Veja is a French based shoe and accessory brand founded by Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion. They specialize in sneakers and are well known for their distinct design and sustainable production. They take a unique approach to the sustainability problems presented by conventional shoe makers and instead opt for quality, ethical materials and transparency.
They offer a wide variety of shoes from casual, every day sneakers to running and hiking shoes. Their popularity is in no small part due to their designs which offer sleek, fashionable looks in a wide range of colors and styles. The goal of the brand is to produce the same trendy streetwear shoes as other high end retailers, but with the added benefit of sustainability and environmental awareness.
Veja meets the demand for quality shoes without sacrificing their environmental or humanitarian ideals. They have made a clear effort to allow for transparency in many aspects of their production process. Most of their cotton is sourced from South America, mainly in Brazil. While they don’t operate their own factories, they do take steps to ensure both their raw material providers and manufacturing partners adhere to a strict code of conduct. This includes ensuring workplace safety, fair wages, and incorporating fair-trade policies.
One of their key fair-trade policies is pre-financing up to 40% of their organic cotton harvests. This ensures their producers have a stable set of income they can depend on and reinvest into improving their farms and their working conditions.
They utilize sustainable and environmentally friendly raw materials. Most of their sneakers are made from organic cotton, which uses less fertilizers and water than conventional cotton farming. 18 - 20% of Veja’s rubber is sourced directly from the Amazon rainforest. This rubber is not only organic, but its revenue goes towards supporting sustainability efforts in the Amazon.
Veja tracks their leather materials, which comes mostly comes from southern Brazil, to ensure they don’t trace back to the Amazon rainforest. They have also been one of the few brands to incorporate fish leather into their products. Their fish leather are byproducts from farms where it would otherwise go to waste.
Plastics are a common material used in sneaker manufacturing, however Veja has been able to replace all their plastics with a recycled, biodegradable alternative. They also use 100% recycled flannel in their shoes that require the material.
There have been occasions where they were unable to meet all of their sustainability goals. Droughts and insect infestations have sometimes made in necessary to use recycled cotton to meet their manufacturing needs.
Some of their vegan materials like synthetic suede are made from unsustainable sources, in the case of suede it is petroleum based. The eyelets of their shoelaces are metal, which reduces the need for plastic, however they are unable to trace the source of this metal. Similarly, their recycled plastic is made using corn products that are difficult to trace and ensure their sustainable farming methods.
One of their most disappointing turns happened in their leather tanning methods. While they had been able to use 100% vegetable tanning in their leather manufacturing process, they have since gone back to conventional tanning practices because of the costs and difficulties associated with vegetable tanners. Since 2015 they have only used vegetable tanning in 10% of their leather materials. They were also forced to reduce their usage of natural dyes which previously stood at 40% because of similar problems. This seems to be an indicator that as they expand, they have been forced to make more and more sacrifices.
Veja has made many strides in an area of the fashion industry that has often been left unattended by the environmental movement. Most sneakers are non-recyclable, including Veja. However, they have been able to incorporate many sustainable tactics other brands aren’t willing to consider. This has come with certain sacrifices, sometimes in terms of their cost and other times their materials. But they have been able to produce quality shoes on a large scale that are as sustainable as possible with current technologies. All in all their efforts are telling, they can make a great impact on the sneaker industry and its sustainability standards.