A conversation
with Stefan Stolitzka,
owner and CEO of legero united

Mr. Stolitzka, the following applies to legero united: "True concern for people is in our genes." How does this concern manifest itself in our daily working lives?

It’s the guiding principle for all our actions. It guides and leads us in the exchange with our customers and with our employees. For instance, the fact that we made our campus building largely CO2-neutral is a result of their concern. For us, for example, it’s also a guiding star in our commitment to contemporary art. True concern, however, also guides us in contact with people in situations in which they aren’t doing so well at the moment. We support them with a range of social initiatives.

But true concern goes beyond the interpersonal. It also affects the world around us. So it also guides us in our interaction with nature. In our production flow we take many steps to protect nature. Our goal is to pay attention to how much CO2 will be generated in the production of a shoe as early as the design phase and thereby start climate-protecting measures early.

legero united is characterised by a pioneering spirit with a great love of craftsmanship. How do you bridge the gap between tradition and innovation?

A passion for craftsmanship will always be an essential part of our values. We have a history of craftsmanship, it’s in our DNA. Producing a single shoe requires an average of 60 minutes of work. That’s pure craftsmanship combined with sophisticated state-of-the-art technologies. Everything we do is built on the fundamental understanding of our craft.

We truly believe that the knowledge embodied in craftsmanship can’t be replaced. Digitalisation gives us comprehensive support here. It helps us to save resources, be more flexible and constantly improve our quality. It also helps us permanently monitor our progress. That’s why we pioneered the digitalisation of the design process back in 1994. We consistently drive this forward. All, of course, based on our understanding of craftsmanship.

"For us, doing business successfully means fully accepting our social and ecological responsibility. We take the ecological and social impact of all decisions and activities into account. We design and manufacture shoes that impact the environment as little as possible by making attractive, durable and repairable shoes."

– Stefan Stolitzka
owner and CEO of legero united

The legero united values: truly caring, knowledgeable, creative, pioneering. Where do they come from and why are they so important to you personally?

These values form the substance of legero united. In our work we place great importance on caring for people. We are convinced that our actions must be scientifically sound. Because only with extensive knowledge can you become creative and be ground-breaking with your products.

These values also mean a lot to me personally, because they describe everything that defines and drives me. When I was a child, I was the eldest of my siblings and I was always told, “If, at some point, something should happen, you will have to take care of the family.” So, this concern for people has been deep in me since childhood.

Are these values the secret of the company's success?

Success always comes from the people. All employees who live these values are responsible for it. Together with all the customers and partners who walk the path together with us. The values themselves act as signposts. Something that supports everything we do. That’s what makes us successful.

As part of its luna sustainability program, legero united has set itself ambitious goals, defined environmental guidelines and provides an overview of this work in a sustainability report. Can you tell us more about this?

Products from legero united should inspire people, improve their quality of life and conserve natural resources. Our company uses the most modern production methods to create shoes with a well-thought-out design, sustainable materials and high level of comfort. This aspiration is combined in our three brands legero, superfit and Think!.

For us, doing business successfully means fully accepting our social and ecological responsibility. We take the impact of every decision and activity into account. We design and manufacture shoes that impact the environment as little as possible by making attractive, durable and repairable shoes. To achieve this, we use environmentally friendly materials and products that meet our high standards, and use environmentally compatible manufacturing processes. At each of our locations, we strive to minimise the consumption of materials, water and energy, promote the use of renewable energy, consistently separate waste and, where possible, recycle it and keep emissions to air, water and soil as low as possible. Together with our suppliers and partners, we want to reduce the environmental impact along our entire value chain. Not only do we ensure compliance with all relevant legal provisions and binding obligations, we also work continuously to improve our environmental performance far beyond that and thus comprehensively reduce our CO2 emissions in line with the SBTi target pathway.

A holistic, sustainable approach to materials and manufacturing was created with VIOS. What were the motivations for such an ambitious idea?

We realised that sustainability is often everything and nothing at the same time. For example, there are many substances that are used in supposedly sustainable products that are not really sustainable. VIOS takes a holistic approach. We take a scientifically sound approach to things. With VIOS, we look at the entire value chain and try to make it sustainable. We know and test all substances. There are now 675 on the VIOS Restricted Substance List. That’s a very challenging task. But we let our values guide us. VIOS is a development platform. A haven for sustainable ideas and demands, from which sustainable collections can then emerge. We plan to integrate the VIOS idea into our collections as broadly as possible. Because what we aspire to with VIOS is continuous innovation: we are constantly researching, designing, thinking sustainable solutions further. The results so far are pioneering and we are already implementing them in our daily work.

At legero united, the focus is always on people. Which social projects do you support?

We take our philosophy very seriously and care for people who are in situations where they are not doing so well. In this way, we support a large number of social and charitable projects and initiatives. The spectrum ranges from SOS Children’s Villages to the establishment and running of schools offering education up to secondary school level. For us, it’s the deed and not the word that counts. That’s why we often don’t even appear with our name in many projects. What matters to us is caring for others, not showing off.

With con-tempus, you also look after the long-term promotion of contemporary art. Why is this important to you?

We are convinced that an open, diverse and prosperous society can’t exist without art and culture. Art allows free spaces, completely new, unexpected perspectives. Art has something universal about it. Something that all people can feel. Regardless of language, nationality or level of education. Contemporary art looks ahead with a critical eye on social developments and tries to create new perspectives. We support it because it has the most difficulties. It is not established and mostly does not yet correspond to known mechanisms. But we’re convinced that the great things of tomorrow are being created today. Therefore, we want to invest a lot in the present, so that the creation of something new, free from any dictate, is possible. Often, just a small amount can provide a way to bring “more” to greatness. With my commitment, I would also like to give something back to society.

Stefan Stolitzka

Stefan Stolitzka is a true pioneer – the kind you don’t find in books. He has been contributing his extensive knowledge about shoes since 1991 as managing director and since 1994 as owner of Legero Schuhfabrik GesmbH. In 2001, he took over the Austrian company Think Schuhwerk GmbH and then founded legero united as an umbrella company for the three brands legero, superfit and Think!. Stefan Stolitzka has always thought not just ahead, but further. In addition to his work as CEO at legero united, he serves as president of the Federation of Austrian Industries in Styria and as honorary consul of the Kingdom of Belgium for Styria and Carinthia. He is also the founder of the contemporary art initiative con-tempus. But for the legero united team he is still quite simply ‘our Stefan’.