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Creating Comfortable Sustainable Shoes
A big part of our journey at Samuel Hubbard is our path toward sustainability. Our team cares deeply about people and the environment. That’s why, every year, we’re doing more to make sustainable choices — big and small — for the company. This includes a commitment to designing comfortable sustainable shoes. There’s plenty of road to cover, but we believe that this is one of our most important adventures and it feels good to know we’ve already made some big steps on the way.
We take our mission of providing lasting comfort to heart. We go beyond the usual fashion trends of “fast fashion” and opt for a more sustainable approach. We stand by the “fewer, better” principle and are committed to designing comfortable sustainable shoes that will last season after season.
Fast fashion leads to overproduction, resulting in excess inventory and waste. Fast fashion shoes don’t last very long due to cheaper materials and lower manufacturing standards. Since day one, we’ve made shoes that will last for years. This is not throw-away fashion destined for the landfill. We’re a part of slow fashion—making the highest-quality shoes to be part of your story for many chapters.
The quality of sustainable shoes is only as strong as the people who make them.
From its inception, Samuel Hubbard has been among the socially responsible shoes brands. Samuel Hubbard founder Bruce Katz was present at the creation of Businesses for Social Responsibility and helped to finance its startup. Those early gatherings with companies like The Body Shop and Patagonia opened his eyes to the problems we face and the possibilities of using our business for social change.
A cornerstone of social change is supporting ethical manufacturing practices. It would be easier (and cheaper) to outsource to countries with poor manufacturing standards, but this would not support our goal of making comfortable sustainable shoes.
Instead, Samuel Hubbard shoes are made in Portugal and Brazil, where factories are required to follow strict labor and environmental regulations. Workers receive government-provided healthcare, several weeks vacation, paid holidays, and adequate breaks during working hours. The shoes are handcrafted by artisans, to honor decades-long traditions of craftsmanship and to support generations of local shoemaking families.
The majority of our shoes are made in Portugal, where workers receive benefits such as Social Security, an on-site doctor that is available nine hours per week, work accident insurance, and regular meetings with worker representatives and union members. There is also a canteen where workers can eat at a very reduced cost (Eur 1.90 per meal) and transportation is provided to those who need it.
Creating comfortable sustainable shoes requires a holistic approach that’s both good for our business and for the planet. We focus on people, community, quality materials, and the environment to make sure we are always putting our best foot forward.
We strive to be a socially responsible shoe brand every step of the way. From the ethical manufacturing practices at our factories, to the well-being of company employees, to our valued customers, we put people first. We make an effort to connect with our many communities. We have an Ambassadors of Comfort group where customers weigh in on the design and make of our shoes. We also regularly partner with charities, such as our Trade-Up Program partner Souls4Soles, to support philanthropic initiatives.
As a team, we’re really excited about sustainable materials. We always work with the finest, high quality leather from environmentally-certified tanneries. We recently introduced shoes, such as the Hubbard@Home Spring-Back, that are made with PET material, which comes from recycled water bottles. Several of our shoe styles, such as Hubbard Dreams, are made with 100% merino wool, which is biodegradable and 100% renewable.
We use sustainable materials for our packaging and branding, too. Our shoe boxes beginning in fall 2019 are made from 70% post-consumer recycled paper. Our catalogs are also made from recycled paper. All of these boxes and catalogs can (and should be!) recycled. At Samuel Hubbard HQ in the Bay Area, we’re making a concerted effort to go paperless. At our warehouse, we re-use the corrugated cartons. We also publish a digital version of our catalog and are exploring other technologies such as QR codes to further decrease our carbon footprint.
We take great pride in handcrafting shoes that are created to stay on people’s feet and out of landfills. We strive for ultimate comfort, so that our customers can own shoes that they love. The Hubbard Comfort System includes removable memory foam insoles, the finest materials, and meticulous design.
Our approach to Slow Fashion includes a resoling program and free replacement laces. We partner with a family-owned business for resoling, to help strengthen our local community. Resoling can double the life of a shoe, reducing waste and restoring your favorite pair.
Where to? We ask ourselves that question all the time. What are the next steps in the journey towards becoming a more sustainable company? We have some big ideas, but we also want to hear from our community. If you have ideas on how we can improve in our push towards sustainability, let us know. We’re here to listen and learn.