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  • Tifaine Tordjmann

The Whole Truth: Are Uggs Sustainable?

This fall season, wearing Uggs has become the new trend in fashion. From the Ugg Slipper® to the classic Ugg Boot®, both men and women are finding this shoe hard to resist purchasing. When I considered buying a pair of my own, I began to remember the backlash that Ugg® had received from the public a few years ago, accused of using violent and unethical shearing methods, abusing their sheep, and making considerable environmental damages. Many people believed that no longer buying products from the Ugg Brand was the ethical choice to make as a consumer. Today, with the rise of Uggs once again, why and how have individuals chosen to dismiss this past ordinance? Do they consider following trends more important than their own environmental concerns? And are Uggs really unsustainable, or have they changed for the better? In this article, we will uncover the reality behind the Ugg; is it truly ugg-ly, or not?

Woman walks in Ugg boots across a town's market square. Credit: Ralf Geithe for iStock by Getty Images

For the environment, UGG has helped convert over 310,000 acres of land, with a goal of 1,000,000 acres by 2025 through regenerative farming practices, while also lowering their energy usage by 25% per pair by this year. Also, 99.94% of the total wool used for their footwear is repurposed from sheepskin that is a by-product of the food industry (Responsible Wool Standard certified), and 100% of their leather is sourced from Leather Working Group tanneries, a global multi-stakeholder community committed to building a sustainable future with responsible leather. UGG has also implemented new materials that support sustainability such as the SugarSole™, replacing petroleum-based ethylene, which reduced dependency on fossil fuels, and the UGGplush™, which combines their UGGpure™ technology with a recycled polyester backing and TENCEL™ lyocell, a sustainably sourced fiber made from wood pulp. Other positive environmental factors are that UGG has a policy to prevent deforestation in the supply chain, and it has set a science-based target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated from its own operations and supply chain. It is currently on track to meet this target.

For labor, none of UGG’s supply chain is certified by labor standards which ensure worker health and safety, living wages or other labor rights. It implements gender empowerment initiatives in its supply chain, and there is no evidence it ensures payment of a living wage.

Lastly, regarding animals, it has a formal animal welfare policy aligned with Five Freedoms and has clear mechanisms to implement. It uses leather and exotic animal hair, as well as down certified by the Responsible Down Standard. It uses some repurposed wool in wool-based products. It does not use angora, fur or exotic animal skin. UGG traces most animal products to the first stage of production, and UGG also became a founding member of the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) International Working Group in 2015, and with other members created the Responsible Wool Standard— a global standard to protect animal welfare, influence best practices, ensure traceability, and ultimately give consumers clear and trustworthy information which can help guide their buying. UGG is now a leader in the use of preferred wool, confirming that 100% of their wool would not be virgin by 2022. UGG has kept that promise.  

In conclusion, UGG is definitely making progress and is continuing to envision goals for the future. Their products are certainly not vegan and do abuse animals to a certain extent, like other animal by-products in the fashion industry— leather, feather, silk, etc. So, it is understandable that the vegan community (i.e. Organizations like PETA) will demonize the commercial behavior of UGG, but the true victim lies within the consumer and their own beliefs on whether animals should be used for fashion. Additionally, many videos that attack UGG are outdated, and it is important to note, that while it is still not a perfect brand, they have made drastic efforts since 2015. Uggs continue to be a very durable and high-quality product in the world of fast-fashion, so whether you choose to purchase these shoes because you saw them on Pinterest or because you find them convenient, first consider where you stand in consuming animal by-products and the environmental efforts of the brand. 


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