In the current retail landscape, ethos is everything – and companies such as Deckers differentiate in the market through its corporate culture and core value within the organization: Doing Good and Doing Great.
Deckers Outdoor Corp., a company that designs, markets, and distributes footwear, apparel, and accessories headquartered in Goleta, Calif., is the name behind beloved brands you’ve heard of: Its wide-ranging portfolio includes UGG, Koolaburra, HOKA, Teva, and Sanuk. Commanding a global audience, Deckers Outdoor Corp. products are sold in more than 50 countries and territories, backed by over 40 years of history building niche footwear brands into market leaders in their respective lifestyle segments – but the brand decidedly focuses its influence on “doing good” in the footwear segment.
Tom Garcia, Chief Administrative Officer, Deckers, told Fairchild Studio that philanthropy and sustainability are well established pillars of the company’s culture. “Embedded in our culture is what I view to be the most important core value of the organization – Doing Good and Doing Great. It is a foundational element of who we are and why we do what we do and makes it easy for our leaders to prioritize all components of our ESG program as they motivate their teams.”
“One example of this is our Deckers Gives philanthropic initiatives, which are a cornerstone of our ESG program, and in addition to being the right thing to do and giving us all a bigger sense of purpose, it has become a way for leaders, teams and employees to connect and bond with each other. For me, simply being a part of an organization of dedicated and passionate people driving towards a bigger purpose has been incredibly rewarding.”
Deckers Gives is employee-focused and offers programs and initiatives such as charitable donation matches, paid volunteer time, charity grants, and recognition of employees “going above and beyond” in their communities. Naturally, the company also works with a slew of organizations, such as Boys and Girls Clubs; The Conservation Alliance; Direct Relief; Food Bank of Santa Barbara County; Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara County; Green Power Hike; Hong Kong International Coastal Clean Up; Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara; Scout Association of Hong Kong; Soles4Souls; Surfrider Foundation; and Thames21.
Garcia explained that altruism has indeed progressed in footwear, and that its approach to ESG and sustainability initiatives reflects the evolving wants and needs of consumers. “If you look back several years, consumers did not necessarily expect a robust ESG foundation from their favorite brands. But it’s different today. It is now ‘table stakes,’ and the standards of those expectations will only continue to increase.”
In fact, Garcia said that consumers now want to build relationships with brands that have a positive impact on the world – and this desire extends to the expectations of its stakeholders, too. “This shift has accelerated the rate of change and is truly encouraging for the future. As for Deckers’s ESG program, one thing that I’m incredibly proud of is that our program takes a holistic approach, tackling a broad range of areas with a deep focus on where we can have the greatest impact.”
This approach is represented by its efforts to align company ambitions with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “As we tackle our SDGs, we recognize that we are on a journey to get better every day,” Garcia told Fairchild Studio.
“A great example of this is the acceleration of our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) program over the last twelve plus months. Our approach and culture allow us to respond in an agile manner, with the organization mobilizing quickly around our strategic endeavors.” It’s why earlier this year, Deckers announced the recipients of its annual $500,000 donation to support social and racial justice, alongside a comprehensive “year in review” of its DEI corporate initiatives.
One aspect of their DEI program is centered around philanthropic partnerships and initiatives that guide the company’s path forward. For example, its work with Soles4Souls addresses both giving back and sustainability through its mission to turn unwanted shoes and clothing “into opportunity” by preventing them from going to waste and providing relief for people in need.
Pattie Graben, Vice President of Business Development for Soles4Souls, told Fairchild Studio that from a charitable giving perspective, its relationship with Deckers is wholly unique. “Deckers has powered years of our work to help create opportunities for others. Whether it’s through our microenterprise program to help people create an income or through providing free shoes to those in need, as well as financial support, Deckers’ commitment is rock solid.”
Deckers has invested $73,350 and 1.13 million pairs of shoes into its Soles4Souls partnership, according to Graben, and its donations created $1.7 million of economic impact, which is the equivalent of providing a full year of food, shelter, and education for 235 families in countries such as Haiti and Honduras.
Graben told Fairchild Studio that Deckers’s “commitment to running a great business and making a huge, positive impact is a shining example of how the for profit and not for profit sectors can work together for the benefit of millions. Just as in their approach to the brands they steward, we really value Deckers’s consistent, longterm approach to our partnership.”
“For many of those we serve, the uncertainty of food, shelter, and physical safety of what any day brings is a challenge most of us cannot imagine. But we know we can make promises to show up and serve those communities because we can count on Deckers. We’re honored, and lucky, to be a part of Deckers commitment to using business as a force for good.”
