Going to school in Ithaca, I can tell you firsthand that Ithaca winters are brutal. While walking to class in freezing temperatures and snowstorms, I have found that owning a pair of UGG boots is essential. I was curious to know just how sustainable my go-to pair of boots were, and after doing some research, I have concluded that UGG is a sustainable company. They provide a great deal of information on their website regarding what they have already done for sustainability and their goals for the future. Although there is always room for improvement, I am very impressed by what UGG has done so far regarding sustainability.
The UGG Classic Tall II Boot is made up of sheepskin lining, polyester binding, a suede heel counter, a leather heel, and a Treadlite by UGG™ outsole. After doing some research, I found that the main material in the Treadlite is rubber. Unfortunately, a majority of rubber is made from petroleum, which is a fossil fuel that exacerbates environmental issues, such as climate change.
UGG ensures that they only use sheepskin that is a by-product of the food industry. This means that after the meat industry purchases animals from a farmer, the meat processing facilities directly sell their hides to tanneries, in which UGG then buys from these tanneries. UGG can also trace 100% of their sheepskin back to the processing facility. In addition, over 97% of their sheepskin is currently sourced from Leather Working Group certified tanneries, which is a group dedicated towards advocating for the best environmental practices throughout the leather supply chain, although their goal is to reach 100% by 2022. Furthermore, UGG only sources sheepskin from Australia, the United States, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Spain. UGG does not source sheepskin from the Middle East, North Africa, or countries that do not have animal welfare standards.
Regarding the leather that UGG uses, they require all tanneries supplying finished leather from Brazil to provide a Leather Working Group audit report demonstrating 100% traceability to the processing facility. The tannery must also obtain a certificate from the respective processing facility attesting they have a monitoring system in place to ensure the cattle are not sourced from farms with deforested areas, involved in rural conflicts, with labor analogous to slavery, or involved in the invasion of indigenous and protected areas. In addition, UGG is part of the Leather Working Group’s Animal Welfare Group, which prioritizes efforts around traceability, slaughter protocols, assurance schemes, and risk mapping. UGG can currently trace over 97% of their leather to country of origin, and over 93% to the processing facility, but they are working to achieve full traceability.
Something UGG has done that I find very impressive is that they are committed to ensuring responsible standards have been met, even at the farm level. They have partnered up with Savory Institute, with the goal of helping farmers move towards restorative solutions that can help heal the land and increase resistance to climate change. This has been done through regenerating topsoil, improving the water cycle, and enriching the ecosystem by increasing biodiversity. Furthermore, regarding the packaging of their products, UGG has reduced the amount of tissue paper they use, switched to smaller one-piece shoe boxes, and reduced the quantity of printed brand materials. These practices have resulted in a decrease in packaging dunnage by 8.96%, a decrease in GHG emissions by 8.09%, a reduction in water usage by 2.09%, a fossil fuel reduction of 11.1%, and a decrease of eutrophication (excessive richness of nutrients in a body of water) by 12.63% from 2018 to 2019. Furthermore, UGG has saved over 9 million pounds of packaging between 2017 to 2020. UGG is also trying to reduce their energy usage, in which there are 1,170 solar panels at UGG HQ. However, since UGG is such a large company, stretching all over the world, they use a lot of energy in transporting their products. In addition, UGG uses fossil fuels to power the machines at their factories, and I cannot find any information on how they are trying to reduce the amount of energy they use. Lastly, most UGG boots end up in landfills, where it takes 50 to 80 years for the rubber soles to decompose and 50 years for the sheepskin to decompose.
UGG products are manufactured in a number of countries, with the primary one being China. Unfortunately, the salaries of Chinese factory workers are low compared to those in the United States and Europe, with the hourly wage being only 75 cents. However, on their website, UGG claims that they are committed to promoting diversity, gender equality, female empowerment, and inclusion for all. They also claim that they want to embed human rights across their operations and supply chain, and positively impact communities where they operate. They claim that they are trying to meet these goals by 2027, and I believe that they will complete these goals by that time. Nevertheless, I think their choice to manufacture in China is counterintuitive to these claims. Furthermore, UGG claims on their website that their Classic Tall II Boot was made in a factory that supports women with the help of HERproject, which helps to empower and educate women in the workplace.
Classic Tall Sheepskin Boots | UGG® Official
Our Sustainable Journey | UGG®
FEELGOOD | UGG® Sustainability Strategy | Our Journey To A More…
What is Treadlite by UGG? - Englin's Fine Footwear (englinsfinefootwear.com)
Uggs — Design Life-Cycle
“The Story of Ugg Boots” by Justine Turkiewicz | The Story of Stuff: Case Studies (wordpress.com)
UGG (brand) - Wikipedia
Leather Working Group