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SUSTAINABILITY RATING: 4/5
French footwear brand Veja marries on-trend sneakers with sustainability, extensive use of organic and recycled materials, and a transparent and fair-trade focussed supply chain in Brazil. In 2020, 85% of Veja's textiles and leathers were environmentally 'preferred' raw materials. Veja recently became a certified B Corp to independently validate its approach to the environment, workers and suppliers.
Veja trainers are made using a high percentage of eco-friendly and sustainable materials, such as organic cotton, organic rubber, and recycled plastic. Veja was one of the first trainer brands to develop an upper fabric made entirely from recycled plastic bottles, called B-mesh. The process involves turning bottles into plastic flakes and then a polyester fibre that then goes into Veja trainers. The brand uses organic cotton for both canvas and laces. Veja’s founders have dedicated extensive time and effort to finding an entirely vegan alternative to leather. C.W.L is a plant-based and bio-sourced fabric, which is similar to leather smoothness. It does still use leather, but is transitioning to this vegan alternative where possible. The leather used is tanned using a natural, non-polluting process, without the use of metals such as chrome, which can pollute water sources. The dyes used on Veja products are not organic, but do meet the official European REACH standards.
Its commitment to labour welfare is excellent, with a clear code of conduct that goes well beyond the ILO four fundamental principles (elimination of child labour, elimination of discrimination, right of collective bargaining & elimination of compulsory labour). Veja deals directly with the cotton manufacturer in Brazil, and maintains traceability throughout its supply chain, allowing it to ensure consistent labour welfare standards throughout its production. It pays co-operative cotton growers and rubber tappers at least a 30% premium to the market price. Factory employees work 40 hours a week and have regular schedules with weekends off. They get four weeks paid vacation annually while overtime is also paid. There is also a staff bonus scheme.
Veja is strict when it comes to safeguarding against any toxic or polluting elements. Each year, the business checks the chemical safety of the products to make sure that any harmful elements have been removed. Continual testing allows the brand to improve its products and manufacturing processes. The company’s tanneries are always audited by the Leather Working Group. 97% of of its cotton producers are accredited operators under the IBD scheme, which encourages the preservation of the environment and humanistic principles. It explicitly limits the amount of water and chemicals used in production, which together with use of eco-friendly materials lowers it climate impact. We have not however seen evidence that the brand is taking steps to reduce energy use or switch to sustainable energy sources.
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