Chacos are widely popular sandals for outdoor activities. I have a pair and they are super durable and comfortable for long walks and hikes. I am glad that Chacos demonstrates a commitment to ensuring that their supply chain is established ethically. They could improve transparency by mentioning specific organizations and factories that they source from. There is also room for improvement when it comes to reducing the carbon footprint of their operations as I could not find any methods that they listed that were particularly exceptional. The best thing about these sandals is that they last a very long time and they can be repaired through the ReChaco program. Emphasis on durability and repairability is the most sustainable practice that Chacos advertises.
These sandals have polyester straps. Chacos are made with a vegan polyurethane midsole which is very durable and does not compress with wear. The outsole is made from a rubber compound, using 25% recycled rubber. In total, there are 8 pieces that make up this sandal design. The packaging is made from 80% recycled paper and is free of solvent-based adhesives or petroleum- based inks. Water based solvents and inks are used instead. For shipping, 25% recycled plastic shipping bags are used. These bags can be recycled at Chacos stores. It is good that Chacos is making use of recycled materials. In regards to their supply chain, Chacos’ website highlights their efforts to ensure that their products are sourced sustainably. They use their own verification combined with third party verification to rule out human trafficking and slavery practices, conducting third party audits as well. A Production Code of Conduct must also be followed by their partners. This agreement emphasizes workers’ rights. Employees involved directly in sourcing materials are trained to identify human trafficking and slavery in the supply chain. I am glad that this company addresses their commitment to responsible sourcing though ensuring fair labor practices does seem like doing the bare minimum. When it comes to transparency, I wish more details were provided about where exactly materials are sourced from. Specific factories could even be mentioned in order for consumers to do their own research instead of taking Chaco’s word for it.
Chacos are made in a factory in Rockford, MI. In a 2014 report, Wolverine Worldwide mentioned that non-recyclable materials from US distribution centers are taken to “waste-to-energy” plants instead of landfills. Unfortunately, this method is essentially another name for trash incineration which emits toxic chemicals into the air and leaves behind toxic ash that requires further disposal. This practice is not as green as they imply. The same report mentioned different ways that Wolverine attempts to reduce their footprint, including a corporate recycling program and energy-efficient light bulbs. These are good steps, but I would like to see more initiatives being taken to reduce CO2 outputs and better management of waste. Though, when it comes to waste Chacos does make an evident commitment towards making their products last a long time. They have a program called ReChaco Repair which allows for consumers to send their Chacos to the Michigan factory for repairs instead of throwing them away. In 2019, 25,000 pairs of sandals were repaired. This program is something that more companies need to incorporate. Repairability of products should be considered by anyone who produces anything — this way countless items could be diverted from landfills. Though production methods do need to be improved, the repair program that Chacos uses positively contributes to their score.
Chacos is a footwear company that has been around since 1989, making sandals that they take pride in being “built to last.” Chacos is now owned by the larger company Wolverine Worldwide. Wolverine Worldwide is a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, a group including companies like Amazon, Gap, REI, and Nordstrom. This group uses the Higg Index which is a standardized set of measurements to assess environmental and social labor impacts of the different companies that use it. It is meant to be used to identify areas where companies can improve sustainability. I think that this kind of measurement has great potential for helping companies achieve sustainability, but it was difficult to find any kind of report on what the Higg Index reveals about the Chacos brand, which was disappointing. This index would be very useful if made public, potentially helping consumers make more informed purchases. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition seems like it promotes good practices surrounding sustainability, but it is unclear to what extent it has influence on its members. It seems like some could be involved in a more performative fashion. Wolverine Worldwide has made a public commitment to make more sustainable choices but we are left without an accurate measure of their efforts, meaning I cannot give them a high earth rating for this section.