Special Report: Veja win Ethical Award

By Staff | News
Posted May 31, 2012

Last night, at the Observer Ethical Awards in London, shoe company Veja won the Fashion & Accessories category (sponsored by Vogue.com). Using organic cotton from agro-ecology initiatives in North Brazil, wild Amazonian rubber, and acacia tanned leather, Veja produces trainers and accessories. The judges felt Veja had strong ethical principles whilst creating beautiful products. If you are not familiar with the brand or why they are ethical – below is an excerpt on the brand from the Guardian…

Veja: an ethical passion for fashion

French footwear brand combines better conditions for Brazilian farmers with fashion, fair trade and ecology

Is another world possible? That was the question Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion asked themselves when they first established fashion brand Veja in 2004.

Veja was set up to work directly with small producer co-operatives in Brazil, using materials such as organic cotton, wild Amazonian rubber and acacia-tanned leather to create sneakers and accessories for the European market.

From the fields of north-eastern Brazil to the shop floors of Europe, the company aims to achieve high social and environmental standards – actively promoting eco-farming, campaigning against deforestation, supporting workers’ rights and creating employment for poor families.

Moreover, it follows up the philosophy with social projects back in France. This holistic approach reaches every part of the supply chain – including transportation, packaging and head office carbon emissions. And it is recognised by the judges as positively disruptive of the traditional status quo.

“We were particularly impressed by the fully integrated approach to supply chain and sustainability,” they said. “It is unique to the fashion industry. They are genuinely pushing the boundaries in their sector and demonstrate the potential to lead.”

Veja’s business model goes against the traditional grain in several ways. Despite paying their co-operative cotton growers and rubber tappers (Seringueiros) between 30% and 100% above the world market price, the company has secured a workable economic model by discounting the use of advertising and operating a “zero stoc” rule to ensure the viability of the brand.

Veja calls its stance “commercial disobedience”, because it turns existing economic systems upside down. Unlike competitors, the company refuses to pursue low prices at the expense of workers’ rights and fair pay, for example.

The social consequences of the model are clear. As production has increased from 5,000 to 125,000 pairs of trainers in just six years and the brand has found its way into high-end stores such as Selfridges, Fenwicks and Printemps, so the number of cotton-growing families involved has expanded from 200 to 350.

click to continue reading:  Veja: an ethical passion for fashion | Best practice exchange | guardian.co.uk by Lynn Beavis for the Guardian Professional Network.

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