Founded in 2005, Veja is a sneaker company that focuses on long-wear sneakers. The brand's main principles are transparency, organic materials and fair trade sourcing, and these commitments are visible through their efforts towards sustainability and involvement in the production process. When the brand first started out, they made a choice to reduce their branding costs and use that towards ensuring that the sneakers they produced were fairly sourced, high quality and sustainable. This investment in the production process means that it costs about 5x more to produce a pair of Veja sneakers, and yet their store prices are at par with most sneaker brands worldwide.
As mentioned above, the brand is very involved in the production process and, therefore, sources its materials from Brazil. The most common materials used are organic cotton, leather, recycled polyester - all of them sourced ethically, certified according to European REACH standards and can be traceable from their early stages. Veja purchases its organic cotton directly from its producers, at a mutually agreed-upon price, respecting fair trade principles. In 2015, due to a drought in those regions in Brazil, the crop of organic cotton suffered tremendously, causing the brand to shift to recycled cotton in its place. The use of leather, however, is not the most sustainable choice by the brand. Nevertheless, the company has invested in research to develop alternative forms of leather such as Tilapia leather from freshwater fish or corn. One of the company’s goals is to only use organic or biologically produced materials and reduce the use of oil-based materials, therefore it is understandable why they wouldn't use vegan leather. Similarly, they have committed and worked to reduce the amount of leather used over the years to the point that in 2020, one in three Veja shoes produced was vegan.
For this, I give Veja 2.5 planets because they recognise and work towards reducing their environmental impact through sourcing their materials considerately but can take it one step forward by using recycled leather or by taking a page out of Reformation's book by introducing an up-cycling scheme where old, worn Veja shoes can be recycled to make new pairs.
Veja's business model has a very circular approach because its focus is on increasing the life of the sneaker as well as its durability. Therefore, the company releases collections that are classic and versatile rather than trendy. There are many recycling and upcycling measures in place. B-Mesh is an example of how the company recycles plastic bottles to make a fabric used in their sneakers. PET, recycled cotton and jute are examples of other fabrics the brand has used to innovate new sneaker designs. Additionally, the brand has programs in place where Veja shoes can be repaired to increase their life. This shows that the company looks at their shoes through a Repair, Reuse or Recycling approach, taking sizable efforts to give them a second life.
In terms of carbon traceability and emissions, Veja includes Scopes 1, 2 and 3. Scope 1 is the direct activities of the company, Scope 2 is the energy used directly in their offices or through their activities, and Scope 3 includes all the indirect emissions from outsourced or downstream activities. In Scope 2, they have now made a switch to renewable energy in their offices and have switched their transport method from planes and ships to only ships. The carbon emissions report on their website shows that the data they use as evidence considers all their production processes, locations and stages, which showed that Scope 1 and 2 made up only 0.15% of the total carbon footprint, the rest is raw materials and early-stage production. The brand also shows its emissions per shoe model rather than giving a general overview. They also go into detail about their leather usage, by acknowledging its limitations and working towards reducing its usage as well as using it more sustainably (reducing leather-based carbon footprint).
I will be giving Veja 2.8 planets in this section because the brand has excellent supply chain traceability: they pay their workers a living wage and their Code of Conduct covers all of the ILO Four Fundamental Freedoms principles: the right to collective bargaining, elimination of forced labour and child labour and stopping workplace discrimination. The supply chain is traceable through all stages of production, and evidence and reports are easily available on their website yearly. They are very transparent about their success and failures as they highlight exactly why they decide to make certain tradeoffs. Additionally, they even visit the factory workers in the final stage of production to ensure health and safety issues are monitored. By establishing a rapport and a long-standing relationship with its main producers in Brazil, Veja has also paid commissions and premiums to its workers in order to help improve their living standards. They work directly with the rubber and cotton-producing families in the Amazons and are reported to pay twice the market price for organic cotton. Similarly, they work with seringueiros (Peruvian rubber tappers) by encouraging them to focus on rubber tapping rather than raising cattle, thus producing low-damage and low emission rubber. Additionally, they work with NGOs like ESPLAR and Diaconia to integrate agroecology principles in farming as well as help farmers negotiate better working conditions and provide technical support. Veja also works with Ateliers Sans Frontières - a job reintegration workshop helping vulnerable people secure employment and training with social inclusion and circular economy in mind.
On the upper levels of the company, they have 193 permanent employees. So far, there have been no complaints by their workers and the top 4/5 earners are women. The company is also privately owned by its two founders as they feel that public trading may not prioritise the company's principles. While these efforts are great, there is little data on the diversity in the brand and it is recommended that they include diverse perspectives at the management level of the company.