Interview with Brooke Beshai
28 February 2021
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- Supporting LGBTQ+ Communities
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Brooke Beshai, Director of Sustainability and Compliance for Deckers Brands – which includes UGG, HOKA, Teva, and Sanuk – looks ahead to 2021, sharing her thoughts on key sustainability trends and areas of focus for UGG this year.
As the Director of Sustainability and Compliance for Deckers Brands, what are your primary responsibilities?
I am responsible for overseeing our Sustainability and Compliance programs. We work very cross-functionally, and I am lucky to work with talented individuals who truly believe in making a difference for our communities, our people, and our planet. I oversee corporate-wide sustainability initiatives like our carbon accounting/science-based targets project, our regenerative farming project, and our Life Cycle Assessment project. My team also manages our restricted substances and ethical supply chain programs, plus day-to-day compliance efforts ensuring our policies are appropriately followed. Deckers and UGG really are filled with passionate people driving our efforts forward each and every day.
What do you see as key sustainability issues for the apparel and footwear market to respond to in 2021?
Currently, I think the biggest issue for our industry is circularity. Infrastructure for footwear recycling is still in its infancy; it is generally not available at any scale and lags behind the apparel industry materially. Of the over 24 billion pairs of shoes manufactured globally each year, most of them will eventually end up in a landfill or incinerator. We as an industry need to come together to find long-term solutions for recycling footwear products at the end of their life.
I also think it would be amiss not to speak about global warming. The fashion sector is a major contributor to global carbon emissions. It is estimated that the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions and will be more than 50% by 2030. As an industry, we all must challenge ourselves to not just purchase offsets but to really understand our carbon footprint, do what we can to reduce it, and then address what’s left with offsets. Our position will always be to measure, reduce, and then offset.
We want to do our part to help solve these major sustainability issues for present generations and many generations to come.
As the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates industry trends including more digital retail and demand for greater transparency, how is UGG responding with sustainability in mind?
We want to continue designing products with a beautiful aesthetic while also thinking about how circularity can be integrated into our processes. Our products are classic and will transcend year over year.
We have always believed in being transparent, not over-stating our progress, and setting targets and reporting against them in a clear way. With the pandemic, more consumers are choosing to use our e-commerce platform. This means more shipping and therefore more packaging, and we want to be mindful of the resources used. At UGG, we have undertaken a Life Cycle Assessment of our packaging and put steps in place to reduce its impacts. Our packaging materials are mostly closed loop in that they use mostly paper and very little plastic, and can be recycled back into paper goods. When comparing our packaging from FY19 to FY20, we saw a 26.48% reduction in the amount of water being used, a 4.85% decrease in Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions being produced, and a 14.22% reduction of fossil fuel being used.
In the new digital age, the logistics of our products have become even more important. This is why our Moreno Valley Distribution Center has 120 solar panels, is LEED Silver Certified – a green building certification system that recognizes its energy efficiency – and has a target to become a zero-waste facility by 2023. We are currently achieving a recycling rate of 96%!
What are you seeing consumers demand from brands in terms of sustainability?
Consumers want transparency, and they want a product that is socially and environmentally conscious. There is so much information out there, and quite frankly it can be confusing for consumers. We strive to be clear and transparent in our messaging. This is a key aim of our FEEL GOOD platform. We want our consumers to know that sustainability is a journey. It’s refreshing to read something and know exactly what is meant by the messaging. That is our hope – to continue making an impact while being honest, clear, and transparent with our consumers about the progress we are making.
What are the UGG brand’s main focus areas for 2021 in line with its sustainability strategy?
At UGG, we strive to bring products to life that not only look and feel amazing, but are built to last using innovative and more environmentally-conscious materials. Longevity is a very big part of sustainability. In the near future we strive to: (1) continue our partnership with the Savory Institute and ultimately integrate hides sourced from farmers who practice regenerative farming into our supply chain, (2) continue to build on our icons and develop innovative collections, and (3) fully understand our company footprint and further take steps to minimize this – for example, by continuing to explore the use of carbon neutral materials.
How are you working with partners such as the Savory Institute to achieve your goals?
We find partners who share in our values and commitments, and who have relevant expertise to help us drive our goals. The Savory Institute is the world’s largest verified regenerative sourcing solution, so it only made sense for us to work with true experts in this field and have direct contact with the farming operations. They have developed a standard that tracks outcomes in soil health, biodiversity, and ecosystem function.