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How ethical and sustainable is Clarks? 

Clarks, the shoes high street brand, based in the UK, has been assessed and researched for its sustainability and ethics by The Good Shopping Guide. This brand appears in our Shoes and Trainers Ethical Ratings & Comparison Table. Unfortunately, Clarks has not yet met our Ethical Benchmark, and so cannot yet be counted as a good ethical brand for consumers concerned about the Environment, Animals and People.

For more information about the ethical issues faced by the Shoes & Trainers sector, read our comprehensive guide to the industry here.

The history of Clarks shoe shops

A British multinational shoemaker and retailer is C. & J. Clark International Ltd, doing business as Clarks. Cyrus Clark started it in the English village of Street, Somerset, and it is still headquartered there today. The brand is well-known for its ankle-height Desert Boot, which is typically constructed of calf suede leather and has a crepe rubber sole.

The company generated a profit of £150 million for the fiscal year that ended in January 2013, ranking it as the 31st largest private company in the UK. More than half of its £1.4 billion annualised sales through January were from outside the United States. Since 2010, the business has started doing business in India and has resumed marketing there, where it has 400 locations.

The Clark family held 84% of Clarks. However, Clarks was acquired by the Hong Kong-based private equity firm LionRock Capital for £100 million in November 2020, following a company-voluntary agreement. As a result, the Clarks family lost overall control of the business. Viva China Holdings purchased 51% of LionRock Capital in January 2021 and now owns a sizable portion of Clarks.

Does Clarks have an Environmental Report?

Clarks’ “Our Commitment to You” website makes passing reference to sustainability and responsibility. There are also some pages that promote different pairs of shoes manufactured from eco-friendly materials, but this big brand doesn’t publish any reports, targets, or other significant environmental or sustainability information, earning it a middle-tier grade from The Good Shopping Guide.

Are Clarks’ shoes sustainably made?

Although Clarks lists some products as “made with recycled materials,” it is unclear how much recycled material was actually utilised in the production of the shoes, and there aren’t enough of these products bearing this label to achieve a high rating for this study criterion.

Are Clarks’ shoes vegan?

Despite having a huge product line, Clarks only produces 6 styles of vegan shoes.

Clarks and Worker’s Rights

Workers at Clarks’ warehouses claim the 200-year-old shoemaker has betrayed its humanitarian roots by threatening to fire employees if they don’t accept severe salary cutbacks, which would betray its altruistic traditions. More than 100 employees at Clarks’ primary distribution centre in Street, Somerset, where the company was established by two Quaker brothers in the 19th century, assert that the company is attempting to use questionable “fire and rehire” strategies to reduce their pay by almost 15%, from an average of £11.16 an hour to £9.50 an hour. A new contract must be signed by the employees, otherwise they risk losing their positions without receiving redundancy money. In addition, they will no longer receive paid breaks and would have their sick pay and redundancy benefits decreased.

About 100 workers and Clarks came to a deal in December 2021 to put a stop to the two-month walkout. It is believed that the agreement with the Community union, which was reached after mediation with Acas, will enhance pay for new hires at the site while protecting hourly wages for long-term employees.

Is Clarks Cruelty-Free?

Clarks has a robust Animal Welfare Policy, which states that, “We work with our suppliers and through multi-stakeholder groups such as the Leather Working Group and Textile Exchange Responsible Leather Roundtable to build understanding and collaboration in order to support the wider industry to continue to make improvements within animal welfare.”

Clarks’ Code of Conduct

Clark’s Code of Conduct is also of a high standard, and covers the rights of “suppliers, sub-contractors and service providers” within the company. This Code of Conduct should go some way to protecting workers throughout the Clarks supply chain.

How could Clarks improve its Ethical Rating?

To rank higher up on our Shoes and Trainers: Ethical Ratings Table, the brand should consider its relationship and treatment of workers, including their right to fair pay and the use of unethical “fire and rehire” schemes. Clarks also needs to dramatically improve its Environmental Report and range of Vegan shoes. Then, this brand could see its score rise and could also apply for Ethical Accreditation from The Good Shopping Guide.

If your shoes and trainers 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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