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Sperry’s New Sustainability Platform and Collection: A Conversation with Sperry’s Sean McDowell

Sperry's stride into being more sustainable.

In celebration of last week’s Earth Week, shoe brand Sperry introduced their newest platform—All For Water, Water For All. This platform highlights Sperry’s belief that all people welcome in the water should be able to enjoy it, encompassing sustainability, diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Sperry SeaCycled Collection
Photo Credit: Sperry.com

A major part of the platform is the expansion of Sperry’s SeaCycled collection, a footwear range made with recycled and eco-friendly materials and manufacturing processes. Its latest innovation? Recycled canvas uppers made with 100 percent recycled polyester. Additionally, SeaCycled uses reclaimed leathers made from repurposed leather waste and recycled rubber outsoles, both of which keep rubber out of landfills.

To find out more about All For Water, Water For All and the SeaCycled collection, we talked to Sean McDowell, Sperry’s SVP of Global Product Creation. Sean joined Sperry in June 2020 and worked for Nike for 22 years. 

TWT: Sperry has been around since 1935. How has Sperry evolved with the times, and how do you see Sperry evolving in the future?

Sean McDowell (SD): Yes, Sperry has an incredible history that we celebrate every day. At the same time, it is important for heritage brands to think about the next 100 years. That’s why we started the SeaCycled collection. Because we believe that we can make the world a better place for our children and grandchildren. 

 In the future, you will see over half of our line becoming more sustainable. We are adding more performance models that get back to Paul Sperry’s original vision for the brand and we will introduce new collaboration partners that generate a contemporary, fashionable, and youthful spin on our brand.  

TWT: By 2024, 50 percent of Sperry’s shoes will be produced as a part of the SeaCycled collection. What is Sperry’s goal for the SeaCycled program, and how do you see it fitting into Sperry’s greater sustainability goals?

SD: By 2024, we pledge to have half of our collection use recycled and eco-friendly materials and manufacturing processes. We are engineering new materials and new processes that reduce waste and protect clean water sources. 

We have a no compromises policy. We want to make fashionable products that consumers love, that are durable, comfortable, and versatile—and they must be made more sustainably. In the past, consumers had to make many compromises. Whether it was energy-efficient light bulbs, recycling their trash, or paying more for electric vehicles. At Sperry, we want to do the hard work behind the scenes to give customers exactly what they are looking for, so they don’t have to make compromises on quality, style, comfort, or price. 

Sperry SeaCycled Collection
Key styles in the 2022 SeaCycled collection include the Authentic Original Boat Shoe, the Captain’s Moc, and the Soletide Racy; Photo Credit: Sperry

TWT: As a part of the All For Water, Water For All platform, Sperry is partnering with PangeaSeed Foundation and renewing its partnership with Waterkeeper Alliance. Can you tell us more about the importance and motivation behind these partnerships?

SD: At Sperry, we have a three-tiered approach for our All for Water Sustainability platform.  

  1. Partners: We want to partner with the world’s best organizations like PangeaSeed and Waterkeepers Alliance. We support each other, teach each other, and together we increase our impact. 
  2. Product: We want to make more sustainable products. The SeaCycled collection is helping us focus on 4 major aspects of the manufacturing process – waste, water, chemicals, and energy. Each of these presents an opportunity to innovate for a better future. 
  3. Culture: We want to change our culture at Sperry so we are walking the walk every day. We have started with the Power of One – if we each make one decision each day to be more sustainable together we will make progress. We will start with beach clean-ups and over time we will be changing to more sustainable energy sources for all of our buildings. 

Water for all is our diversity, equity, and inclusion platform. We want to provide access to anyone who wants to be on the water. There are so many under-represented groups that haven’t traditionally grown up on the water. We want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to play on the world’s biggest playground! 

TWT: What’s your favorite part about working with Sperry?

SD: There is no question – it is the team. We have a wonderful group of individuals from all over the world. This is the special sauce that makes Sperry great. It’s not easy to be working through a global pandemic, but this team has stayed optimistic and hopeful about the future.  

TWT: What’s your favorite Sperry shoe?

SD: It’s like asking for my favorite child. I love them all. 

For more information on Sperry and the Waterkeeper Alliance, check out Tomorrow’s World Today’s episode here or below:

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