Step Two of being Obnoxious.
Two weeks ago I posted my email and efforts to uncover the ethical principles for Chacos (parent company Wolverine Worldwide). I sent Chaco’s customer service department an email asking for a response regarding their ethics. You can read the original post here.
I was pretty impressed with their quick response, though I’m not sure how I feel about their email. You can read it below:
Thank you for your inquiry about Chaco products. As an outdoor brand, we recognize our connection and responsibility to a healthy, sustainable, environment and lifestyle.
Quality is critical to our customers and us, and this is something that we will not settle on. When we are developing products and selecting facilities for production we search worldwide for the best qualified facilities with the skills and equipment to match our needs. To achieve consistent quality with efficiencies and keep production near many of the resources needed for our products most of our production is done outside of the U.S.
Our product line is very much driven by technology innovations and technical products. More than half of the leather that we use is sourced from tanneries that have either BLC or ISO 14001 (or both) certifications. Both assess the compliance to environmental and work standards. Merrell is currently working towards sourcing leather exclusively from tanneries that have these certifications.
Chaco and Wolverine World Wide Inc., our corporate parent, make products in factories all over the world, including China, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Brazil, Dominican Republic, and the U.S. As a company we take human and workers rights very seriously. We were one of the first multi-national companies to publish our “Engagement Criteria for Partners and Sources” that define the guiding principles we value when selecting our sources. To learn more please visit our corporate website at http://www.wolverineworldwide.com/default.asp
We follow a program that begins with an internal evaluation prior to any prototypes or samples being made. Once this is acceptable, we arrange for an independent, third-party audit that seeks compliance to local labor laws. We then enter into a signed manufacturing agreement with each factory acknowledging their understanding of our compliance guidelines. We continually perform audits and we issue corrective action plans where needed. We take any corrective action plan very serious and follow through to make sure the issue is resolved. If at any point throughout this process a factory fails to meet our minimum standards in any regard it automatically disqualifies them from being considered.
We are also a member of the Conservation Alliance, and recently made a pledge of over $500,000. Please visit the following website for additional information.http://www.conservationalliance.com/
We do also provide a custom design website, www.mychacos.com which allows you to custom design a pair of Chaco sandals which are made right in Michigan and are custom designed for your specific needs.
So, they answered some of my questions and provided me with some decent information. I’ve done some more digging on their parent company and have found out a couple things. Wolverine Worldwide (the link they sent me doesn’t work, but I found their site) makes a lot of different outdoor footwear. They make Sperry, Merrell, Patagonia, and Chaco, as well as several more. They bought Chacos a few years ago. Prior to this buyout, all Chaco footwear was made in Colorado. Now, footwear is made in…. well you can read the above email for that one. The price hasn’t changed, even with mass production at seemingly cheaper labor, these sandals are still $100. Hmmm….. And as the email stated, you can buy a pair of ‘made in the USA’ Chacos online for $125.
The Better World Shopping Guide gives Patagonia shoes an A+ rating, with Chacos a B, Merrell a C, and Sperry a D. Very interesting huh? A huge parent company has been given different ratings for the different shoes. By the way, if you are interested in ethical shopping at all, check out the Better World Shopping Guide. They’re amazing.
So, what’s the next step now? Am I satisfied? Well, I’m getting there. A “B” rating on Better World is pretty good. Usually it’s good enough to appease me. But I want to dig a bit deeper. My next step is to contact the people at Better World to investigate their rating system in depth. I’m also going to contact Chaco’s parent company to find out if they can share more information with me. Who knows, I may ask them if I can visit one of their factories. But more on that later. I’ll keep you posted.