The french based sneaker and accessory brand Veja has successfully accomplished to let fashion go hand in hand with fair trade and ecology. The project is far from shallow, in fact it’s reflected in every fibre of the supply chain.
Veja was set up in 2004 to work directly with small producer co-operatives in Brazil, using materials such as organic cotton, wild Amazonian rubber and acacia-tanned leather to create sneakers and accessories for the European market.
From the fields of north-eastern Brazil to the shop floors of Europe, the company aims to achieve high social and environmental standards – actively promoting eco-farming, campaigning against deforestation, supporting workers’ rights and creating employment for poor families.
Organic cotton is bought from 320 families coming from one of Brazil’s poorest areas, Ceará, which suffers from socio-economic inequality, fragile soils and vulnerable to drought. Working directly with small scale farmers has allowed Veja to establish a seamless, human-based business model that avoids middlemen and makes sure that reasonable profits go directly to the producers themselves.
The Amazon, the only place on earth where rubber trees grow wild, is where Veja gets the rubber. Working directly with an association of 60 families of Seringeiros – rubber tappers – Veja is able to guarantee a solid income for this group of people. Moreover, it removes the temptation for tappers to supplement their incomes through land clearing, cattle breeding or wood extraction. This, in turn, helps protect large areas of forest and conserve local biodiversity.
All leather is eco-tanned with extracts from Acacia. Unlike modern tanning procedures (based on chromium and other heavy metals) leather that is ecologically tanned decreases water pollution.
The shoe assembly itself takes place in a factory in Southern Brazil where staff works under dignified conditions, rights and fair pay for overtime.
Even back in France, the project continues. When the products arrive from Brazil – in shoe boxes made from recycled materials – all logistic is taken care of by Ateliers Sans Frontiéres, a French social association that helps disadvantaged to reintegrate into society through work, endorsing both their social, professional and personal development.
As it shows, Veja, unlike competitors, refuses to pursue low prices at the expense of workers and the environment. So how is this economically possible? The key for Veja is to operate with a “zero stock” and minimize the use of advertising.