International Footwear Forum

On the occasion of the 2014 World Footwear Congress held in León, México in November 2014, the European Confederation of the Footwear Industry (CEC) launched the International Footwear Forum (IFF) to reinforce dialogue and commitment between worldwide footwear associations and confederations. The IFF aims at establishing a regular and structured dialogue, where delegates can openly discuss about the experiences they face with companies and with their administrations, as well as identify joint initiatives that can promote their companies’ growth.

The FIRST edition took place in September 2015 at the MICAM trade fair, and delegates from sixteen of the major worldwide footwear associations gathered in Milan. The debate addressed the priorities that each association had in order to better assist their respective Members and the shift in government advocacy actions. The agenda also included the topic of social responsibility standards along the supply chain, and participants discussed the possibility to work through the identification and alignment of a common declaration of principles on social corporate responsibility in the footwear supply chain, to be selected among the existing international initiatives.

The SECOND edition happened in June 2016 at FFANY New York Shoe Expo. The main topics included how trade associations could improve the engagement of their members with innovative communication tools, while becoming an efficient interlocutor for public authorities. The Forum also focused on the latest news and specific needs of the industry in terms of Corporate Social Responsibility. In this relation, participants recognised the importance to work on a joint initiative that would start by being a basic declaration with minimum requirements in accordance to one of the international existing codes/declarations. Finally, the representatives of associations discussed the best ways in which they could help their members expand export opportunities while lowering trade barriers all around the world. They particularly proposed to jointly work on promoting the signature of Free Trade Agreements towards governments. On this occasion, the CEC, AAFA and FDRA announced the recently signature of a Joint Statement with the aim to urge the EU and US authorities to ensure a satisfactory conclusion of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Another proposal was to share information useful for businesses when accessing other markets, such as labelling requirements and the restricted substances in the production.

With the occasion of the 20th UITIC International Technical Footwear Congress’s, the THIRD edition of the IFF was held in May 2018 in Porto and focused on promoting International Trade in light of the increase of protectionist measures across the world during the last years. The representatives from five continents (Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America) signed a Joint Declaration supporting Free and Fair Trade in the Footwear Sector committed to cooperate on ensuring that footwear companies can benefit from the trade opportunities of an open and fair market, and firmly stated their opposition to every sort of tariff and/or non-tariff barriers. The Joint Declaration also calls for policy makers to work towards the establishment of a level playing field for and open and fair global market with no dumping and counterfeiting practices. Unfortunately, much effort needs to be done and associations are invited to work closely with their policy makers for an open and fair market. Since last May in Porto, new tariff and non-tariff barriers have unfortunately have been put in place, and it seems that governments are far from understanding industry and consumers’ needs in the global economy in which we live in.

The FOURTH edition of the IFF coincided with the sixth edition of the World Footwear Congress 2019 in Naples. The Congress title, Digitalisation for a Sustainable Footwear Industry, revealed two of the most powerful market influencers. Both concepts are ever-evolving and include many opportunities but also challenges.

The FIFTH edition of the IFF took place on February 2, 2021, and was held virtually for the first time. It gathered 25 footwear associations from 24 countries from across the globe and welcomed two high-level speakers. CEC President Luis Onofre opened the Forum by saying that “While living with Covid-19, it is essential that our companies continue adapting to what is and will be the new reality, which will clearly be dominated by an accelerated digitalization and by the consumer’s swift attitude towards more environmentally sustainable consumption. At EU level, the European Commission has made available a recovery package to EU Member States that address such investments by SMEs.”

Denis Redonnet, Deputy Director-General and Chief Trade Enforcement Officer at DG Trade in the European Commission, stressed the relevant role of trade in the recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, provided that current EU approaches and agreements are adequately modernised and better tailored to today’s challenges. He also highlighted the crucial importance of not falling prey to protectionist measures, but instead engage with global partners to ensure a level-playing field for all players, based on openness and clear rules as key to a swift recovery.

Achim Berg, Senior Partner & Global Leader of McKinsey’s apparel, fashion, and luxury group presented the key takeaways from The Business of Fashion/ McKinsey &Co study “The State of Fashion 2021”. He emphasized the devastating 2020 year for the fashion industry, with total economic profits being 93% below 2019’s levels. In addition to lower profits and hampered growth, the COVID-19 crisis will result in long-lasting changes in consumer demand, consumer behaviour, and retail models. As Mr Berg noted ‘the playbook to succeed has changed for good” as the crisis has disrupted the fashion supply chain, from sourcing to store economics. Yet, all is not doom for the fashion industry in a post-COVID-19 world: digital and eCommerce create new opportunities for setting up efficient digital strategies and attracting new consumers, Sustainability is getting momentum and becoming economically attractive, and competitive companies have an opportunity to seize market shares from their peers and expand their operations.

Participants later discussed other topics of relevance for the industry such as the importance of transparent communication to make consumers understand the sustainability properties of real leather. Real leather is a  synonym of circularity and durability. Terms such as “vegan leather”, “PU leather”, etc. should be forbidden because they mislead consumers.

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