HANWAG only makes its footwear and sources its materials in Europe. We interviewed Stefan Jerg, head of production, to find out why this is good for customers and sustainability.
Stefan, how do you define made in Europe? Where’s your footwear produced?
In addition to our main factory in Vierkirchen, Bavaria, we have production facilities in Croatia, Hungary, Bosnia Herzegovina and Baden-Württemberg. Sites in Rumania and Serbia were added to make our latest model, the HANWAG Blueridge. Because we’re using new technology for our Blueridge model (–> Find out more here: our production)
Why is production spread over so many sites? Wouldn’t shipping be easier if everything was produced in one place?
Firstly, we wouldn’t have enough staff at just one site to cover all production requirements. Secondly, this is a way of spreading risks. Just imagine if our only production facility burnt down…
Why do you only produce in Europe? Many other footwear manufacturers mainly produce in Asia.
Quality, reliability and better planning capabilities come top of the list. In Europe, we can find well-trained staff with experience in manufacturing boots. These people are our greatest asset. And should problems arise, I or another team member can be at any of our facilities in six hours and solve problems with our partners on site. And we also benefit from long-standing business relationships. For instance, we’ve been collaborating with partners in Hungary and Croatia for decades.
Find out more: ‘Made in Europe’ – what HANWAG bases its pledge on
Sustainability is second on the list. Above all, the shorter shipping distances compared with production in Asia. As a result, we save on emissions, which are harmful to the climate. My motto is that HANWAG footwear shouldn’t swim any further than it’s destined to walk later on.
But isn’t producing your footwear more expensive as a result?
At our production facilities, staff do earn a lot more than the statutory minimum wage. In Asia, our payroll would probably be lower. But then again, remember all the benefits of European footwear production that I just mentioned. And there are other advantages that customers ultimately notice too. For example, some footwear manufacturers in Asia have had massive delivery problems due to the pandemic. In our case, this is less so.
The supply chain starts even earlier with the materials…
Nearly all our materials come exclusively from Europe. From the leather to the soles, even small items like the laces. (–> Find out more: Leather, a natural product) We’ve equally been working with most of our suppliers for decades. And the benefits of quality, reliability and sustainability we see in production, also apply to this personal element too. For instance, I know exactly how our tanneries in Germany and Croatia operate. Whereas I wouldn’t like to speculate whether tanneries in Asia comply with environmental standards or where their animal hides come from.
What does the future hold for products made in Europe?
We’re a European hiking boots brand and will continue producing here as long as it’s ecologically and commercially viable. But for the business model to survive in the long term, wages at our production sites will have to rise. Otherwise, we’ll struggle to find enough skilled staff in Hungary or Croatia. However, this also means customers being willing to pay more for products. Everyone talks about sustainability. HANWAG footwear isn’t just made in Europe, it’s also very hard wearing. And resoling footwear means you wear and use it for longer. (–> Find out more: Everything you need to know about resoling)
How would you describe the relationship to staff in your production facilities?
Over all the decades we’ve been a team, we’ve also grown together as people. So we don’t just talk about sales figures, but also enjoy a glass of wine together in the evenings. We have the same sense of responsibility for staff who sit at sewing machines in Hungary and Croatia as we do for our people here in Vierkirchen. And that’s how we treat them. To me, HANWAG is one big European footwear family.