These chunky, orthopedic shoes have a history leaning in on 250 years. This has given them the time and the space to make numerous unethical decisions as new production technologies came about since their start in 1774. However, Birkenstock has chosen to take a higher road by not only ethically creating their product but also keeping production local (in Germany).
Because Birkenstock are exclusively manufactured in Germany, working conditions are great because of Germany’s strong labor rights laws. They have around 3,000 employees but as the popularity has risen they have created more jobs in Germany.
Made with environmentally-friendly cork and rubber, Birkenstock has sought to promote sustainability with their packaging. Environmental impact reviews are still in progress but they have begun to work on reduction of carbon emissions as well as energy use.
Birkenstock were not created for fashion but rather with a footbed that provides great arch support. They are made to last and therefore promote a less consumeristic society by creating a product you only have to buy once. Beyond long-lasting they also are made to repair and Birkenstock will help get you connected to a cobbler who can help you. This is a rare trait in retailers today. Generally, the affluent see something that is ‘broken’ throw it away and buy new immediately without considering the cost of waste.
As I noted earlier, Birkenstock does not promote consumerism. The popularity in these orthopedic shoes was not pushed by Birkenstock’s marketing techniques. In fact, Birkenstock has a very low marketing budget. The chief executive, Oliver Reichert, does not see the rise in popularity and fashion as a big deal and claims that popularity will come and go. The point of Birkenstock isn’t to supply the fashionistas with new styles but rather to create a sustainable and well made show to the people who value it.
Birkenstock’s really are an example of quality over quantity, of sustainability over materialism, and of durability over fashion trends.
Written By: Katelynn Behrens