If you're interested in eco-fashion, sustainable consumption or planet-friendly initiatives, chances are you've come across VEJA before.
The colorful V brand was created in 2003 by two young graduates who felt disillusioned by big corporation's commitments in terms of sustainable development and decidedto launch a sneaker brand that would truly put sustainable at its core both in terms of ecology and local communities.
Almost 15 years, no budget for advertisement (enabling a higher cost of production but a similar price of sale) but a strong commitment to ethics and a will to not compromise on fashion and style later, Veja is one of the coolest shoe brand out there and has been spotted on personalities such as Marion Cotilard, David Beckham and last but not least, the newly appointed queen of ethical fashion: Emma Watson. So how do they do it?
Eco friendly materials
On your pair of Veja you'll find organic and fair trade cotton that has been provided by the same small community from the northeast of Brazil from the past seven years, Veja has is collaborating with organizations helping growers "foster the agro-ecology paradigm" a method without pesticides, GMO or fertilizer and based on the natural cycle of nature. At the same time, the brand works with seringeros (rubbber tappers) in the Amazon and pays them more than double market price in order to enable them to live decently and not move towards more lucrative but highly destructive activities such as cattle farming or wood extraction
What's so great about Veja is their honesty and transparency about what they do well but also on what needs improving (talk about inspiration). While the brand uses leather, they acknowledge that this material is hard to trace and that it's hence very difficult to know it's origin or how the cattle's been treated. So while this is still a challenge, the brand has committed to ultimately "be knowledgeable and in control of their whole leather supply chain"
Ethical treatment of workers
As you may or may not know, the fashion industry primarly outsources its manufacturing stage to lower income countries where the first victims are factory workers who find themselves forced to work unpaid long hours for a miserable wage, are unable to unite and form a union, suffer harassment both physical and emotional and are often unable to care for their loved ones as a consequence. Veja know that. And as they're as committed to social welfare as they are to not harming the planet, they're working with brazilian factories that are respecting the ILO (International Labor Organization) criteria, where 80% are union members, and where workers can expect to be paid 20% more than elsewhere in Brazil plus paid overtime. And let me tell you that it feels pretty cool to know that whoever put in the hard work of creating your shoes has not been exploited nor is underage but on the contrary is treated with respect and can live a decent life!
Zero + Zero
As Veja does not do ANY advertisement, it enables them to cover the 3 to 4 times higher cost of production than competitors and sell their shoes at a price similar than other sneaker brand (yey, no need to withdraw your pension fund to get a pair!). On top of that, they have decided to only places orders 6 months in advance in order to not hold on to any extra stock that would be eventually wasted in not sold but also to reflect the fluctuation of organic cotton production (as we often forget, mother earth can be unpredictable). Finally, the sworn enemy: CO2! All Veja sneakers are transported by boat to France and then travel in barges to join Paris where headquarters and stocks are (told you, sustainable to the core!).
The icing on the cake is when a brand chooses the alternative energy provider that sources from renewable instead of the national giant that uses nuclear!! Way to go boys ;)
A vegan line
Do not fear fellow vegans! While for long, Veja sneakers were (at least) partially made of leather, they recently developed a vegan line that you can find here and that will cater your needs and dreams of ecological and ethical shoes that are also cruelty free.
While it's not 100% perfect (yet), Veja is transparent about the struggles encountered and their plans to overcome them. They don't recycle trainers for instance nor do they use natural products to dye leather, rubber and cotton but just taking time to inform their consumer about these challenges creates a bond of trust that is not only enjoyable as a consumer, useful to create a strong, faithful community but also shows a real wish to be a committed brand all the way and not just another greenwashing professional.
Disclosure: I did partner up nor collaborate in any way with Veja to write this post. All thoughts and research are mine.