But beyond impact lies a deeply rooted desire be ingrained in the communities it serves. Michael Baker, Chief Executive Officer of United Boys and Girls Club of Santa Barbara County, said that “Because Deckers is a major corporation in our community, other corporations step up as well because Deckers is leading by example. That is a huge help with the philanthropic endeavors we must make every year.”
“What differentiates Deckers is the fact that they are a major corporation in our community that encourages their leadership team to get involved with nonprofit entities. From serving on local boards to attending and supporting local events, Deckers has been there literally every step of the way, pun intended.”
Ashley Mayes, Director, Global Brand Communications, HOKA, discusses the brand’s enduring philanthropic endeavors.
The team at HOKA understands that with any platform comes responsibility and giving back through our charitable partnerships is a non-negotiable in doing our part to maintain our platform. The HOKA brand truly believes that we have a responsibility to provide access to move and amplify the voices of those who so often go unheard. You will see this ethos come to life in many of our giveback initiatives and even through the stories we tell.
For instance, our monetary and in-kind support for organizations like Back on My Feet, an organization who combats homelessness through movement, and Outdoor Outreach, an organization that facilitates camping excursions for youths who may have never had an opportunity to experience the outdoors, directly provides access to move.
There are many more organizations that we partner with, and you can see them on our social channels, as we believe that human storytelling is the best way to bring awareness to any cause. We believe that everyone deserves the ability to get outside and move and reach their full potential and choose to support organizations that enable that for the people who need it.
The Deckers ethos charges us to ensure we are acting within our community and our industries. It empowers HOKA to look at ways that we can give back to our community and the spaces where HOKA activates to ensure we are lifting the places and people around us. We keep this top of mind in everything we do.
For example, if we are putting on an event or holding a brand photoshoot in a certain location, we will find a way to support and elevate the local community we are activating in a meaningful way. It’s important to us that we always find ways to incorporate and empower that community. This ethos inspires the brand to operate thoughtfully and encourages us to lead.
Kim Johnson, Senior Manager Brand Communications – CSR, UGG, talks to Fairchild Studio about its pursuit of inclusivity and big giving moments.
We will always continue to challenge ourselves when it comes to thinking of new ways to make a meaningful impact within the charity partners and programs we support. Not only in monetary donations, but in other forms of support, such as amplifying organizations messages, sponsoring programs or scholarships, providing the footwear and apparel needs, and powerful storytelling.
Our most current support is around Outdoor Activist + Drag Queen Pattie Gonia’s Hi-Queen tour, which fosters the building of community for queer people in the outdoors.
UGG gives to various nonprofit organizations in line with our values and strategic vision. Our Feel GOOD platform and corresponding microsite are the hubs we use to communicate how we support amazing organizations, such as our partnership with The Savory Institute. With this partnership, we are investing in the regeneration of 200,000 acres of land in 2021, with a goal of 1,000,000 acres within five years. This bold focus on encouraging regenerative agriculture is helping transform the Australian Sheepskin industry which is good for the planet and good for our industry.
We unequivocally support the LGBTQIA+ community. Each year, through partnerships with both local and international organizations, namely Pacific Pride Foundation (PPF) and GLAAD, we collaborate with these nonprofits by serving the community in different ways. PPF focuses on building a thriving, vibrant and visible LGBTQIA+ community and each year we partner to host their PROUD Prom – an inclusive event with local LGBTQIA+ and allied youth from Santa Barbara and the coastal communities of California.
While GLAAD engages on a global stage addressing issues of representation and inclusion in the media, both organizations serve a vital purpose to the community and we’re glad to partner with them and stand with the LGBTQIA+ community.
The brands at Deckers regularly meet to discuss new ways of giving that both impact our communities and engage staff to support. By collaborating cross-functionally, we can expand the impact and reach of our charitable giving. For example, in 2021 Deckers’s support of the Black and Asian communities allowed an opportunity for us to discuss these issues with the UGG consumer and allow them to see us stand in support of our values. We proudly advocate for our employees, customers, and community.
In 2021, we worked with the Deckers brands team to establish the annual Deckers Scholars scholarships through our friends at the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). We are excited to finalize and announce the winners as we open the scholarship again in 2022. What is great about this opportunity is that it reaches students who attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) with academic focus in the areas of fashion, innovation, and sustainable design. Our intention is to support young leaders in their pursuits to break into industries like our own.
The holidays are always a big giving moment for UGG, so I’m thrilled about the nonprofit organizations we will be supporting. They each highlight a different area locally and internationally, and the organizations have proven themselves to be of great impact in providing services to the people they serve.
