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Natural Footstep

ACI International is an organization focused on footprints—in terms of environmental stewardship and style. This is a business equally dedicated to sustainability and shoes. Headquartered in Los Angeles, ACI International has been a leading manufacturer, distributor, and marketer of men's, women's, and children's footwear brands for over thirty years.  ACI’s focus is on building footwear brands for long-term growth and stability. The company designs and markets athletic as well as casual/fashion brands throughout all channels of retail distribution. ACI’s brands include: LA Gear, Penguin, Perry Ellis, Maui and Sons, and C-9 by Champion.

ACI is one of the founding members in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability’s (IoES) Corporate Partners Program (CPP). The company heard about the partnership from a student intern.  ACI Vice President Dan Young explained, “We were seeking an educational program where we could mutually benefit from the contact with students, professors, and resources available to the University, as well as employ students in intern roles so that they could gain real world experience and apply their knowledge to our products.”

ACI implements various sustainability practices to accomplish its “green goals.” This includes conducting Life Cycle Analysis of sample shoes, improving energy efficiency of office buildings and warehouses, and recycling old sample shoes.  Select footwear is made with vegetable-dye, hemp, and recycled materials. ACI is currently developing a line of biodegradable sandals made with the organic plastic additive EcoPure.  Office settings have been improved by running energy audits, purchasing Energy Star certified equipment and green office supplies, using only energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs, installing light sensors,  and utilizing renewable energy sources (for example, wind powered water heaters in factory dormitories). Recycling bins are set up to collect paper, plastic, and old ink and toner cartridges. A Pure Green Water System provides bottle-less drinking water. To reduce waste ACI recycles shipping materials, uses reduced packaging, and has computer software to streamline material cutting. The company also created a sample shoe donating and recycling program. For instance, athletic shoe samples are used to resurface neighborhood playgrounds. Young stated that by applying these practices, “ACI demonstrates its sustainability commitment to everyone within the company, as well as to other organizations.”  ACI feels it is important to support these types of initiatives because they have the potential to influence other businesses to execute their own sustainability practices.

Since joining CPP, representatives from ACI have attended quarterly workshops hosted by the IoES that focus on topics such as social media, advertising, and the green consumer, sustainable investing, energy conservation strategies, and environmental footprint benchmarking. Young said, “These workshops are extremely beneficial to ACI and provide insight into the steps other Corporate Partners are taking to be more sustainable. He continued, “The learning and networking opportunities these events present allow ACI to update and improve its own sustainability initiatives.” In addition to the seminars, ACI has been able to utilize the Corporate Partners Program as a link to the student body at UCLA. The program has given ACI the chance to hire undergraduate students as Sustainability Interns. The Sustainable Development Internship Program provides ACI’s “Green Team” with research support and outside expertise.

The company would like to focus their future efforts on using the most sustainable materials possible for their products. As recycled textiles and other materials become more readily available at better qualities, they aim to incorporate these materials into their shoes on a more regular basis. ACI also plans to operate new green technologies as they become available. Implementing sustainability principles is an important step towards achieving ACI’s goal of being a true eco-conscious business.