The Doc Martens website has an extensive section discussing sustainability. Doc Martens also ships and packages their shoes in some recyclable packaging and is trying to reduce and reuse what they are using as well. We do see a few vegan boots for sale so there is effort to make options of boots which do not harm animals. The company is very vague about having any specific initiatives to have policies and initiatives on energy uses, greenhouse gas emissions, or water reduction and such. Doc Martens also sells their shoes at other major fashion companies such as ASOS or Nordstrom, which can be concerning as their production of products is often unethical and working conditions are overlooked at times. I noticed during my research that Doc Martens seemed to have started out as a more sustainable company, but as the corporation grew, working conditions, sustainability, and quality decreased. I think this is a common occurrence with companies that “blow up” or become big. I went into my research expecting the worst, as I knew their leather was not vegan and that lots of processing is necessary to create such a durable shoe. My friends and I all own at least one pair of these shoes, so I was very eager to see the sustainability of the company. Overall, I was impressed with the full page on sustainability, but it also seems like there is a long way to go with actually making efforts to be more sustainability. I learned this week that acknowledgement and action are very different things and although Doc Martens is beginning to acknowledge, more action is necessary.
According to the Doc Marten website, this boot is made out of medium-weight milled leather. The leather used in Doc Martens boots is made from a by-product from the meat industry. Doc Martens is a member of the Leather Working Group, which ensures that suppliers and brands are connected with tanneries that are assessed for limiting energy consumption, water usage, air emissions, waste and chemical management, health and safety, and more. They are also a part of the Animal Welfare Group which supports the animal welfare best practices within the leather supply chain. Leather traceability is also a factor in the leather used by Doc Martens, which ensures the leather can be traced within the supply chain. They have set a goal to achieve 100% traceability by 2024. The soles of the shoes are made from an alloy of PVC, which provides durability, but PVC is a questionable material as it is very difficult to break down. As far as materials go, it seems as if there are a lot things going into the shoes that are not mentioned. It is a start that they are working with the Leather Working Group, but I think overall it is very hard to sustainably source leather made from animal products.
Doc Martens has 1st Tier Suppliers, where their products are produced and sourced, in China, Thailand, Vietnam, Lao, Portugal, and the U.K. The 2nd tier suppliers they claim to use are located across Asia, Europe, and South America. The process of making Doc Martens takes place in four stages. The first stage is where the leather is assessed, cut, and embossed, then the are stitched together with sewing machines, eyelets are punched in, and toe puff is added. Then the mould goes in and some details are added. Finally, the PVC welt is added, and during this phase high heat and processing is used. The shoes are then packaged and sent off. The process of making Doc Martens is very machine and energy extensive. High heat is used for the processing and many different types of machinery is used in each part of the process. There is also very little information about the emissions of the factories, amount of factories, or any efforts to reduce emissions and impact.
Something I appreciate is that Doc Martens is very open about their staff and their working conditions. They openly define “modern slavery” or an umbrella term for forced labor, human trafficking, slavery, and more. Many companies to not acknowledge this issue, but instead do not check with their supply chain to ensure ethical conditions and overlook and brush off the issue. Doc Martens has a Supplier Code of Conduct which states that their suppliers must adhere to and be audited upon this code. There is also an anti-slavery and human trafficking policy which requires training for employees and introduced a confidential hotline. It seems as if there is some acknowledgement of the risk for working conditions with some of Doc Martens factories, but there is not specifics on the amounts of factories and efforts by Doc Martens as a company. They have many initiatives in partnership with other corporations and companies, but seem to do less work themselves regarding working conditions.