This week, I decided to write about UGG Australia. I can bet that everyone in the class either owns a pair of UGGs or has seen a pair on Bucknell’s campus. I am a HUGE fan of UGGs because they keep my feet warm and are extremely comfortable. Mind you, this compliment is coming from a person who has had Achilles tendon surgery and multiple stress fractures from running (hence why ¼ of my shoe closet is devoted to UGGs).
The company was born in Byron Bay, Australia. During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Australian surfers would surf at Byron Bay for days a time and struggled to find ways to keep their feet warm and dry in between their surf sessions. Surfers eventually turned to hand-made basic sheepskin “footies” for natural warmth, comfort and as a way to wick away moisture. This discovery led to the foundation of the UGG brand and its worldwide phenomenon.
The company prides and defines itself on the quality of its Twinface sheepskin, which is illustrated in its mission statement: UGG® Australia delivers on its promise of luxury and comfort. UGG claims that no other material (other than its Twinface sheepskin) can “naturally keep your feet cool and warm at the same time” (UGG Australia). As a company that relies on animal skin, UGG Australia has been subject to criticisms, most notably by the animal liberation movement. However, UGG Australia has never made a formal response to its critics. Why? I would probably guess because of the company’s continued economic success throughout the last decade. Not to mention, if UGG Australia did try to please animal activists and use different materials in producing its boots, their quality would significantly decrease.
While UGG Australia certainly has not prided itself on being socially responsible, it has partnered with Deckers Outdoor Corporation (its brand owner) in creating an ethical supply chain. In its supplier code of conduct, Deckers elaborates on the following points:
- No forced labor (no prison labor, indentured, labor, bonded labor or otherwise)
- No Child labor (will not employ workers below the age of 16 or in hazardous work, 18)
- Wages and Benefits (employees wages’ wages & benefits must meet applicable laws for all regular hours worked)
- Maximum number of working hours per week will not exceed 60
- No discrimination
- No harassment
- No abuse
- Employees have the freedom to association and collective bargaining
- Safe and healthy workplace conditions
- Strive to improve environmental performance and towards clean production
- Assessment and monitoring (will conduct ongoing assessments and reviews for each of its facilities)
Sorry for the rant. In regards to the auditing procedures, a China-based Deckers representative conducts audits on all facilities and factory records on a regular basis (Deckers). All facilities must receive a score of 70 or higher on the Ethical Supply Chain scorecard to pass the audit; otherwise, “immediate correlative action” will be taken. There is also a “zero tolerance” policy on child and forced labor. I was surprised that discrimination, harassment, and abuse did not qualify for their “zero tolerance” policies.
It seems like UGG Australia is satisfying the necessary labor, health, and environment requirements, but do not expect the company to go out of its way to become an innovator in social responsibility anytime in the near future.