Sustainable Strides: New Balance’s Commitment to Quality

By Kyra Stiggelbout, MBA ’24

By: Staff
Kyra Stiggelbout sitting on a stone step wearing New Balance sneakers.

Kyra Stiggelbout, MBA ’24, wearing New Balance shoes

Last summer, I worked as a corporate quality intern at New Balance Athletics. I went into the summer with a couple of key questions:

  1. What exactly does the quality department do?
  2. What does it have to do with sustainability?

It turns out that the answers to both questions are similar. Both quality and sustainability have the unique feature of having to do with everything.

The Johnson School’s role in helping me find my path

My path to discovering my summer role at New Balance commenced upon my admission to Cornell’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management. I was ready to make a career pivot out of performance marketing, where my enthusiasm and belief had waned over time. For years, I had a vision of finding my niche in the apparel and footwear industry, where I could harmonize my passion for fashion with my aspiration to contribute to environmental sustainability. When the time arrived to choose my immersion program, opting for the Sustainable Global Enterprise (SGE) Immersion was a natural and uncomplicated decision.

During my first semester, I had conversations that opened doors to finding a project within the immersion program that aligned with my interests. My SGE Immersion team had the responsibility of pinpointing investment opportunities to facilitate the transformation of a fast-fashion footwear company’s practices, aligning them with the principles of circularity. My team and I explored a number of diverse strategies, ranging from innovative material sourcing, waste reduction methodologies, and the prospect of grant and fellowship initiatives. While each avenue held promise, our most profound revelation pointed toward an internal restructuring.

Our interviews and research unveiled a common thread among highly sustainable footwear and apparel companies—the existence of sustainability-focused individuals dispersed throughout traditional roles within the organization,spanning finance, marketing, sourcing, design, and more. Armed with this realization, the trajectory of my summer recruitment underwent a transformative shift.

photo of a large building with a "new balance" sign above the entrance.
New Balance headquarters

From immersion insight to corporate internship

I began to initiate conversations with individuals holding more conventional job titles, forging a connection with a Cornell alum in quality and strategic sourcing at New Balance. Following engaging discussions with the alum and other New Balance team members, I enthusiastically embraced an opportunity to serve as a corporate quality intern based in Boston, MA.

In this role, I crafted the initial iteration of a comprehensive global quality manual encompassing all New Balance product lines. This manual aimed to encompass quality checkpoints and processes spanning a product’s lifecycle, from its inception as an idea through manufacturing and beyond. What made this project truly exceptional was the absence of silos; I was not confined to a single team. Given that quality considerations span every phase of a product’s journey, I collaborated with all departments. I conducted over eighty interviews with professionals from diverse areas such as product development, marketing, manufacturing, and quality, representing a broad spectrum of seniority levels.

At the culmination of the summer, I delivered the inaugural draft of the quality manual to my team. Immersing myself in the realm of quality management, despite my lack of prior experience in that job function, required a level of comfort with ambiguity. It did feel unusual to hand over a 24-page document still adorned with red-inked notes and evident gaps. However, our initial conversations, where expectations were candidly outlined at the onset of the summer, provided me with the assurance that such a state was precisely what had been anticipated.


My summer at New Balance, while not directly centered on sustainability, proved to be an immensely rewarding experience. It offered me the opportunity to engage with a diverse array of professionals and gain insights into how both quality and sustainability intersected with their respective roles. Through these interactions, I was able to refine my post-Johnson School career aspirations. What became clear to me was the striking resemblance between the quality team’s function and that of sustainability teams— both rely heavily on cross-functional collaboration to thrive. In the footwear industry, these departments play a similar and equally critical role: ensure products meet exacting quality standards and prepare for impending sustainability standards. This dual focus is imperative in fulfilling customer expectations and regulatory demands, illustrating the dynamic interactions between quality and sustainability in this sector.

Learn more about CSGE

 About Kyra Stiggelbout, MBA ’24

headshot of Kyra Stiggelbout.

Kyra Stiggelbout is a second-year MBA candidate in the Two-Year MBA program and a Roy H. Park Leadership Fellow at the Johnson School who is focusing on the intersection of sustainability and fashion. With a background in digital marketing and data analytics for clients in the apparel industry, she is leveraging her experience working with sustainable brands to pursue a role in strategic sourcing and supply chain in the footwear and apparel industry. In her free time, she enjoys skiing, sailing, spending time with friends and her dog, and embroidering.