Deckers delves into the dynamics behind its devotion to company-wide philanthropy and sustainability efforts.
For Deckers, sustainability is “about progress, not perfection” – and that axiom guides its industry-shifting initiatives that have helped shaped it into a company to admire.
But sustainability is holistic, the brand says, and it comes in many colors. Deckers observes both environmental and social metrics for its sustainability and philanthropy efforts – and its achievements can be found in the company’s recently released FY21 Corporate Responsibility report, Creating Change, which outlines its sustainable business practices and socially conscious operations that collectively help minimize the environmental impact of its business footprint.
Here, Michelle Apodaca, Director, Deckers Gives & Board Administration, and Brooke Beshai, Senior Director of Sustainability, Deckers, talk to Fairchild Studio about its philanthropic initiatives, achievements in the sustainability space, and why Deckers’s giving back programs standout in the footwear segment.
Fairchild Studio: Why is Deckers so distinguished with its philanthropic efforts? What does the brand do differently than its contemporaries in the footwear space?
Michelle Apodaca: Deckers has been consistent with its philanthropic efforts regardless of ebbs and flows in our business. We’ve always felt an obligation to give back, starting with our founder 48 years ago. Deckers’s focused approach has remained largely on supporting organizations that support the environment, education, at risk youth, diversity, and inclusion as well as local community support. That consistency of giving has built strong interdependent relationships between Deckers and nonprofits ensuring our communities thrive.
With our success has come the ability to give more on behalf of Deckers as well as on behalf of each of our brands. Each of our brands have their own voice in giving and that’s been wonderful to watch how they’ve engaged in selecting organizations to give back. I think allowing our brands to have their own voices while staying true to our company’s values differentiates us from other footwear companies.
Many footwear companies aren’t giving each brand the ability to align organizations with their brand voice but instead make donations at the corporate level only. In addition, our brands often engage our consumers by asking which organizations are important to them and that support resonates with them in a meaningful way.
Fairchild Studio: Tell us about the Art of Kindness. What initiated this program?
M.A.: Art of Kindness (AOK) is a week of volunteering where Deckers employees unite to make a collective impact on our local communities. We build camaraderie, morale, and a culture of service among our global team. It reflects our company value of Doing Good and Doing Great, meaning that when we do good in business, we use that success to give back to our most vulnerable communities and planet through a variety of organizations around the world.
In 2020 we wanted to formalize our volunteer program and coined it “Art of Kindness” as it truly reflects of each employee’s ability to share their individual expression of kindness. While we’ve historically gathered employees for many service activities in person, Art of Kindness has now transformed into a biannual weeklong event that has shifted and broadened the way Deckers volunteers, inclusive of both virtual and in-person opportunities.
Fairchild Studio: From your perspective, how is Deckers’s approach to sustainability and corporate responsibility differentiated in the footwear industry?
Brooke Beshai: Deckers began its sustainability journey in 2010 and now, over a decade later, our vision to do good and do great is stronger than ever. Our approach to sustainability is holistic. We look at both environmental metrics (e.g., Greenhouse Gas, Waste, Water and Energy, etc.) as well as social metrics (DEI, Human Rights, Gender Equality, Reduced Inequalities and Quality Education).
As members of the UNGC we are required to post an annual report publicly disclosing our progress. We believe in transformative change—change that is only possible with a focused and transparent approach. Our SDGs keep us accountable and help us to track our progress. We recognize that sustainability is a journey and one that will likely never conclude—it’s about progress, not perfection.
Fairchild Studio: What are some of Deckers’s goals and ambitions surrounding sustainable footwear?
B.B.: We strive to maximize the number of preferred materials in our products, reducing waste generation, water consumption, and carbon emissions along the way. We have identified robust targets under each sustainable development goal and disclose our progress year over year. We believe in transparency and sharing both our successes and challenges publicly. Understanding where the opportunity is allows us to focus our efforts to create even greater change.
Fairchild Studio: What’s next for Deckers in the sustainability space?
B.B.: On our sustainability journey, we continue our quest to be a regenerative business by being mindful of our actions, respectful of our planet, and ensuring our employees and factory workers feel appreciated and empowered to be their true authentic selves. In terms of product, we are putting a huge focus on preferred materials. We filed science-based targets with the Science-Based Target Initiative and have set robust targets for our brands including reducing per pair GHG emissions and Energy consumption. We will continue to drive progress toward our SDGs, align efforts with our science-based targets, pursue materials which are sourced via regenerative farming, and continue to make the world a more just place.