Deckers Outdoor Corporation CEO Angel Martinez Shares His Inspiring Philanthropic Journey with the Corporate Philanthropy Roundtable

In Their Own Words
VIDEO - Deckers CEO Angel Martinez speaks to the Corporate Philanthropy Roundtable.

On Angel Martinez’s first day at a new school in California, the principal glanced at his outfit and promptly took him shopping so he would fit in with the other students at school. This act of kindness left a deep impression on Angel, who was born in Cuba and spent his early years in the South Bronx of New York where his adoptive guardians struggled to make $40 a week. “The odds of me being here, doing what I’m doing and talking to all of you today, are slim to none,” said Angel, speaking to a group of Santa Barbara business and community leaders at the Corporate Philanthropy Roundtable’s 2013 kick-off event, A CEO's Journey in Philanthropy. “I was the beneficiary of help from so many people. I received scholarships that still inspire me today, and I have an obligation to give that back in my own way.”

Today, Angel is the CEO, president, and chairman of the Board of Directors for Deckers Outdoor Corporation, which offers seven brands of footwear including Teva, UGG Australia, TSUBO, Ahnu, MOZO, Sanuk, and Hoka. Prior to joining Deckers, Angel gained recognition in the footwear industry as executive vice president and chief marketing officer of the Reebok brand portfolio. During his tenure at Reebok, Angel was instrumental in launching the Reebok Human Rights Awards and served as executive producer of “Human Rights Now,” a global concert tour with Amnesty International to spread awareness of social injustices around the world.

Through the Human Rights Awards, Reebok was able to bring awareness to child labor in Pakistan, honoring 12-year-old Iqbal Masih, who spent the ages of 4 to 11 chained to a loom. Forced to make rugs for 12 hours a day, Iqbal finally had enough and organized a strike with the kids in the rug factory, causing the factory to shut down, and continued staged protests against child slavery in the streets. Iqbal’s story made international news and inspired a 12-year-old boy in Canada, Craig Kielsburger, to organize the students at his school to raise funds for schools in Pakistan. Craig’s group evolved into Free The Children, which has built over 650 schools in 45 countries around the world and provides education and development programs for over 1.7 million youth.

“You do not know where your involvement will lead, but it will take you somewhere better than we are today,” said Angel. “We are here to make the world a little better than when we found it – not 100 percent or 50 percent better, just a little better. That ‘little better’ is Iqbal unchained from a loom and that ‘little better’ is what happened when Craig was inspired by his story. That ‘little better’ can snowball and cascade into something a lot better.”

Angel has made community involvement a cornerstone at Deckers, where the executive leadership team is required to lend its expertise to nonprofit boards and employees volunteered 6,000 hours last year to benefit community causes. “It is important to create an environment where people can do the right thing,” said Angel. “When people feel connected, and when you give them a chance to have impact, they will take it.”

Angel also emphasized that corporate philanthropy is not only for large businesses. Even small businesses can make a difference, he said, recalling how early in his career he helped launch “Alameda Run for the Parks” to raise money to save the city parks in Alameda, California. “That was my first exposure to what can happen when a business decides to get involved in the community,” Angel said. “Even with a tiny store and four employees, we did something locally to change the trajectory of a city, making sure its parks were still available for kids. Any business of any size who values its place in the community has an opportunity to get involved.”

If you are interested in sharing your business giving strategies and/or learning more about creating a culture of giving in your workplace, please consider joining the Corporate Philanthropy Roundtable (CPR), whose mission is to build avenues for Santa Barbara County businesses to generate enduring community investment strategies. CPR members host quarterly forums for business leaders to inspire and recognize local corporate philanthropy. For more information about CPR and its upcoming events, visit or call Ashley Butler at (805) 963-1873.
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