New Shoes! Clarks are Comfy but are they Ethical?

Fed up of getting wet feet, and of shoes with flimsy soles, I decided to invest in some ‘sensible’ shoes this week. And so the first place I thought of was Clarks. Having been brought up on Jones shoes before moving onto New Look (way over that phase), Topshop, Office and River Island, I only brought my first Clarks shoes last year, and boy, are they comfy.

Clarks lived up to expectations with plenty of good quality, sturdy, stylish and well-priced options. I picked up these brown leather and Harris Tweed brogues for £50 and beige leather, low-heeled Mary-Janes in the sale for around £27. Both are very cute, comfortable and should keep my feet dry. As I was justifying them to myself at the till, my thoughts were three-fold. A – I knew that they are a long-standing British brand (not that shoes are manufactured in the UK but it’s a start), B – I knew that the shoes should last, therefore they are more sustainable than buying countless cheap ballet pumps, and C – I remembered that Clarks had created these cute desert boots last year using organic yarn to create a hand knitted cuff (vaguely ethical?).

With my purchases safely back home I thought I had better check Clarks out and happily they do have a social responsibility section on their website. Some of the work they do includes the following:

• Following recommendations by Greenpeace Clarks do not use leather in their products produced from cattle raised in the Amazon Biome (a reason for deforestation).
• In 2009 they contributed to the inaugural ‘Forest Footprint Disclosure’ report. This initiative champions sustainable and sound business practice in the key commodities that, if managed badly, can encourage deforestation: soy, timber, cattle products, palm oil, and bio-fuels.
• Some of their shoes are made by women trained through Soul of Africa, a self-sustainable charity initiative that helps orphans affected by AIDS.
• They support the Shoe Biz appeal which asks consumers to donate old shoes for reuse to raise money for orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi. Collection points in more than 500 Clarks stores.

So is Clarks ethical? Ethical Consumer Magazine scored them down for supply chain management as they failed to provide evidence of a code of conduct which addressed workers’ rights within its supply chain.
But in considering sustainability, Clarks are made to last, and although it would be nice to have an excuse to keep buying new shoes, I think my Clarks shoes will put me in good stead to last the winter and beyond.

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