Veja, Portugese for “look”, aims to look beyond the physical sneaker through providing total transparency on their ethical production process and sustainable materials sourcing.
These specific sneakers are a hot trend in many European cities, going viral shortly after Meghan Markle was seen wearing them during several public appearances. This virality should be considered a win for sustainable fashion, as Veja, overall, is an extremely environmentally conscious company on various levels. For starters, Veja was founded under simple ethical and sustainable principles and with direct intentions of producing extremely high quality sneakers, made from mostly eco-friendly materials. Currently, there is no evidence of the company actively taking specific steps to reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. While Veja takes a very active role in the sustainable fashion industry socially as well as product procurement practices, there are more steps to be made on improving and updating company production practices. That being said, its abundant use of eco-friendly materials reduces its environmental impact and controls the amounts of water and chemicals consumed during overall production.
The V-10 sneaker utilizes only ethically sourced, majority eco-friendly materials which are very transparently displayed through their personal website that shows the exact location of each sourcing site. These sneakers are made from organic cotton from farmers in North Brazil, wild rubber from tappers in the Amazon, mesh made from recycled plastic waterbottles, and lastly, vegetable-tanned leather from tanneries audited by the Leather Working Group.
Looking more closely into each material:
To source their organic cotton, Veja works with a co-operative of organic cotton farmers in Northern Brasil. All of Veja’s cotton has been organically certified since the company was launched. Through this partnership, Veja has been able to support and help 320 families adopt a more agroecology farming model, or one that studies how scientific ecological processes can be applied to the management of its agricultural production systems. Furthermore, these cotton crops are cultivated without chemicals or pesticides.
The Amazon rainforest is the only place on our planet where rubber trees grow freely in the wild, thus providing the source for the soles of Veja sneakers. By purchasing the rubber at premiums, Veja is supporting an economically sustainable path to fight against deforestation within the Amazon. Through recognizing the true value of these tappers’ rubber and labor work by paying premiums, this increases rubber tappers quality of life and furthermore, reduces the financial appeal of alternative land clearance.
Another component to their sneaker’s soles is the waterproof bottle mesh that is made from recycled plastic bottles collected from the streets of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. They are later crushed and transformed into fiber during production.
Lastly, Veja has been using vegetable-tanned leather since 2006, providing an alternative to toxic tanners that contain chrome and other heavy metals and often cause pollution of nearby water bodies. Vegetable-tanned leather uses organic compounds only, and Veja ensures their standards are kept by checking chemical safety levels yearly.
The specific style of V-10 pictured above is not made from vegan leather, although Veja currently offers several different styles for vegan leather including the V-10, however, available only in limited color options. As we progress into the future of sustainable alternatives within vegan leather, I believe this is one option of improving their overall material footprint. Alternatively, Veja has developed a new material entirely made from recycled bottles called B-mesh which could be substituted. Through Veja is very transparent with their material sourcing and practices, the materials are sources from locations all over the world, requiring heavy transportation emissions, offering an area for improvement.
Currently Veja declares both ecological and fair trade working conditions as well as beneficial cooperatives for small producers and social associations in both Brazil and France. The Veja factory in South Brazil claims to respect work standards as laid out by the International Labour Organization with 80% of its workers unionized. That being said, the company has yet to publish any official results of social audits nor are any fair trade standard certificates publicly available.
In conclusion, the production of this sneaker appears very ethical on paper, with a Code of Conduct that guarantees all of the ILO’s four fundamental freedoms principles. By monitoring health and safety issues, visiting all stages of production suppliers, and ensuring payment of ethical wages, Veja is ensuring a sustainable and traceable supply chain.
Looking more high level into the company’s oversight, Veja’s founders Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion are taking individual responsible actions to ensure the mission and values of their company are upheld. This can be seen in their efforts to establish the direct production chain behind Vejas in Brazil by meeting with organic cotton farmers in North Brazil and wild rubber tappers in the Amazon.
A more specific example can be found during transportation, with Veja working with logistics team Ateliers Sans Frontières, a French social association enabling previously unemployed individuals to return to the workforce through external training. In terms of community support and education, Veja organized the first series of sustainable focused conference in 2009 entitled La Canalisation: Does Advertising Pollute the Economy.
When shopping sustainably, it is often hard to remain both trendy and ethical with your purchasing behaviors, but Veja makes this easy by ensuring total transparency in both sourcing and production of its more conscious consumers.