Veja Nova White Black Sneakers

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Jian Hong Shi
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I was really impressed with Veja as a brand. Their products are fashionable and sustainable, but it was their transparency that had me taken aback. They showed exactly where the cotton was grown and produced, who is growing it, and even how much they are paying the producers. Veja pays a premium of R$2/kilo on top of the R$13.20 (Brazilian Reals) when the producers adhere to agroecology principles. On top of that, there is a premium of R$2.50 that is paid to producer associations that allow them to pay for things like organic and fair trade labels. Veja is putting their money where their mouth is and is clearly committed to the mission of sustainability and fair trade they embarked on when they created the brand. Veja also works with NGOs that help farmers with agroecology through practices of planting certain trees to ward off pests. For their rubber workers, Veja also paid a premium for forest preservation, including GPS locations where the producers were, and the contracts they have with them. I was also impressed that 4 out of the 5 highest-paid employees are women! Through a self-initiated, very thorough assessment of their carbon footprint, Veja discovered 97% of their CO2 emissions were because of leather, so they took action. From 2014-2020 they decreased their leather usage by 20%. Veja created innovative materials recycling plastic bottles. They decreased the shipments made from 19% in 2019, to 7% just a year later. Whether it’s having almost 100% of the energy in their offices and stores coming from renewables, implementing a take-back program, Veja is proof that you don’t have to sacrifice design for sustainability.

What it's made of:


The upper, lining, and laces of the Nova White Black are all made of 100% organic cotton. Non-organic cotton is grown with pesticides which can become airborne and infect water supplies. Veja purchases organic cotton that is grown by farmers in Brazil and Peru according to fair trade principles and they also purchase directly to pay a price unrelated to market fluctuations. Their organic cotton has been certified partially with European regulations and the rest by the Brazilian Participatory Guarantee System: a method where small producers certify each other. The cotton grown and hand-harvested in Peru is also certified organic by the Global Organic Textile Standard. The dyes used are not organic, but they comply with the European REACH standard which assesses impacts of chemical substances on the environment and human health. The ‘V’ logo is silk-screened on, but it is not specified what type of ink they use. Both water-based and solvent-based inks contain chemicals and are washed into the environment from a drainage sink; there is also waste. A great alternative is 100% phthalate-free ink that can be scooped up and reused many times. Soy, pine, or citrus-based ink has been proven to be eco-friendly as well. The screens used weren’t specified either, and using safe, biodegradable solvents can ensure the reuse of screens. The vulcanized sole is made of 18% Amazonian rubber which is also bought directly from harvesters. The rubber is harvested from the trees with a technique called ‘bleeding,’ which allows the trees to regenerate. 28% of the vulcanized sole is made of rice waste, which is a byproduct of rice production and is most likely the husk, or coating of the grain. What the remaining 54% of the vulcanized sole is made of isn’t specified. The insoles are made of sugarcane, Amazonian rubber, recycled ethylene-vinyl acetate, and organic cotton. Veja is transparent about their eyelets containing metal they did not source. All Veja sneaker boxes are created from recycled cardboard, contain no glue, and very little ink so they can be recycled easily.

How it's made:


The beginning of the process is the growing and harvesting of the materials. Organic cotton is collected from Brazil and Peru and their rubber is collected from the Amazonian rainforest. Once the cotton is harvested, it’s sent to a Brazilian facility to be woven and spun. Veja made the choice to keep most production within Brazil to minimize their transportation and subsequent emissions. Since the beginning, Veja products have always been manufactured in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. Though Veja doesn’t detail the exact production process of constructing the shoe, they provide a video that shows the journey of a sneaker from its design conception all the way to its purchase from a consumer. The video shows a quick timelapse of the production process including the creation of the upper, attachment of the sole, and lacing of the shoes. I think the lack of details concerning this process is not due to a lack of transparency but rather a feeling that the video that does show a quick overview is sufficient. Alas, for most consumers it would be, but I’d like if they gave a step-by-step breakdown of what the video shows.

Who makes it:


Veja is a French company that was created in 2005 with the goal of creating thoughtful products that will last. Veja means ‘look’ in Portuguese which is aligned with the ethos of the company; look at where our products are made, how they’re made, and who makes them. It costs Veja 5 times more than major brands to make their sneakers because of the fair production chain, investment in research, and organic materials. Despite this costly production process, the Nova White Black sneakers retail for $100USD, making them just slightly more expensive than a $90 Nike Air Force One! All sneakers are transported from Brazil are shipped to a warehouse for storage organization, order preparation, and shipment. Veja specifies the employees are from Atelier Sans Frontieres, which promotes professional integration from excluded peoples through adapted paid work and social support. Each season, Veja chooses 5 models, grinds them to a powder, and then checks for the presence of chemicals. When one shoe contained a regulated chemical, they immediately changed the dye that caused it. Veja is certified by B Corp, which is a questionnaire of over 300 detailed questions concerning environment, salaries, etc. 80% of the workers in their Brazilian manufacturing facility are unionized, they have 4 weeks of paid vacation a year, get weekends off, and work 40 hours a week. Workers can receive overtime and get an end-of-the-year bonus.