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Example of eco-design : Veja sneakers

Veja is a fashion company that produces sneakers. According to GQ magazine, Greta Thunberg could wear Veja sneakers without feeling guilty. Veja claims to have sold over 2 million pairs of shoes between 85 and 250 euros.

Eco-design in the fashion world. Veja is the reference company in the fashion world in terms of ethical production and ecology, even though it evolves in an environment known to mistreat the planet and social rights. It is in direct competition with major brands such as Adidas or Nike and manages to stand out from the crowd!

Eco-design at the heart of the company

In 2018, Veja's turnover reached 33.9 million euros for a net profit of 4.2 million euros for 150 employees, 120 of whom are in France. On their website, the 2 founders directly announce the color. The values and commitments displayed by the brand on their site are the following:
Since 2005, Veja promises to produce sneakers differently with a positive impact at each stage of production. Ecological sneakers, made with raw materials from organic and agro-ecological agriculture, without chemicals or polluting processes. Sneakers that respect people, produced in dignified conditions and in direct consultation with producers' associations and manufacturers. Sneakers with greater economic justice, without any advertising or marketing expenses.
To succeed in this challenge, Veja has chosen not to focus its strategy on infinite growth, but rather on profitability in order to survive. "We claim our grandfatherly management", according to Sébastien Kopp, one of Veja's directors. The company has therefore deployed an alternative economic model based on its ecological commitment values.

Eco-designed sneakers

A pair of sneakers is composed mainly of cotton for the canvas and rubber for the sole. At Veja, the cotton is organic and comes from producer cooperatives in Brazil and Peru. The brand buys it outside of intensive farms and according to the principles of fair trade. The prices are set in advance for a period of one to three years with the producers. In 2018, Veja claims to have purchased its organic cotton 63% more expensive than the market and to have paid a premium of 0.2 euros per kilo to the agricultural associations with which the company works. The natural rubber, which represents 18 to 22% of the soles, is extracted by syringe by specialized Brazilian harvesters. This is a method of tapping wild rubber trees and not artificial plantations. The latter are often a pretext for deforestation and expropriation of the farmers. In 2017, natural rubber cost Veja €2.77 per kg compared to €1.35 to €2.55 per kg for its hydrocarbon-based cousin. At Veja, sneakers cost 5 to 7 times more to produce than conventional sneakers. But Veja still offers its sneakers at the same price as the competition by eliminating the cost of advertising and marketing. Thus, all the actors in the chain are much better paid than in the conventional model. Of course, there are some limitations to Veja's eco-design model. The participants in such an approach know how to be proactive by specifying possible deviations from their own principles. For example, Veja's sneaker laces are not organic because of insufficient volumes. The metal used for the eyelets is not traced by the company. Once, during a drought phase, the organic cotton had to be replaced by recycled cotton. Veja has also largely renounced vegetable-tanned leather because of its "prohibitive cost".
The choice of eco-design
In order to meet these specifications, Veja had to make the decision to eliminate the advertising and marketing budget. In the world of sports brands, this type of budget can occupy up to 70% of the cost of the product. Veja's business model is based on the desire to limit its social and environmental impact. The company also implements ethical sourcing and a CSR policy. The right method is not to set the goal of making a profit and then seek to respect workers' rights at a minimum, but to study all these consequences from the beginning and before launching a production. By the way, you can discover a second example of eco-design here. However, Veja is still a company that has to sell. Its catalog necessarily plays on the desirability of the products and is not different from any other fashion brand. It is difficult for any company to say: "Don't buy too much! ". It's a matter of trying to find a balanced position to make these two aspects coexist. The Veja company is a strong example of eco-design in the fashion industry. The model is not perfect, but we can already see all the effective measures that can be put in place to take another step towards the circular economy and inspire other producers to follow suit.