Chacos…ahhh chacos. The beloved adventure sandals that began in Colorado to be the perfect shoe for white water rafting guides. Since their humble, practical beginnings as a shoe crated for pure functionality, they have since grown into a granola, outdoorsman niche of their own from. Besides cultivating new products beyond the classic sandals and fun colors and designs for the sandal straps, a lot has changed since Chaco began in Colorado.
The company used to pride itself on being made in the USA. Though this doesn’t guarantee fair, just labor conditions, moving the production to China doesn’t always bode well for ethics though it increases efficiency. This happened when Chaco sold to Wolverine World Wide Inc. Now, only the completely custom sandals from mychacos.com are made wholly in the US. Rockford, Michigan, however, is the center for assembly and rehab for worn Chaco shoes. This in itself is a silver lining within the Chaco framework. They discourage excess and consumerism by repairing broken sandals and being specific with customers on how to take good care of them.
The merge occurred in 2014, and many reports came out about the smoothness of the merge and how factory workers didn’t lose hours or pay in the transition, which is a good sign amidst the relocation of Chaco production to China. Though the increase in Chaco price is due to the distance, Asian outsourcing, it also aligns with the lasting quality of Chaco’s footwear. What also aligns with the sandals’ quality is the Wolverine’s publishing of it’s production code of conduct as well as a recent responsibility report.
The Code of Conduct addresses child labor, hours, wages, benefits, trafficking, and conditions. They also state their commitment to third party auditing, which is important in having a non-bias approach to factory ethics evaluation. In 2014, Wolverine Worldwide assembled a team of corporate members to cross-evaluate the company and all of its brands to create a Responsibility Report to be released in 2015. The report focused on environment, responsible sourcing, community, and people.
Within this report, Chaco stuck out as an example leading the way. First, in environment, Chaco was their leading brand in an exponential growth of shoe recycling and repairing. In the responsible sourcing section, they transparently evaluated their methods from how they choose where to source to the importing. Chaco is almost exclusively sourced from China, minimalizing cutting corners that comes from the thinly-spread and harder to manage supply chains.
In addition, this really means well for Wolverine Worldwide. Though all their brands aren’t the same, they are working as of recently on being more transparent and enforcing their code of conduct. And, another big plus is the way Chaco promotes caring and fixing shoes in a way that goes against the grain of consumerist materialism.
Looking for a supportive, durable, fun, adventurous pair of shoes to last for years? Chacos are an ethical option thanks to the work of Wolverine Worldwide. With the coupled progress in transparency by Wolverine and Chaco’s durable, anti-consumerist ethics, they are improving and are a good footwear choice amidst many bad ones.
Written by: Madeleine Williams