Veja's sustainable sneakers have become an integral part of the street scene. Not a surprise, because sneakers can be worn underneath every outfit. Boyfriend jeans: sneakers. A flamboyant pencil skirt: sneakers. Cute culottes: sneakers. We would even wear them under our wedding dress. Anyway.
So sneakers go with everything. And if those shoes are durable and made out of fair materials? Then our feet do a little happy dance. And our husband/wife/children's too!
The French company Veja was founded in 2005 in the heart of Paris. The goal of Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion: to make trendy, sustainable sneakers. This was a new concept so the founders of Veja had to start from scratch.
They took the time to set up a small-scale production chain, with local Brazilian farmers growing organic produce and rubber tappers from the Amazon forest.
Nowadays, you can buy Veja sneakers in about 45 countries, at more than 1800 shops.
Veja is very transparent about its production process. On their website you can read the contracts with their rubber suppliers, all Fair Trade documents, labels and the results of chemical tests.
Easy to download & easy to read. Way to go, Veja!
Veja makes its cool sneakers from organic cotton, fair trade rubber and vegetable tanned leather.
The cotton comes from a Brazilian cooperative of about 320 farmer families: small-scale and organic. All cotton used by Veja is grown without chemicals or pesticides. Clean!
For many of its soles, the brand uses natural rubber from the Amazon region. And that's double the profit! Because Veja rewards the rubber tappers with bonuses, deforestation of the Amazon rainforest is decreasing as well. Please explain! Well: rubber trees grow in the Amazon. Rubber from those trees is worth money. So keeping these trees makes more money than having trees felled. Et voilà. Fair, yeah. Oh, and rubber soles = no microplastics! Or less, because not all Veja soles are completely made out of natural rubber.
Veja also uses vegetable tanned leather. Traditional tannery needs heavy metals for tanning leather. And these pollute the water near the tanneries. Not good for the people, not good for the animals, not good for the environment. So Veja chose to use natural tannins, such as accacia extracts.
Is your sneaker made out of B-Mesh? If so, it's partly made of recycled plastic bottles. Three bootles per pair, to be precise. And for a few years now, Veja has also been making a number of sneakers from corn waste and from fish skin. That's upcycling times 100. Their most sustainable sneaker is CAMPO, made from that corn waste.
In order to reduce his ecological footprint even further, Veja ships his sneakers from Brazil to France. So no airplanes.
The Brazilian cooperative from which Veja buys its organic cotton receives twice the market price, which gives local farmers a better life. And the tanneries with which Veja works only use vegetable tanning agents, which also improves the living conditions of the workers and of the people around the factory.
Veja respects the agreements of the United Nations' International Labour Organisation. And 80% of the workers in the Brazilian factories the brand works with are members of a trade union.
In France, too, Veja takes up its (social) responsibility: logistics are organised by Atéliers sans Frontières, an organisation that helps long-term unemployed to find a job.
Veja does make sustainable shoes from sustainable materials. But the brand does not collect worn-out sneakers to make new ones. And mixing organic materials (organic cotton and natural rubber) with recycled plastic also makes it more difficult to recycle the shoe after use... So: circular? Not yet, no.