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Is Birkenstock a sustainable brand? Is Birkenstock ethical?

Though it’s always been a popular shoe brand, Birkenstock has perhaps never seen interest like this from the fashion and streetwear industry. The past five summers have been dominated by Birkenstock’s two-strap Arizona sandal and its Boston clog-style shoes. Popularised as part of the ‘ugly-shoe’ trends over the past few years, many fashion-forward consumers have been eager to purchase a pair of Birkenstocks.

But, just how ethical is this shoe brand? What do ethical shoppers and consumers need to know about Birkenstock?

As part of our research into the Ethical Shoes & Trainers sector, The Good Shopping Guide has given the shoe brand, Birkenstock, an Ethical Score on our Ethical Shoes & Trainers Ratings Table. Birkenstock has received a score that does not pass our Ethical Benchmark. There are, unfortunately, many ethical issues that Birkenstock must address and change before it could meet our Ethical Benchmark and apply for The Good Shopping Guide’s Ethical Accreditation.

This score is given after researching this brand extensively, according to our criteria of the Environment, Animals and People. Find out more about our methodology here.

Who owns Birkenstock?

Birkenstock was founded in 1774 by German shoemaker, Johann Adam Birkenstock.

In mid-2021, LVMH acquired Birkenstock, and this acquisition is the cause of many of the ethical issues found at Birkenstock.

Is Birkenstock sustainable?

The Social and Environmental Responsibility Report from LVMH is excellent and comprehensive. Some of the aims under the “Environmental Responsibility” section are ambiguous, but there are some solid ones, like lowering carbon emissions and using only renewable energy. The report goes into great detail on the goals and the several issues the business wants to tackle.

The bulk of Birkenstock’s products is made of cork, a sustainable material. However, alternative materials including leather, suede, and EVA (foam-like plastic) are also utilised. Overall, Birkenstock’s materials are not very sustainable, which makes them insufficient for a good rating in this category.

Is Birkenstock Cruelty-Free?

Unfortunately, Birkenstock has not published its Animal Welfare Policy; as Birkenstocks are made with animal products including leather and wool, this is concerning as there is no knowing how these animals have been treated, before being killed or sheared for leather and wool.

PETA praised Birkenstock back in 2018 for its Vegan products; Birkenstock’s Vegan shoe options can be seen here.

Birkenstock and Human Rights

Birkenstock itself as a brand has not been found to be involved in any Human Rights abuses. Additionally, Birkenstocks are mostly manufactured in Germany, according to the brand’s website. In Germany, there is good employment law, though there is no information given on the site about where materials are made or where other Birkenstock products are made, and what working conditions are like there.

However, Birkenstock is owned by LVMH, which has been accused of many Human Rights infringements.

Numerous Louis Vuitton leather goods factories in France saw a walkout by hundreds of employees who wanted improved pay and working conditions. Employees had complained that they were not receiving their fair part of Louis Vuitton’s frequently astronomical revenues, which frequently exceed billions of euros annually. Additionally, the unions are requesting increased pay. In contrast to the thousands of dollars an LV-monogrammed bag can cost, it is claimed that a Louis Vuitton employee with 15 years of experience only makes 14 euros ($16) an hour. In France, the minimum wage is 10.57 euros, or $12.03.

How can Birkenstock improve its Ethical Score and gain Ethical Accreditation?

Birkenstock does not score well in all of our research criteria. To improve, Birkenstock should produce documentation of its Animal Welfare considerations and include goals and progress-tracking in its Environmental Report.

If your shoe or trainer brand values ethics and sustainability, why not check out The Good Shopping Guide’s Ethical Accreditation? Increase customer and investor confidence and stand out from the greenwash.

Ethical performance in category


GSG score


GSG category benchmark


Ethical Rating


  • Environmental Report


  • Nuclear Power


  • Sustainable Materials


  • Fossil Fuels



  • Animal Welfare


  • Vegan Options



  • Armaments


  • Code of Conduct


  • Political Donations


  • Ethical Trading Schemes


  • Human Rights



  • Ethical Accreditation


  • Other Criticisms


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