For the past five years, Ugg and its parent company, Deckers Brands, have been on a journey to establish and address long-term environmental goals that align with those laid out in the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement.
Now, consumers will begin to see the fruits of those labors.
Ugg today is launching the Plant Power capsule collection, containing sustainable versions of some of its most popular shoe franchises, including the Fluff series. Available on Ugg.com, as well as in Ugg stores globally and through key retail partners, the line was manufactured with materials that help reduce carbon emissions and that are more biodegradable than traditional footwear ingredients.
Building off its über-popular Fluff series, the brand is introducing the Fluff Sugar Platform and Fluff Sugar Sandal, retailing for $120 and $110, respectively. They feature a foam outsole made of renewable sugarcane, called SugarSole, while the soft, fluffy uppers are produced using plant-based Tencel Lyocell, which transforms wood pulp into fibers.
Tencel Lyocell also forms the soft lining of the dual-gender Neumel Natural style, which will retail for $140. Its upper is made from a cotton-hemp blend, set atop handcrafted soles derived from latex harvested from the Hevea rubber tree.
Ugg president Andrea O’Donnell told FN the Plant Power collection grew out of the brand’s ongoing CSR journey, which began in 2016, when Deckers signed on to the United Nations Global Compact.
“That was the first and most significant moment in the sustainability agenda, where the world aligned on the importance of climate change, with an intent to reduce global warming to less than 2%,” O’Donnell recalled.
However, despite strong interest, many companies were delayed in their ability to take action. “The kind of infrastructures to support businesses and help them understand what they needed to do wasn’t necessarily there [in 2016],” O’Donnell explained. “Now the UN and other organizations have come into this space [and can advise] on where to focus, how to strategize and how to build targets.”
She recalled that in May 2020, the company engaged U.K.-based advisory Eco Age to help educate the Ugg team and guide their next steps.
“One of the first things we did in October was launch our [Feel Good] microsite, which is the repository of all the work that we are doing and voices our objectives for the future. It was the first expression of [Ugg’s] commitment to the people and the planet,” said O’Donnell.
Among the many ambitions spelled out by the brand are its support for regenerative farming solutions, in partnership with the Savory Institute. Ugg also has been working to address packaging waste by switching to one-piece shoeboxes and scaling back on tissue paper and printed materials. And as part of the Deckers organization, it is looking to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and find opportunities in its supply chain to improve sustainability.
“Because around 70% of emissions come from energy-intensive raw material production, preparation and processing, we’ve spent a lot of time looking at the design, materials and supply chain,” said O’Donnell.
From those investigations, the Plant Power collection was born. But it is only the beginning: Ugg has set a target to increase its use of recycled, repurposed, plant- and bio-based materials by 35% across the brand by 2027.
O’Donnell acknowledged that she and her team are highly motivated in this mission, but they do face obstacles. “You’re constantly balancing the desire to move fast with the need to really understand this environment. And as I’m sure you’re finding, it’s not that straightforward,” she said. “Everybody has the right intention, but we’re talking about a fundamental change in our supply chain. So it’s complicated — there’s the lead time involved and the resources required.”
By then end of 2021, the brand aims to release a more detailed strategic plan, with three-year, five-year and 10-year goals.
But overall, O’Donnell feels the sustainable fashion movement has reached a crucial turning point. “The past five years, people have been trying to understand what to do. Now, there’s been some collective learning and it’s about the next level of opportunity,” she said. “I think the next five years will bring a whole lot more innovation, creativity and really serious changes in the way we work.”