, as determined by national law. If there is no legal age limit, the provisions as laid down in the ILO Convention 138, Article 2, shall apply.”

Working conditions and salary: “Producers and Suppliers shall be obliged to respect the basic rights and the provisions of the national laws with regard to employing people”

The environment: “Van Bommel is committed to minimizing the environmental impact of its activities. Van Bommel underlines the importance of conserving natural resources, and strives to make environmental improvements that promote a sustainable future.”

6. Packaging

All shoe boxes are produced from recycled cardboard. All users’ instructions are printed on recycled paper. To retain the intended shape of the shoes during transport to the shops, the shoes are not filled with the traditional plugs of (bleached) stuffing paper, but with a single curved recycled cardboard shaper.

In the Dutch factory all waste paper is seperated from other waste and is picked up by an external processing company. It then is recycled by them.

For its outer boxes (the largeboxes in which individual shoe boxes are grouped for transport from factory to shop), Van Bommel has decided against the widely-used ‘American folding carton’ in favour of the less popular ‘harmonica carton’. The harmonica carton is less practical than the American folded carton in a number of respects. Assembling the box takes more work, the outer box itself is less solid, is more expensive (being made up of two parts) and is more difficult to stack on pallets (because the dimensions are less uniform). The major advantage is however that in a harmonica carton less ‘air’ (empty space) is transported. As a result, environmental burdens (and costs) from transport are kept to a minimum.

7. Social responsibility

As a member of the international, national and local community, Schoenfabriek Van Bommel feels responsible for the continued wellbeing of the sporting, cultural, educational and charitable environment in which it operates. Below are a number of initiatives in which Schoenfabriek Van Bommel is involved as donor, sponsor or promoter.

  • In connection with the pension of former managing director Frans van Bommel, the complete factory contents were shipped to South Africa. Using all the machines and appliances, a locally-active foundation Othandweni organised a shoemaker’s training programme for street children. Van Bommel has supported this project in both material and financial terms.
  • The management of Schoenfabriek Van Bommel is regularly asked to hold lectures at commercial seminars and conferences. The fee received for these lectures is transferred to a number of good causes (including the Trucktour Tilburg foundation and the Kika foundation for children with cancer).
  • Every year, staff at Van Bommel is offered the possibility of donating their Christmas bonus parcel to a good cause. For each bonus parcel surrendered, Van Bommel pays five times the value to Unicef.
  • Representatives of Van Bommel are active as board members or in some other capacity in a number of interest groups, sectoral associations and foundation boards (including the Board of CAST (Centre for Accessories, Shoes and Bags), the Board of BZW (Brabant division of the VNO-NCW employers’/employees’ association), the BPF (Sectoral Pension Fund), the Board of the Federation of Dutch Leather goods and Shoe manufacturers, the Board of the Shoemakers’ Guild Foundation and the Board of the Master Shoemakers’ Foundation).
  • Van Bommel regularly organizes publicity campaigns involving a charitable institution. Recent examples: Van Bommel and Rutger Hauer (the Starfish association), Floris van Bommel and Phillip Lahm (the German Aids Foundation), Floris van Bommel and Daniel Brühl (the German Aids Foundation). Van Bommel is a regular sponsor for a number of local initiatives in which employees of Van Bommel are involved, or with which Van Bommel has ties for other reasons (sports clubs, tournaments, choirs, four-day walking events, local history association, Twelfth Night singers, Grant a Wish foundations, carnival associations, the foundation for ‘Suppliers by Appointment in The Netherlands’, the Trucktour Tilburg foundation, student associations, study programmes, churches, etc.).
8. Shoemakers’ Guild Foundation (NL) and Master Shoemakers’ Foundation (Belgium)

At the end of the 1980s, Frans van Bommel established a foundation, the Shoemakers’ Guild in The Netherlands and the ‘Master Shoemakers’ Foundation in Belgium. Several hundred independent shoe repairers are affiliated to both foundations, today. The foundations aim to promote and educate the shoemakers’ sector, and hence indirectly promote quality shoes. Shoemakers who are members of the foundation are periodically inspected for their quality and craftsmanship. Following approval, the shoemaker in question is authorized to carry out repairs with a selection of original Van Bommel materials. For more information, surf to: www.schoenmakersgilde.nl or www.meesterschoenmaker.be

9. Quality

Schoenfabriek Van Bommel manufactures quality shoes. A quality shoe on average lasts many times longer than a pair of shoes of inferior quality. Depending on the production method, a Van Bommel shoe can be resoled on several occasions. Via the foundations referred to in point 8 of this document, Van Bommel promotes and encourages the repairing of worn shoes. Longer use and reuse through repair is a simple means of reducing the burden on the environment.